May 1, 2013

Are denominations worth it? (@9MarksOnline)


I'm grateful for the opportunity to take part in a roundtable discussion for the 9 Marks Journal on the question: are denominations worth it? The other participants are pastors from a variety of contexts and denominational backgrounds and include Tim Keller, Carl Trueman, Tom Ascol, Tim Cantrell, and Rick Phillips. You can preview the roundtable discussion here, and the full journal should be available soon.

Most of us answered the question with a generally positive view of denominations, though as you read each response you may get the sense that some find denominations to be more "worth it" than others. Several responses focused on the value of connection to foster cooperation between churches in a single denomination. Ascol suggested that denominations are useful in bringing autonomous local churches in the same denomination together as partners in mission. Cantrell praised the cooperation of the Sola5 association of churches in South Africa for their strategic partnership to plant new churches and engage in mission. Keller and Truman, both Presbyterian, find worth in the role of denominations in keeping local church leaders accountable to the larger connection, and Phillips sees value in denominations as long as they don't begin to think that their boundaries are the same as the boundaries of Christ's kingdom.

Taking a somewhat different approach, my own contribution focused on the value of denominations in relationship to each other. I've learned a lot from reading and studying those with backgrounds in other denominations. I hope that exposure to the strengths and distinctives of other traditions has and will continue to improve my own understanding and practice of ministry. I also hope that people in other denominations will learn from the strengths and emphases of our Methodist heritage. 

What do you think? Are denominations worth it? Why? Why not? Share your thoughts in a comment below. 

2 comments:

revfife said...

Denominations are good for holding together core identity, focus, doctrine, and mission.

The problem comes up when denominations start shifting principles, changing identities, losing focus, opting for systems of theology instead of actual belief systems, and failing to be the body of Christ.

In the post modern world many denominations have abandoned things that use to hold them together. Even the Roman Catholic Church has changed its liturgy. In an unstable world denominations some core basics to build a solid foundation on. My concern is that we could sit down and work out what our core is, and then we can work from that.

Dennis Hartman said...

I have a slightly different view on this. I come from the smaller Methodist friends of the Independent Methodist movement. Denominations, when they are useful, do something else. They preserve their people from the proselyting of other religious groups. By in large this is the reason for most Independent Methodist churches in Georgia and Alabama turning into Baptist sort of Churches. Sadly most pastors in the UMC seem all to willing to bend to far to accommodate other belief systems. I see this even in the small UMC that I am currently attending. I vote that when denominations hold to Biblical convictions, it is a good thing.