Thursday, April 24, 2008

Types of Church structure

Types of Church Structure and Organization:

  1. High Church Model – this type of church is ruled from the top down. You’ll find these types of churches have bishops or other types of officials that control the operations of the church. (Roman Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox, etc.)

  2. Low Church Model – this type of church is governed from the bottom up. You’ll find these types of churches are controlled at the local church level. (Southern Baptist, Non Denominational)

  3. Semi-High Church Model – This model is a church that is ruled from the top down, but allows some authority to the local church level. (United Methodist, Presbyterian, etc.)

  4. Semi-Low Church Model – this type of church is usually governed from the local church level, but has a Church government that often functions as a facilitator for the local churches (Wesleyan, Free Methodist, Nazarene etc.)


The original model is the High Church model. Because of this, the older denominations all follow this way of operation. This model takes seriously the concept of spiritual authority, as they respect and listen to those who are in places of authority in the church. Historically, the issue is that this authority has become corrupt and abused its power.

The second model, the Low Church model, is a reaction against the High Church model. The church became corrupt, and as a result spiritual authority was abused. Thus, in order to protect themselves from abusive authorities, some churches completely decentralized their power. The problem here is that churches often become isolated from the rest of the body and become very individualistic. The result is that they break down the unity of the body.

Models 3 & 4 are compromises between options 1 & 2. These models champion a mixture between the High and Low Churches as they believe that both sides have good points and attempt to blend the pros in order to eliminate the cons. Sometimes this works and sometimes it does not.

All the models have their pros and their cons and while no one model is necessarily better than the others, some can be more problematic. Personally, I am leery of Low and Semi-Low Church models only because I see divisions and fractures as a bad thing.


What do you think? Where would you put your church? Which do you prefer?

3 comments:

Eric said...

What about the low and semi-low church's ability to be a voice to the "powers that be" when they have gone in the wrong direction? I think the strongest thing about the autonomy of the local church is the local church's ability to possible be a voice to the larger denomination. I agree it has it's problems along with the others but don't forget this strength. Just a thought.

Michael Cline said...

I think Paul would disagree that the high church model was the original. But I'll let it slide...

I've grown up my entire life in the low to semi-low church. There are definitely a lot of pros and cons to consider. As a gross oversimplification, however, I'd say that the pros outweigh the cons if you are just the average layman, but that the cons may outweigh the pros if you are a clergyman. Stanley Hauerwas once referred to himself as a "high-church mennonite" (a complete oxymoron). And I'm somewhere in that oxymoron.

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