Here are the stats so you don’t think I’m just making things up. 7 out of every 10 church-plants in America are non-denominational. Some even drop the word “church” in their name all together (I’m not ready for that.) 2 out of 10 are planted as a part of a denomination but don’t put that denomination in the name of their church. (They just stick with “community” or “fellowship” or insert random adjective followed by “church.”) And only 1 out of 10 new church-plants actually have a denominational identifier in their name. So basically, denominations are dying out. Why? Well, I figure it’s always human nature to fight against your enemies. If the country is overwhelming Christian, then I guess that means you have to fight against each other. I’m not pretending that America invented denominations, but it seems like we “perfected” them. We have divided over the dumbest stuff. (Footwashing as an ordinance, anyone?) But I don’t hate denominations all the time. In fact there’s a couple things I kind of like about denominations. But I am overall saddened by the need for denominations. I suppose the best option would be everyone just agreeing with me all the time, but the second best option would be us just getting along despite our disagreements. But since human nature doesn’t seem likely to change, I’m going to share the 3 things I HATE the most about denominations and the 3 things I LOVE the most about them.
I HATE how divided it makes Christians look. If Atheism is at one end of the spectrum, then the difference between Presbyterian and Pentecostal isn’t really that far away from each other. If we can’t get along with each other, then how can we be any kind of light to the world?
I LOVE that I can hear a church name and know what they believe within a ballpark or two. I would rather not have to discuss the extent of the use of tongues… every… single… week. So go to the church up the street where you can hang-out with other people that think exactly the way you do. Hopefully we can better serve His Kingdom by being around more likeminded people.
I HATE the denominations that can assign new pastors to churches. Sometimes pastors just get pulled out of a church like a struggling starting pitcher, even though they served for 7 strong innings. I know their pitch-count is a little high, but they can overcome this little bit of trouble they’re facing in the 8th inning. Why bring in a relief pitcher/pastor with less experience? Why do they think they’ll do anything different? How can someone not in that particular local body, know what’s best for that assembly?
I LOVE the history that many of the denominations possess. It’s easy for the non-denominational churches to think they are the first Orthodox Church since the book of Acts. Everyone else is wrong, but they got every-point in their statement of faith right. They think that in heaven there’s going to be an award’s ceremony like the Oscars with Jesus opening the golden scroll, “And the winner for most accurate theology goes to… The Extreme Real Fellowship Community Church of Phoenix, Arizona.” Now I’m not saying that every denomination wouldn’t think they would win the same award but in the ensemble category, but at least they have a slightly more historical picture to their orthodoxy. I know many people today try to ignore church history, but we stand on their backs. We cannot ignore the church fathers and hope to be anywhere close to the truth. Many denominations do well in following their traditions throughout the ages.
I HATE all forms of hierarchical church structure. Even God said he hated this in Revelation 2 when addressing the church at Pergamum. He uses the term Nicolaitans but it has the same meaning. I think the reason why God hates such a structure of a church is that one corrupt person can end up influencing multiple churches. We see this all. the. time. The denominations with the strongest central governance have gone the most liberal. If a person goes rogue, church discipline is designed to either bring them in-line or kick them out of the body. If a pastor goes rogue, a whole church can enter crazy-town, but even then it’s still isolated and that church can be segregated from the Christian community as a whole (i.e. no one hangs out with crazy Westboro “Baptist” Church.) But if just a few leaders are influenced by the Dark Side, then the whole denomination can suffer. It’s actually more likely that evil people will assume such positions. I love the quote by John Turturro pretending to be an Egyptian Pharoah (#whitewashing) in the quasi-heretical film Exodus: Gods and Kings. He said, “Men who crave power are best fitted to acquire it and least fitted to exercise it.” I think denominations have to deal with the same things.
I LOVE the diversity that denominations bring. I love hymns and Hillsong. I love liturgy and flip-flops. I love expository preaching and Celebrate Recovery. I don’t know if one church can be all of those things. I like that we have variety. I like that some people connect with certain aspects of worship. There’s no doubt that Romans is different from Psalms and Revelation is different than Proverbs but they all contain truths of God even if you don’t personally connect with all types of literature. God is the God of diversity. He is the God of silent Monks and outspoken Evangelists. He is the God of both John Piper and Joel Osteen (I guess.) He is the God of those who speak in tongues and the God of total cessationists. This doesn’t mean that everybody is right. Whenever there’s 2 sides of a controversial issue, at least half the people are wrong. But we are united because we have one God, one Lord Jesus Christ, one Spirit, and one Baptism (even if we can’t all agree on the amount of water.)
So this post does not have some grand conclusion. It doesn’t declare whether we should have denominations or not. There is no doubt that Christians my age and younger do not identify with denominations hardly at all. We are much more tribal in that we have certain people we align with rather than denominations. And I HATE and LOVE certain aspects of that as well.
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