“There was some flexibility at first, but then it seemed like the denomination wanted us to become a typical church,” said Jonathan, a member of a new church that his denomination had disbanded. “It was almost like they didn’t understand how the flexibility could result in anything other than a normal church plant.”

Jonathan was highlighting the tensions between the culture of denominations and that of new worshiping communities. The perception that denominations want new church members to look and think like established ones causes some church planters to refer to the denomination as “widget factories.”

“Denominations often want something different,” said Bruce Reyes-Chow, a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) pastor who founded Mission Bay Community Church in San Francisco. But when re­sources for the new church begin to dwindle, or when the denomination wants to see a certain number of members on the rolls before it will allow the church to officially organize, the relationship gets tense. “Then we as denominations gravitate back to what we know. We prefer the 500-member traditional church that worships in the sanctuary.”