A CASE FOR DENOMINATIONALISM – PART 2 of 2

Denominations — if they remain biblical and conservative — bring stability to the group of Christians which are under their care. Denominational churches are less celebrity-driven than independents because they are less focused on the personality of the pastor or chief speaker.

As a result, denominational churches are more secure and durable than independent churches.  If for some reason a pastor leaves the church, a replacement is readily available through the denomination.  More often than not, the replacement pastor’s teaching is consistent with what the congregation has heard in the past.  When an independent church loses its leader, there is usually much stress and uncertainty.  It is not uncommon for independent churches to lose many of its members if it loses its pastor.  That is rarely the case in denominational churches.

There are other advantages by being part of a conservative Christian denomination. Mainstream churches can organize themselves in such a way that the Great Commission is aggressively pursued using more effective means. Because they have more resources, a denomination can fund bigger and more projects. If a missionary or pastor has fallen ill, he or she can be replaced or aided through its central office. Assistance can be dispatched through a sister church.  Missionaries sent to the field by independent churches spend more time raising funds than do those sent by denominations.

Denominations can prevent errant teaching because they have an ordination process.  Unlike independent churches where, at whim, almost anyone can start a church, denominations give ordination exams as a way to ensure that a candidate for ministry is adequately equipped, called, and prepared for ministry.  It is not unheard of for a candidate to be dismissed from the ordination process after multiple tests have failed.

Denominations can effectively discipline their members and clergy.  Protestants during the Reformation period considered this one of the marks of a true church. Independent churches are accountable to few, if anyone.   

The earliest churches were denominations. Upon examination of Clement of Rome’s writing to the Corinthians (written perhaps circa A.D. mid ‘90’s), you will find that the church was under a centralized regional authority, a bishop, which is the same as “elder” in my understanding of the term.  The churches Ignatius wrote to were Ephesians, Magnesians, Trallians, Romans, Philadelphians, Smyrnaeans, and Polycarp’s church. Ignatius’s letters were written about the same time as Clement.  Clement and Ignatius are the earliest known church documents outside of the New Testament. These early churches were “denominations” in practice, but not by name for the obvious reason that churches were still in their infancy.

The Reformation period effectively took two denominations (Eastern and Western) and created over 30,000 Christian denominations. These denominations are all united under one Lord Jesus Christ. They can be perceived the same way the Roman Catholic Church has many religious and monastic orders.  The Roman Church has Jesuits, Dominicans, Augustinians, Marian, and up to three hundred other such communities.  These orders all belong to the same group, the Roman Catholic Church, but each have specialties unique to their calling or vocation.  For instance, the Jesuits are primarily missionaries and educators.

In the same way Protestant denominations each specialize in different types of ministry.  Denominations can and will do many projects together.  Broadly speaking, the Presbyterians have the organizing skills and scholarship, the Christian Reformed Church and the Anglicans have the money, and the Assemblies of God the hardest workers.  The Southern Baptists have intense missionary zeal. Together we are a full body able to serve God to reach lost souls with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

There are problems with all analogies and broad generalizations of this type.  The intention here is to make a point. The point is that we are all united under the same Spirit and same Bible.  Doctrinally we are united under the two creeds: Apostle’s and Nicene.   If a group denies the theology taught in these two creeds, they are not Christians. We therefore should not and will not fellowship with them.

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