May 20, 2024

Do We Need Denominations?

In John 17:21 Jesus is praying what would more accurately be called the Lord’s prayer and He’s specifically praying for His disciples and those that would follow after them. What does He ask for?

That they all may be one; as thou, Father, [art] in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

So, what happened? Did Jesus’ prayer fail? Why are there so many denominations? What is their purpose? Are they serving it? Should they divide us?

To try to go back and explore the history of the church to find just why there are the divisions there are and what they believe now would take more room than I have in this post. But I can summarize and address each of these questions:

Why are there Denominations?

Simply put, from the New Testament time on there have been people that have believed the same thing about salvation, but have differences of opinion on doctrine. In Paul’s time, there were the Judiazers, that believed that in order for a Gentile to be saved they had to follow the entire law of Judaism. There were saved believers that believed this way, but they taught a belief that placed more of a burden on people and Paul and Peter addressed this in their letters. There were also heresies floating around– like the Gnostics. These denied the basics that Jesus was both God and man.

Today, we have many denominations of the same consequence– and they diverge over time. The Protestant denominations, like Presbyterian and Lutheran were formed in the Reformation– and each contains some of the styling or formality of the Roman Catholic church. The Baptists come from a line of Anabaptists that were never part of the Catholic church. The Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses call themselves Christians but are founded on heretical interpretations of God’s Word based on a single founder’s revelation. Assembly of God, Apostolic, etc. are recent incarnations founded under the belief that the spiritual gifts of the New Testament area are present today.

So, why don’t we all just merge and become one?

The problem is that there are strict commands in the New Testament about who to associate yourself with. Each denomination believes in separation to some extent. The more ecumenical churches (Pentecostal, Non-Denominational, etc.) believe that there is no separation. Baptists are probably the most separate churches (hence the many flavors of Baptist and Independent Baptists) resulting in multiple Baptist churches in the same town.

If there were no differences between denominations– differences that each church believes are foundational to the Gospel– then they could merge. However, there are such widely differing beliefs, even within a single denomination, that this merging will not happen on a grand scale.

What purpose do they serve, then?

The biggest thing that denominations do in the 21st century is to give you an idea of where the church that you are looking at stands doctrinally. With the name Baptist you get the idea that the given church believes in Baptism by immersion, some degree of separation from the world and other churches, Communion is just a service of remembrance, and depending on the adjective in front (fundamental, independent, southern, regular, etc.) you get even more detail. This is the church’s identity– it is who it is.

So, for instance, if you find yourself in a place and you’re looking for a church, the label and associations should help you to find the right church. The church’s constitution and statement of faith should back up the type of church it is. You’re typically not going to find tongue speakers in a Baptist church– though the music that you hear in the service will vary.

Denominations are important for aligning yourself with the church and the people that you most agree with.

This sounds like a big deal to you.

Well, it is. Having just been a deacon I was pretty frustrated that it seemed that people in my church really didn’t know what they believed– or didn’t believe in the very Bible principles found in the Statement of Faith. I heard that this was the same in other churches– people in them that didn’t agree with the given church, but instead agreed with mine.

What frustrates me is that I know that people usually go to a church because of the people there, etc., but they don’t take enough time to make sure they truly believe what the church says it believes, and then raise a stir when the church tries to take a direction that is consistent with its statement of faith. You should be where you are because you agree, not because you are lazy.

Ok, so did Jesus’ prayer fail?

Tough question. I would say no, in that the people of God that are truly His have the same message of salvation, and in that, they are unified. However, I would say at the same time that the diversity of beliefs in certain areas does hinder us. So does the whole “church building” instead of the home worship paradigm thrust on us by the HRE (Holy Roman Empire). I think we would have been served better by more time in the Word as a small group than time “hearing from the pulpit” that we do now.

Don’t get me wrong– I’m not reinstituting the home church, and I’ll faithfully attend mine. The Holy Spirit uses my pastor to work in my heart every time I’m there. However, I think that there would be much more of an opportunity to get things right if we were in smaller groups pouring over the Scriptures on our own. (Perhaps blogs are this century’s small groups!)

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49 thoughts on “Do We Need Denominations?

  1. Richness in diversity, agreement on essentials, Christian freedom. Leave the rest to the Lord, test your faith biblically, do not trust any fuzzy feelings, do not choose men over God.
    Easy to say.
    The way blogs develop shows that one can definitely persevere and preserve the doctrine without any compromise, and even if there is not a soul sharing your doctrine and living close to you, there are many like-minded souls out there, just one click from you.
    This is the first time in my life when I know that I need Internet, not just because it pays my bills (because I make money teaching about it), but because of the community of believers that helps me be the part of the body of Christ.

  2. I enjoyed this breakdown of the denominations, and wholeheartedly agree with your last paragraph. We can’t “forsake the assembling of ourselves together”…Hebrew 10:25 but SO much growth has come to my life in the form of home Bible studies and small groups! And, yes, here in the blogosphere…as I posted on my blog just now…

    Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

  3. I don’t think our unity has to be in the intricacies of doctrine. All Christians are one body, and our unity comes from being in that body with the one head, who is Christ. But as Ann says, there are essentials in which we must be unified.

    What are the essentials? Trinitarian belief is one, or else we end up denying our Lord. The contents of the creeds are another and we could come up with a longer list. A right understanding of Justification by Faith Alone being key I think. (I cannot think of a single cult that does not misunderstand that doctrine).

    But beyond the essential doctrines, I believe that it is actually wrong to get too hung up on finding a church with an exact theological agreement for the following reasons:

    1. If we join a church that agrees exactly with us, where will the challenge of new ideas come from? We are pandering to a natural tendency to confirmation behaviours, where we draw self worth not from Christ himself, but in our belonging to a group which is “right”, and every bible study just reinforces that belief. We are not forced to consider *why* we believe what we do, and more importantly, *why* other Christians disagree.

    I have been in exactly that situation, and the result was spiritual pride and a failure to realise that Christians in other denominations could actually have studied the scriptures as hard as me!

    2. If we join such a church that we fully agree with, but become pursuaded of some view point over, say, Calvinism – should we then leave that Church for one that agrees with our new understanding of scripture? If we do, then we could end up jumping from church to church as we progress along our spiritual journey (and we are also disincentivised from studying scripture). But if we do not move, then we can no longer say that we believe that unity in these details is important enough to separate over.

    3. No church can evere agree with everything I believe! I would have to compromise on some issues. In the end I must choose a best fit rather than a perfect fit.

  4. Stephen, I almost agree with You – with one exception 🙂 Calvinism is not a minor difference in doctrine. I would never be able to be a member of an Arminian church, however nice and dear the congregation might be.
    But that does not mean that I do not love You, guys 🙂

  5. Not me guys. I’m a calvinist!

    But whilst I think that Arminians have some things wrong, I believe that the debate is a debate between evangelicals. I don’t think Arninianism is an issue that should divide us.

  6. Of course, Stephen 🙂
    I love all Christians. it is just that I cannot picture myself sitting and listening to an Arminian pastor and being quiet :). That does not mean I do not want to discuss the issues, and – as far as I understand – we are all saved by Grace 🙂
    PTL in whatever configuration!

  7. Stephen, although I think you have a good point, I think it also depends on your temperament and how strong you believe in a particular doctrine. Since I don’t believe in tongues being present today (as we’ve talked about before) for me to join a pentecostal church for the purposes of stretching my faith would also mean that I would be setting myself up to question everything I was taught from the pulpit. Wherein that can be good to some degree– we shouldn’t “just accept” anything we’re taught, I would think that we could be a whole lot more productive with a higher level of trust your fellow church-goers beliefs.

    I think it goes back to your post the other day on freelancers. If I can’t trust the Christians around me and feel that we’re on the same page to a certain degree, how can I truly have a growing fellowship? Won’t I be wondering if what I teach and what they teach will be contradicting each other.

    It’s like if you and I went witnessing together– we’d both have the same Gospel message, and both have the same goal, but if I went into talking about the Rapture, you’d have to disagree. Now instead of being unified, we have an area of disagreement– doesn’t present to others as that we are unified.

  8. And there’s the very important point: Do we want our children in SS classes that may be teaching them things that contradict what we’ve taught them? (You know the homeschooler in me had to pipe up on this!)

    Dh and I were looking for a church 2 or 3 years ago…we’ve always traveled quite a ways to attend church and really wanted something local in our hometown. So we tried a “thriving” Christian church. Well the “Christian churches” (non-denominational, but definitely a difference in doctrine than the non-denom’s I’ve belonged to all my life) preach that you’re not truly saved till you’re baptized. Whereas, I believe that baptism is a testimony to others of your salvation. We enjoyed the service and the friendliness of the believers, but couldn’t see melding with a church that would be teaching such an erroneous doctrine. Especially to our children in SS!

    I love the fact that we Armenians and Calvinists can blog/email together and I enjoy discussing our differences. Maybe this is for another post, and not comments, but I do wonder what else we disagree on…is it mainly the unlimited/limited atonement issue?

  9. Min, I can understand the problem with a tongues speaking church, because the very theology that you then think is in error leads to a practice in worship that excludes you. Thus I can understand why you would not choose to worship in such a Church. But what about a church where you are surrounded by pentecostal Christians, who for the sake of good order and good fellowship, do not practice their tongues speaking except in private? I do not see a problem with joining such a church.

    And again, if you suddenly had an experience that led you to start speaking in tongues :w00t: then wuld you need to leave your current fellowship? even if you practiced in private? :ninja:

    You are right that we need to be able to trust our fellow Christians. But trust does not necessarily entail agreement in doctrine – perhaps just agreement in practice.

    And as for witnessing together – we already have the problem you describe. If you go and witness to someone and speak of the rapture, and I later speak to the same person and tell them that I believe that the secret rapture has no biblical support, then the person we speak to will think “well these Christians are not very unified”. Even though we do not evangelize together, we both claim to be Christians.

    So in fact, I would like to witness with someone such as yourself – but I would like that we could agree that when we present Biblical truth, we say firmly where we agree and are honest about areas where Christians disagree. This honest approach helps confirm those areas on whuch Christians are unified, whilst making it clear that Christianity is not a religion that asks you to jetison reason and common sense. We work out our faith with fear and trembling.

    (Admittedly this is an ideal. I have been in witnessing situations where I have just had to shut up, to avoid flatly contradicting something someone has just said! But on the plus side – it meant that the person with me could trust me not to contradict them!!)

  10. Mary, no doubt we disagree on lots of things! but I actually don’t believe in the doctrine of the limited atonement… I argue that Calvin did not teach this either, and that the doctrine was developed by Theodore Beza et al. and was formulated in opposition to Arminius’ 5 points.

    R T Kendall has an excellent treatise on this in his doctoral thesis: Calvin and the English Calvinists to 1649. (Published by Paternoster if I recall correctly).

  11. You make a great point, Stephen, on the fact that part of trust would be that someone would not contradict you in public. I think the question comes down to what it always comes down to– 2 Thessalonians 3:6. In this passage we are instructed to not walk with a brother that is disorderly. The question is, what makes a brother disorderly?

    Herein is where we need to figure out where to draw our lines. Obviously, Paul’s telling us that there are people that are God’s children that are not walking after the truth. If we identify them, we are to avoid walking with them– not condemning them, but not associating either. Why? To avoid diversion from the truth.

    So, what we have here is to decide what is and what is not an issue from which we should refrain from walking with a brother– and there is where you get denominations.

    To the question of whether I were to come to the place that I believed that I was speaking in tongues: I would leave my current church. To me, that’s a fundamental difference between the church I now attend and one I would have to seek out. To me, I couldn’t be true to the doctrinal beliefs of the church (that includes that tongues are not for today) and at the same time speak in tongues myself.

    However, I have no problem with refraining drinking of alcohol (which is in our doctrinal statement) even if I believe that the Bible commands that someone be not drunk, and that they should avoid it but not prohibit it (and then there’s the whole thing about Tylenol having alcohol).

    So, where you draw the line indicates what doctrines are important to you and which are not. The foundational ones that you mentioned earlier talk about whether you’re truly a Christian or a cultist.

  12. Wow! I read through all that and had many thoughts flying through my head. Obviously not enough time or space here to get into it all! I can understand why denominations began. Even though I grew up non-denominational, mostly Bible churches, I now appreciate the words denoting what a church or group is. It helps to narrow down my ‘hunt’ when looking for a church to attend. As many times as we have moved, that is very important. We usually seek ‘Baptist’ because that is the closest to what we believe the Bible teaches, although there are certainly Baptist churches out there that are taking different views on things. But as Christians, I think we all need to remember the bottom line…that God sent His Son, to die for our sins and we are saved by grace. He gives us free will to decide: Acts 16:31. Romans 6:23

  13. On 2 Thess. 3:6, here is the context:

    “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to
    keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according
    to the teaching you received from us. For you yourselves know how you
    ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you,
    nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary,
    we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be
    a burden to any of you.”

    Paul is talking about idleness, and if we read the rest of the
    passage, it is clear that Paul urges the idle busybodies to settle
    down and earn the bread they eat.

    This is good advice, and may have excellent applications – but it
    says nothing about separating from Christian brethren over their doctrine. It is the practice of the Christian life that is lacking here.


    I actually have a theology of denominations. Just as division of Israel and Judah was God’s doing after the reign of Solomon, so I think that God frequently calls a remnant out of a dying church. There are churches which have all the ‘i’s dotted and ‘t’s crossed in their theology, and know exactly what they believe and why they believe it, and yet the only sign that should be put above their door is “ichabod” (the glory has departed).

    In the book of Malachi God says “Oh that someone would shut the [temple] doors”! The religion is fine, but there is no faith. It is dead, being alone (as James said).

    But from time to time God revives his Church, and as he pours out his Spirit anew, people are revived, and more come to faith. God’s glory returns. But another inevitable consequence of revival is that the establishment oppose it. Time after time people have been forced out of their denominations as God brings revival, and they meet together in new denominations – the revived church. Denominations are born and then the process repeats.

    So where should I go to church? I would rather be in a Church that will not say no to revival (because revivals never meet the establishment expectations for how God *should* work!) then in a church that will oppose revival (however much I agree with their theology).

    You say you would have to leave your church over the tongues issue. But in Korea, tongues speaking was an important part of the revival under Paul Y Cho. What do we learn from this?

    Either Gods priorities are nout our priorities, and he will work even where there is some theological error (and I think this is always true), Or else we would have to assume that tongues speaking is an important part of revival (although absent in most revivals), or else we would have to say that this was not true revival (but if that was not revival, I don’t know what is).

    So let us not make an issue of such things in our churches, in case we paint ourselves into a corner!

  14. You have looked at the subject from a natural point of view, i.e., why is there no outward unity. Remember the unity is in the Holy Spirit. Eph. 4:1. Every one who has believed on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation (Acts 16:30-32) is a member of the true Church of God. They are one with Paul in heaven and all the other believers since the resurrection. There is only one Church.

    Due to limits of geography believers meet in a locality. Denominations have NO Biblical basis. It is supposed to be the Church of God in such and such a place. After years of trying to make sense of it all I discovered that to really see the Church you have to have revelation of the mystery of Christ and the Church (Ephesians 3) Even though the mystery was revealed through the Apostles Paul, one needs to have the eyes of their understanding enlightened to see it for themselves. Ephesians 1:17-19 is the prayer of the Apostle to the Believers at Ephesus.

    Yes, Jesus’ prayer was answered ( remember him in prayer saying to the Father, “I know you ALWAYS hear me.” ). The problem therefore is the seeking of an EXTERNAL unity which is wrong and impossible. Ecumenism becomes a seduction where the rallying cry is “We are all the same, lets not focus on doctrine that divides us” Correct Doctrine is critical. If one does not believe that Jesus Christ is God, he/she is NOT my brother and we do not belong to the same Church. Many of those we try to unite with therefore are NOT even children of God.

    You said it well though. At least Denominations help you know where NOT to go or where to go.

  15. Denominations are an expression of doctrine. I have thought about the actual purpose of denominations and one time preached about them being very similar to the story told of the Tower of Babel. In it man was trying to become like God in that they wanted to produce a structure that reached to the heavens and would make them known. Then of course, God interferes with their plans and breaks down the tower and scatters everyone, giving rise to the many different ‘languages’ (doctrines?) of today.

    Maybe in a way, denominations are Satan’s way of keeping us from God. We were at one time all one – the Christian Church, under leadership of Christ and our common faith (One God, One Faith, One Baptism). And faith and Christianity were growing in leaps and bounds. What better way to slow the movement down then scattering the brethren over doctrine and confusing the world and playing the shell game with faith. Want to be saved? Truly saved? Then go and find the truth – and Christ – if you can.

    Jesus is taught in so many ways today. Baptists (and I are one) are torn amongst themselves not about beliefs, but about doctrine and ‘how to do church’ – who controls who. Even the secular world gets into the fray by telling us ‘Christians’ that we should not talk unkindly about such religions as Jehovah Witnesses or Mormons. As if the secular world (let alone most Christians themselves) understand the difference between true Christianity and deviant faiths.

    Do denominations have their place? Hard to really say. But if you narrow it down to doctrine (interpretation of scripture) then I would say no – because if you don’t believe like I do, or I don’t believe as you do (no, lets not say believe, lets say ‘understand scripture’ as I do, because truth be known, most all denominations have the same core faith and values) – then if you don’t understand as I do – go and start your own church (viola – non-denominational! The PC church of the 21st century).

    I love all Christians, and even as a Baptist I believe in interdenominational cooperation (though many of my brethren do not). Look at the core – not at the fluff that makes us who we are – and even if I don’t agree with your fluff – I do agree that Jesus Christ is Lord, and that he died in my place so I might have eternal life. Isn’t that what its all about? Not denominations – but salvation.

  16. Zvangu, I don’t disagree with you. Wherever there are Christians in a locality, that is where the Church of God is. I also agree that ecumenicalism is seductive, but of course, these two points introduce a tension.

    There are churches where the basic teaching of the Church is so far from what I believe to be truth that it would be wrong for me to join with them. I could not come under the authority of such a church, because I disagree about the very nature of that authority. And yet there are probably Christians in that church.

    So the question is where the dividing line lies. You point out that a Church must teach the Lordship of Christ, but without this teaching they really are not a church in any case. What of other teachings? What essentials must we agree with? On what issues should their be liberty? and how do we decide?

    As you can see in my message above, it is my belief that God is often less concerned about perfect doctrine than we are. That is not to say that doctrine is unimportant, but rather that correct doctrine is not a precursor to God’s blessing. And if that is the case, shouldn’t we be rather less ocncerned about perfect doctrine before joining with denominations that do not see eye to eye with us?

  17. Truth be told, I don’t think that we’ll know just how much God respects the pursuit of the correct doctrine this side of glory; however, I believe that He will reward the seeker. No one that comes to God wanting to know about Him (no one that is thirsty) will come away dry.

    I believe that you’re right, Stephen, it’s all about where you draw the lines. There is the obvious need for lines– for certain things come to the core of the matter. The problem that I have with being as open as you discuss is that a lot of doctrine does seem to lead in a certain direction.

    In issues of faith you cannot stay in one place, you’re either growing or backsliding. Since this is the case, and since each person is going to react to differences in doctrine differently, being in a church that doesn’t agree with your personal worldview can be dangerous. In weaker Christians, it can strengthen, but it also has the power to destroy.

    My pastor highlighted this in a sermon last night, where he talked about how my particular denomination (Baptists) is a primary target for Mormons because they are not grounded in their doctrine.

    I believe that it’s only after we truly know what we believe and why that we are equipped for analyzing what others believe.

  18. There is something to be said about the difference between two ‘Christian’ churches co-operating together to do the work and ministry of the Lord in a local area – even if they are of differing denominations and of the ‘coming under authority’ of another church in such an instance. As a Baptist, we are (supposedly) autonomous, and can therefore choose who we wish to cooperate with, both in local missions and foreign missions. When I, as a pastor, look at this, I look at it as ‘cooperation’ as I always work with churches I know about and have had relationships with members or leadership. There is no ‘coming under authority’ of their church or of them coming under ours. I know their doctrines and they know mine and we have agreed to disagree on points that in all reality have nothing to do about our salvation. I totally agree with you in that I would never even cooperate with a church that is so diametrically opposed to my own theology and doctrine – but the nuances that makes up the differences of so many Christian denominations is really very slight when you get down to it. Right now, in the Missouri Baptist Convention, we are loosing churches that do choose to cooperate with groups and organizations outside the ‘authority’ of the MBC. This is not our tradition, but it is becoming fact now. However, I have close Baptist Churches that will not work with other Baptist Churches because they do not agree with the MBC, but will work without question with other denominations – go figure!

    And finally – I agree with you on this fact – Baptists are very poorly educated in their faith. Many Baptists are ‘followers’ and not very well grounded in the Bible or their belief’s and so it is very easy for them to be let astray. We are making a very concerted effort this year in our church to redo our educational program to combat this issue. Christian illiteracy in all denominations is very high – not just in Baptists. Mostly because to many, being a Christian is a few hymns, a couple prayers and a sermon once a week – and they feel pretty self assured. Thats one reason I have been preaching these past weeks on the 7 churches in Revelation. There is hope in the system – but first we have to get everyone to understand the system – and that they only authority we need to be under is that of Jesus Christ – not that of an institution.

    God Bless you All

  19. Pastor John, You scared me here, talking about this poor level of knowledge in Baptists…
    So what happened to the hunger for the Word?
    I am very new to Christianity, just 9 months, but I have an ever growing appetite for the God’s Word. I truly pray it will never cease.

    I love apologetics, and for that reason am driven to studying, in order to be able to defend my faith before everybody. The study makes the whole difference to me, and opens so many windows for witnessing…
    I think we must pray for revival, for awakening, for hunger of Word, for the passion in preaching, for this type of fire that is so well kept by people like John Piper…

    God Bless us all so that we may never fall asleep.
    Good idea that about preaching of 7 Churches, the one that was lukewarm – oh dear, how many are lukewarm…
    And when I compare it to the situation of the persecuted ones in North Korea, in China – you all know what i mean…

  20. Ann-In-Grace
    I don’t mean to scare you Ann, but possibly, since you are a new Christian, to encourage you to eat. Many Christians come to church, then say they are not being feed when in fact they are simply not eating. You know the saying, you can always lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink. I don’t wish to sound down, I have many many members in our church that are wonderful, smart and caring Christians. And yes, there are many lukewarm churches, churches full of people and words, but not many doers as it were. I find many (and this does break my heart) that simply give lip service to the Gospel in their lives – and this too is something Christ and even Paul warned about. My ministry (even as a Southern Baptist) is to try to get people to look beyond their denomination and look to who they are and who has called them – and that is Jesus Christ. We are not called to serve an institution, but God’s creation – as he uses people to reach people. I am a firm believer in the local church – and seek nothing more then to discover the reason and purpose the Lord has planted each person in our congregation into that church. We all have a purpose and we all have a ministry. Our church does missions, local, beyond out state and also supports several international endeavors. I too have an appetite for apologetics and try to avoid using ‘church’ language when I share my faith to others inside and outside the church. Christ is real, historically and spiritually, living within history past present and future. I want people to know the ‘reality’ of Christ and how they can reflect that reality in their lives in a way that will get someone to ask them, ‘Hey, what is it about you…?” and then they can turn and that that opportunity to introduce them to their friend, Jesus Christ. I encourage you to keep on growing Ann. Keep reading with an open mind. Always look on both sides of the discussion or argument as you need to know where your brother is coming from in order to know how to converse with him. Above all, always be aware that you may not be right, but be sure and sound in your basics, your salvation and Christ – for all truth lies there and there alone.

    God Bless,
    Pastor John

  21. Pastor John, you say that the only authority that we need be under is that of Jesus, not that of an institution.

    I was the one who raised the issue of authority. My exact point being

    I could not come under the authority of such a church [over which I have very strong disagreements], because I disagree about the very nature of that authority.

    Now what I mean by disagreement over the nature of the authority is that I do not believe authority is invested in the institution per se. For instance, I do not believe that the bishops of an ancient and historical see have any supreme authority over my belief and practice. But the actual authority that I might come under if I joined a church is the pastoral authority vested in the leaders of the church by virtue of their ministry. Paul makes very clear the issue of such authority in the church – even where what is meant is the teaching ministry. Thus his comments in 1 Timothy 2:12. (However we now interpret this verse, it is clear that Jesus saw an authority in teaching in the Church).

    So if I join a church congregation, I come under their authority. If I myself teach in the church, then I do so with the authority of the pastor (or board of elders or however else the church is constituted). This is a biblical model, even though the *denomination* may not demand any such authority.

    You raise the related issue of co-operation with such a church though. Would I co-operate with a church whose ideas (including ideas of authority) I do not accept? I suspect that demands an answer as to what venture I would be co-operating in. Sometimes the answer might be yes (e.g. working with the homeless and practical issues such as tins), sometimes it might be no (e.g. a mission with gospel presentations).

    Thanks for sharing your teaching programme. It sounds interesting, and I wish you every success with it.


  22. Stephen,
    Thank you for your reply to my post – I must say you and I are on he same page. You are absolutely correct in that cooperation can be done by ‘inter-denominational’ means when it comes to the homeless, the sick, community services, etc. But yes, I would have to be very careful when I do gospel presentations or invitations to salvation with a church that is ‘different’ in its belief. But even so, all things a church does, whether they wish to admit it or not, involve a living presentation of the Gospel. So here we would have a problematic issue. Can I work with another denominational church, as long as we agree not to witness? Doesn’t my ‘doing’ express the Gospel. Do I have to place a track in their hands to do God’s work? Or do I have to feed their belly and keep them warm? If I love you, the basic tenant of the Gospel is being expressed and I am witnessing. To go back to my original post on denominations, and about Southern Baptists – when I stated that many Christians are illiterate about their faith, I meant that many have little idea of their own denominations statements of faith, history or probably even current conflicts. God Bless them, they are worried about doing things for Christ and helping others for Christ. Maybe, maybe ignorance is bliss – because most of the issues come from leadership when it comes to co operating with other denominations – not the people, for most of the time, those of my congregation and others work with each other in their daily lives, share their faith with each other, talk church with each other and never once consider the other’s place in the skema of salvation. Unless of course, they are of a deviant Christian religion. The idea of authority too between you and I may be a bit different. In our church, though I lead, I lead because the church has the authority to call me and place me in that postion. However, I cannot move in business or other operations without the complete authority of the body of believers. Yes, I lead worship and I guide and shepherd the church, but my ‘authority’ over them is very different then say that of a pastor of a mainline denomination. The Southern Baptist Convention holds NO authority over its churches or pastors. If you wish to identify with them, you simply have to support and be in general agreement with their faith and message. The authority of the church is in the hands of Christ through his body. But, being me, as I have stated, I am seeing beyond the scope of denominations – but I must be careful as their is still that great denomination – Christian – and so I had better (as we all should be) be on my toes and know how to define that so I don’t become so liberal I will work with anyone of any faith. So boiled down, like you, my authority lies in the Jesus Christ and the Bible.

    God Bless You All
    Pastor John

  23. I don’t think we have to agree not to witness when working together. As St Francis of Assisi allegedly said: “Preach the gospel at all times. Use words when necessary”. Thus we can co-operate in Christian ventures with other Christians, knowing that what we do and what they do are both part of our witness to what Christ has done for us.

    The reason I single out a teaching ministry as a poor place for co-operation is because of the very nature of the ministry. Someone is given authority to stand at the front of a venue and to speak about the Christian faith, inevitably including areas of doctrine over which I may not agree.

    If it were a discussion, we could explore the disagreement. But preaching is not a discussion. A teacher is supposed to know their subject (and indeed, the preacher will know theirs – but they will not be in agreement with others in the congregation). If the trumpet gives an uncertain sound, who will ready themself for battle?

    Having said that, we all have a myriad network of beliefs, and each and every one of us holds a subset of beliefs to be true that are in fcat false. What is more, if I find someone with whom I seem to be in perfect agreement on a range of issues, there is still a set of beliefs over which we disagree.

    Thus the only denomination where everyone agrees with everything the denomination says is a denomination of one. And that is lonely (and worng too… we should not give up meeting together).

    So we accept some difference of opinion wherevere we are. The question is only over what issues of doctrine are worth dividing over? Much of this comes down to what doctrines define evangelicalism.

    But as I said earlier, I think God usually brings about denominations for a reason other than splits over doctrine. I believe that the creation of a denomination is usually a calling out of a remnant from a church that has fallen into apostasy. Thus Lutherans were forced out of an apostate catholicism, the methodists were forced out of an Anglican church that could not sanction the revival of the great awakening. Pentecostals and Apostolics were pushed out of a number of denominations because their revival was “tarnished” by tongues speaking.

    As a Baptist, you perhaps trace your own churches roots back to the anabaptists of the protestant reformation, or to the reformers themselves. In either case, the denomination was again formed by a calling out (or casting out) of reformed Christians. (Although in the case of the anabaptists, this was a somewhat diverse group that only really had adult baptism in common, and some anabaptist groups had significant error in doctrine and practice in their midst).

    My point is that I think denominations are formed by the reviving work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church.

  24. I should add: when I said that St Francis allegedly said “Preach the gospel at all times, use words when necessary”, I am aware that he actually said “Let all the brothers, however, preach by their deeds.” which followed an instruction of his 1221 “Rule” (Chapter 27). The instruction was that friars should not preach until they had received proper permission.

    Thus the issue seems to go back to our discussion. St Francis was saying that all brothers should co-operate in the gosple endeavour, but primarily in what they do. However, he was unwilling that anyone preach the gospel who might teach error.

    That is more or less what I have above, except that what St Francis thought of as error and what I think of as error may not be quite the same thing!

  25. Stephen
    Well put on all points. You know, preaching and teaching all come from the same source – the Bible, led of course by the Holy Spirit. However, our presuppositions, our traditions and yes, the teachings we have ‘bought into’ effect our understanding and our interpretations. And this of course can be problematic. So we must agree for the most part to disagree on some issues. We must all agree on the essentials, but there is much room to discuss and have some disagreement on the none essentials. I would be a bit cautious on saying that one denomination grew out of another because it grew apostate – especially if the original denomination still exists. Are the now still apostate? Or is that the opinion of those that have left or our outside of that faith? Maybe there is more to this then we are all looking at. Maybe God himself is in this, you know, gravitating those that seem to get along to the same set of beliefs, opening up venues that they would grow in – but then hey, if you know of a church where there are no disagreements, let me know, I want to give them my resume! But I am just speculating here. Maybe denominations are like blue jeans – they are all the same in that they are pants; they may have a slightly different design to them, a different name sewn on them, but all you have to do is find the one that looks and fits right on you! This is a wonderful discussion, one that may never come up with an answer, but the Lord feeds us all within it. Just like I tell my congregation to use whatever Bible translation that opens God’s word up to them, we may just need to go to the church that does the same. Simple, and so maybe we need not make too much out of it. But again, that brings us back to the very beginning, What makes a church or denomination ‘right’? I am a Baptist (though I grew up Lutheran). There are all kinds of flavors of Baptist out there, and if you don’t like any of those, then just declare yourself non-denominational, which in itself shows that denominationalism plays a big part in peoples decision – for by declaring you are ‘non-denominational’ you remove a stigma that many have about certain churches. I have nothing against this movement (though I feel it is simply the churches way of being PC) – but at one time I was asked to pastor a church that was non-denominational, and when we talked, and I asked them about their beliefs (as I was a Baptist remember) they told me without blinking an eye “we will believe whatever you bring to us”. Well, need I say more?

    God be with you all.
    Pastor John

  26. I just wanted to insert something here and you both, (Stephen and Pastor John) can just continue your discussion.

    I grew up mostly in Bible churches and considered myself non-denominational and still do to a great extent. But, I married a Baptist, so when we can not find a Bible church, we attend a Baptist church because we feel that is the closest to what the Bible says.

    I think the biggest problem with denominations is that the areas of conflict in so many cases are the ‘grey’ areas that people don’t want to get into. Head coverings, speaking in tongues, closed communion, King James only, Bride of Christ…just to name a few that we have had problems with. The three last things I listed especially, are not even in the Bible! They are man’s concept. I think we need to be VERY careful of our human viewpoint coloring what the Bible truly says.

  27. “Head coverings, speaking in tongues, closed communion, King James only, Bride of Christ” – I attend a Bible Baptist Church, really not declared Calvinistic, but being that.
    We DO NOT speak in tongues (I speak three tongues fluently and 1 well 🙂 ), our communion is open to everybody saved, KJV-onlyism is strange to us, and this last one I do not even know what it is…
    So baptists can be normal, you know 😉

  28. Deborah – I agree with you in this point – usually the issues that make one denomination different over another are ‘grey’ areas, (I hope I have been expressing that in my dialog here). Even within Baptist circles of the same flavor, things are different in the ‘grey’ areas. And usually, you will find the bickering to be on things that are not biblically based, however, things that people ‘think’ are in the Bible. Boil it down to this, denominations – maybe even your own church – are built around their own understanding and interpretation of the scriptures and traditions of their faith. Sometimes, tradition trumps faith and even the Bible.

    Ann – You better believe that Baptist can be normal! At least I like to think I am! We don’t speak in tongues (but the Bible talks about them and so they cannot be denied – its just that some interpret these verses differently then others). I know of KJV onlyism – but don’t hold to it – Bible wasn’t written in English – so this is a pretty silly argument and we too hold open communion. But within our congregation I have those that swear by the KJV. I have those that have come from traditions that spoke in tongues, I have those that are not too pleased with open communion but the all know that others don’t agree with them and know that these are not issues of Salvation – which we are all about!

    And yes, Deborah, we do need to be careful of our human viewpoint mudding up the waters of our faith. However, there will be some that will insist that their viewpoint is better then yours or mine and we will also thing that some of our views are better then others. Baptists have a tradition known as the Priesthood of the Believer, which is our understanding that since our relationship with the Lord Jesus is personal, we converse with the Spirit personally and that the Lord reveals these personal things to us. However this understanding does not allow for revelations or interpretations that go outside the teachings of the Bible itself, which is source of truth. Jesus is our Soul Source of Truth – and through Him we interpret scripture (or, if you hold to the newest Faith and Message of the SBC – Jesus is interpreted through the scriptures- but thats another story – if you are interested ask and I will give you my biased view on that subject!)

    I must say, that what we are doing in this forum is what Christians are really all about – sharing and discussing the Gospel in their lives and how they share it and understand it! Now thats what the Bible teaches!

    Pastor John

  29. Pastor John,

    You ask, I think, if a denomination is formed by a remnant leaving an apostate church, then is that other church always and forever apostate? I would say no. God can renew within a church as well as by calling people out. However, I think the history of revivals shows a history of human opposition to the work of God. Jonathan Edwards being forced out of his pastorate in New England being another example of this.

    In Wales, the history of revivals from the Great Awakening to 1904 was really a history of the Calvinistic Methodists. However, whilst the Calvinistic Methodists were forced out of the established Church in the great awakening (having been opposed from the start, when Howell Harries began his readings amongst the faithfull), I note that in each of the Welsh revivals of the 19th century, churches of all denominations benefitted from the move of God (even though in each case the move began amongst the Calvinistic Methodists).

    So after revival, where many had been added to, say, the Anglican church in Wales – would we see that church as apostate? No. But even after such a work, it was often still clear why God had called the remnant out. There may have been life in the individual congregations, but there were still people opposed to the move of God’s Spirit in the higher echelons of the church.

    It may be too neat to say that God calls out the remnant, leaving only apostasy. In truth, there may still remain a praying remnant, eagre for reform from within.

    I think that often it may have been better had they not remained, but they felt it better that they did. So the church that is left behind (pun intended!) is not devoid of Christians eagre for God’s blessing. On the other hand, it is rarely such churches that are the instruments of God’s blessing. I cannot immediately think of a time when a church that has fallen into such a state has later been renewed and revived.

  30. Pastor John, what do you mean by “open communion”? Our church practices “Close Communion” as opposed to “Closed Communion” basically saying that as long as you have a right relationship with God (saved, having a clean heart) you’re invited to participate, but we do not offer it to the unsaved. (In practice, this is left up to the individual so it is closer to open than closed, but in theory it is closer to closed.)

    Stephen, I think it is interesting that I cannot think of a place where a group separated and the one left revived. I even see in Old Testament times where God had to weed people out in order to restore them to a right relationship.

    Now it’s true that we live in a different time period– one in which we will see both believers and unbelievers mixed until a final sorting occurs– so I’m guessing He leaves us to do our best job at judging fruits to determine when to leave and when to go.

    Having just recently been through a split (and speaking of splits) my father always says that he doesn’t see a Biblical reason to leave a church but heresy. Agree?

  31. MInTheGap
    I like your term ‘Close Communion’. Probably describes what we do better then our time honored traditional ‘Open Communion’. Our communion is open to all of like ‘Faith and Practice’. To those that are saved by The Lord’s Grace. Who are members of churches ( again, ‘of like faith’ ). So we are not any different then you. We do not offer the Lord’s Supper to anyone that is unsaved – HOWEVER – and here is where the openness comes from I suppose – no body checks ID cards. No body asks for a letter form their church (what do you do about visitors?). We take it that those who partake are doing it in a manner that does not insult the Body of Christ. (In the image of the church body and the Body of Christ himself). I would venture to say that I have no way of knowing who is saved or unsaved in our visitors and guests – but I have never had an issue come up that has caused me to question this. This is one reason many churches have ‘Closed Communion’ (Most Independent Baptist Churches are in this camp and some Primitive Baptist Churches also). They only allow those members of the Body of that Church partake. Its a toss up to me. I pastored one church at one time where we had some that were for closed communion, and others for open communion – but it never caused discord. I can see the benefits and drawbacks of each.

    I agree with you on the point that the only reason to leave a church is because of heresy. However, Paul encouraged the members of several churches (as did Christ in the Letters to the 7 in Revelation) to combat the heresies and false teachers. To lay back and let them have their will is not being true to the faith I would say – whats wrong is wrong and we must stand for what is true – especially for those that are young in the faith or weak in the faith that could be ‘left behind’ if strong Christians leave. Still, overwhelming heresy would be one reason – of course tradition shows us that most people leave the church of the color of the sanctuary walls, the carpet and drapes as well as the time honored building programs. And sometimes, heresies declared by some are not really heresy, just simple misunderstandings or bad interpretations. Church life is a hoot – and thats why I love it so much as well as the people of God!

    God Bless You All
    Pastor John

  32. Deborah,

    I agree. Conflict over grey areas is just a waste of time and often quite unhelpful.

    I am not sure that I accept the definitions “non denominational” and “bible church” uncritically. Most churches – perhaps all – would argue they are Bible churches. The suggestion that one church is a bible church and therefore another is not is itself a kind of denominationalism. And non denominational churches are really saying something like that they are “free evangelicals”. They are not part of a corporate structure perhaps, but they clearly have beliefs that will set them somewhere in the spectrum of Christian churches.

    As for me? I am “non denominational” :tongue: inasmuch as I do not feel any affiliation to a particular denomination, and am comfortable worshipping in a variety of evangelical churches of various stripes.

  33. MIN…that’s the second time that’s happened to me! I write this comment and then hit ‘submit’ like I always do and it comes back with ‘wrong protection code’ and it’s GONE! That is so frustrating!! :angry:

    So, I’ll try this again…

    The Bride of Christ ‘doctrine’. We first heard it a few years ago being taught by a new pastor of a church we had been attending. For some reason, it seems to becoming a pretty big ‘movement’ here in the mid-west. It seems to go hand-in-hand with Bible Baptist Churches, (nothing to do with yours from the sound of it, ann_in_grace,) These people believe that only people that are members of their Bible Baptist Churches will be at the Marriage Supper after the rapture of the church. That leaves people like me out! I guess I do dishes? :unsure: This same group of people believe that you only use the King James Bible because it is the ONLY authorized version. My husband always asks what they used before the 1611 edition. These same people believe in closed communion…only those that are MEMBERS of their church are permitted to partake of the Lord’s Supper. We were asked to leave once because we were not members! When the pastor of our church heard about this going on, he looked up information about it on the internet and taught it as a cult. These same people also teach a lot on the Trail of Blood and the anabaptists, which you had mentioned earlier, Stephen, but they put some scary twists on it.

    I have problems with this because: 1) I believe the Bible teaches that the Body of Christ will be at the Marriage Supper, all denominations allowed. The only thing you need for your ticket is a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. 2) I don’t believe that the King James Bible is the only authorized version. The NASB is also taken from the literal text and is a very good translation. I don’t mind using the KJV, I have my children do memorization with it. But for my personal study I use NASB. 3) Our church practices ‘close communion’ also. The only criteria is that you are saved. If you are not saved or in a wrong relationship with God ie: out of fellowship, you are asked to not partake. But, this is left up to the individual person. I think the Bible teaches that the Lord’s Supper is for the Body of Christ, not just those in a certain church.

    To finalize this…I always pray that I am submissive to God’s Word and His will for my life. That if there are any ‘grey’ areas in my life that I be teachable and willing to change if need be. I continually pray this for myself. I also pray to be objective to fellow Believers views because I know God is also working in their lives as well.

    Yes, Pastor John I do believe in the Priesthood of the Believer, thus we can go boldly before the Throne of Grace. My husband and I would be interested in what the SBC has to say about the newest Faith and Message…whenever you have time.

    Wow, ann_in_grace! Three languages fluently! I’ve always admired that and feel that the United States is very lacking in this for their children. But, your ‘tongues’ are probably known languages? 😉

  34. Wrong protection code – happened to me several times, too. Now i know better – to CTRL A and CTRL C begfore I Submit ;). Very frustrating, though.

    Deborah, thanks for explaining those niuances and meanders of strange baptists. Very strange.
    I hold to Reformed Theology, and luckily do not know experientially much about those things. Let us pray for those baptists. You know, what You may ask them? What Bible is appropriate to those not having the privilege of knowing English 😉

    That would get them speechless for a while.

    Three languages are not much, considering one is my native language, the other one I studied and the third one I have to know living where I live. Necessity is sometimes a good force 😉

    Grace and Peace

  35. Deborah,
    Just briefly at this point, the current 2000 Baptist Faith and Message in a sense elevated the status of the Bible over that of Jesus Christ – but that is a matter of interpretation to many and depends on the camp you are in. The 1963 Statement said that the criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ. This statement was removed from the 2000 statement which. In 2000 statement it makes Christ the focus of the revelation of the word, that the Word and the Word (that is the Bible) is used to interpret Christ. The issue this has raised is – who then is the authority that will interpret the Scriptures and likewise then, interpret for us correctly Christ? This has then, in a manner, nullified the Priesthood of the Believer. This doctrine itself was initially to be removed from the 2000 Faith and Message, but was put in the ‘preamble’ but is stated now as the ‘Priesthood of the Believers’ (note the plural). This means that interpretation is then given over to a specific, but at this time, unstated group (though lately, the SBC has been stating that the ultimate authority for interpretation is the Pastor of the church – something I don’t buy into). There are other issues, such as the place of women in ministry that have changed.

    There are many changes in what the SBC has now over and against the 1925 Statement and the 1963 statement. The 2000 statement was commissioned by the current Fundamentalist Leadership and in some ways asserted their stance on some positions and in others just sort of expanded on the 1963 in ways that are acceptable. I personally am not a fan of the 2000 Statement basically because of its stated view of the Bible of Christ (though the SBC will do all they can to dance around the wording). I am happy with the 1963 statement and my church holds to it. The SBC and the MBC (Missouri Baptist Convention) are going through some very tough times – and many splits and disagreements and mistrust. The issues of extreme Fundamentalism is going right to the local church as I have seen many churches split because of the differing views. What is happening in the SBC is what you see in the Bible Baptist Churches you spoke of – a movement towards exclusivity – you must follow and believe in our way or your are not welcome. Right now, SBC employees and missionaries must all sign a document swearing allegiance as it were to the tenants of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. The next move is to get Pastors of local churches to do the same and there was even talk at one point of having churches sign a document if they wished to call themselves Southern Baptist in their name.

    Boils down to this – authority and control. A side by side study of the 1963 and 2000 Faith and Message is a very interesting study – and if you stay up with the changes and issues within the SBC well, it gets even better.

    Perhaps you read about the one lady Hebrew teacher in one of our seminaries that was let go because the president of the seminary does not believe women should teach over men – even in a non-church educational manner. Whats next – no women Sunday School teachers? Can’t wait to find out!

    Still – I am a Southern Baptist – I just don’t describe myself the way they do right now.
    I am not liberal by any means. I am very conservative. I am NOT a Fundamentalist. I may be a bit moderate, but I don’t walk a fence. I don’t make my decisions to have people like me or to please any institution – but only to glorify my Lord Jesus Christ.

    As Paul said, I am free in Christ – and I intend to stay free!

    God Bless You All
    Pastor John

  36. When I was re-writing my last comment, a few more came in so I’ll answer what Stephen said in his last comment…

    The ‘Bible’ churches I grew up in stated as such because they did not have church membership, they did not take up an offering, (there was a place at the back of the church where you could give) they did not have a lot of the ‘programs’ of churches. They prided themselves on straight exegisis, verse by verse teaching, just as if you were sitting in a classroom. They translated from the original languages. My parents felt that if a church had any name like Baptist, Methodist, etc. in the title, then there were certain things they adhered to. Which is correct. My parents still feel this way.

    My husband and I agree pretty much down the line on what we believe the Bible says. But this was after a lot of soul searching on my part. (BTW the churches I grew up in did not believe in baptism as something to do today. They would baptize you, but no emphasis on it. Of course, marrying my husband, a Baptist, that changed, but not until a few years ago).

    After much studying on my part, I changed my beliefs on a few teachings that I had grown up with. There are several other things that I believe differently now that are VERY obvious to me now, but weren’t when I was growing up.

    This takes me back to what I said when this whole blog was started. I think denominations are obviously not in the Bible. It wasn’t the Baptist church at Corinth, etc. But, I think having denominations today is tremendously helpful in narrowing down the search if you are seeking a local church to attend. I just wish we didn’t have to put so many of our own man-made beliefs into it. But, we are human, right? :cheerful:

  37. I get wrong protection code often, but I just hit the back button and resubmit. Does this not work on your browser?

  38. I guess it doesn’t work because I hit the back button, hoping it would be there and my whole comment had vanished!! At least it hasn’t happened very often, just twice.

  39. This is the first I’ve heard of the protection code violations. I have yet to get one. I should post a thread so people can comment on whether they’re getting one. So, it’s probably either a browser thing, an incompatibility for WordPress 2.1.2 or something about this theme.

    I’ll open a post to discuss this– please bring anything to my attention there.

  40. Deborah,

    I don’t mean to dig at the Bible churches, which clearly are being faithful to scripture as they read it. However, I note that many other churches are serious about their reading of scripture, going back to the original languages, and reading verse by verse (although, of course, sometimes it is better to read a broad sweep too. I believe Paul should always be read first at a run… an example being the whole discussion of the book of Romans, where we see an analogy with Adam and Eve, and the captivity in Israel that is easily lost if you read a chapter at a time. As you move through Romans 6 and 7 and come at last to Romans 8, you see the analogy with the return from captivity).

    So whilst I have no problem with Bible Churches per se, I do not really see them as being substantially different from, say, a free evangelical church.

    I daresay that there are certain doctrines that all Bible Churches share. I also would venture to say that the reason that these churches share those doctrines may have more to do with culture and history than a straight reading of scripture. No-one develops a theological framework in a vacuum. We are all affected by the assumptions of our age, oyur church history, things we have seen and heard.

    So if I join a methodist church, you are right that the denominational label tells me something about their beliefs (e.g. in infant baptism, lay ministry and so forth). If I join a Bible church, I might also expect certain beliefs – the only difference is that they are not as clearly advertised.

    That does not make them wrong. But it also perhaps does not make them any more non-denominational than a loose confederation of churches such as the Assemblies of God.

  41. Having just recently been through a split (and speaking of splits) my father always says that he doesn’t see a Biblical reason to leave a church but heresy. Agree?

    Well heresy is certainly one reason. Perhaps apostasy is another. The problem is that it is much easier to say (and even believe) a church is apostate than we imagine. If Christians are doing something we just don’t agree with, it is tempting to think they are walking in disobedience, and it is just such a break down in compassionate thinking that causes many a church split.

    But church splits can be amicable and good. Some years ago I heard a statistic that churches in Brazil (particularly pentecostals) were more likely to split than anywhere else in the world. At the same time, these churches were growing very rapidly.

    If God has raised up more leaders in a church than it needs, it may be that he has done so for the purpose of division, much like cells divide in the body and then grow independently. Indeed, some have tried to emulate this very model by creating “cell churches”.

    Remember, after Solomon’s death, the kingdom was split by civil war into Israel and Judah. Notice also that God said that this split had come about because it was His will.

    I also note that I asked whether, if you started to speak in tongues, you would feel that you needed to leave your church. At the time you indicated that it would be too big an issue, so yes, this would be a doctrinal issue causing you to leave. (For me, it would not be – but the question is whether there are some doctrines that are not actually heresy that might cause us to leave a church).

  42. Man I just can’t keep up with this thread!! SHEESH…

    In issues of faith you cannot stay in one place, you’re either growing or backsliding. Since this is the case, and since each person is going to react to differences in doctrine differently, being in a church that doesn’t agree with your personal worldview can be dangerous. In weaker Christians, it can strengthen, but it also has the power to destroy.

    MIN, that is from you, but I would not be able to agree entirely. I think you have a good point about the weaker Christians. (Only trouble I see there is that weak Christians seldom know they are weak.) But for those of us who are in the Word regularly on our own time and who are not dependent on the Pastor to feed us our weekly bread, but instead eat daily, we are a light to those who are weak. What happens in a church where there is no one to reveal the truth?

    I know that I spent about five years in a weak church. When I first went it was stronger than me and I grew alot from the pastor. But as time went on and I got more and more involved in the Word and learning on my own I realized a bunch of things that were not really right. I didn’t leave though. They weren’t salvation issues, and therefore were not important enough to break my covenant with them. Instead I watched as the Lord used what He taught me in my secret prayer times to reach those around me. I watched as those who were my closest friends grew into a fuller knowledge of Christ and His will for our lives. The Lord uses Christians in churches they don’t completely agree with all the time.

    I think we should be more open to unifying the church even with the weaker brothers, instead of abandoning them. (Just read the above paragraph by Pastor John and also wanted to say that splits in the church that are not rebellions based on people’s disagreeing with the authority of the church are good ideas. Obviously some churches need to separate because they become too large to really meet the needs of the people effectively. I don’t think there is an arbitrary number there either, it is different for every church. But those churches should still remain unified, not

    My two cents,
    Mrs. Meg Logan

  43. Ahh, the eternal debate– do I stay because I’m stronger and I’ll pull people up, or do I find some place to challenge me to pull me up. The same could be said about friends.

    The problem that I have is that generally, the “I’m the only one, but I’ll pull them up” doesn’t work. Usually the case is that they erode you– maybe not in the key areas, but other areas. You need to find and make relationships in places where you’re mutually challenging each other.

    However, do I believe this is a good reason to leave a church? No. Do I believe salvation is the only reason to leave a church? No. There are other doctrines I draw the line on, plus personal preferences that would prevent me from joining a church but might not make me leave it.

    If your church is headed away from Christ, you can choose to stay and hope to lead it back, but if it eventually crosses the line, God says to mark them and avoid them.

  44. I just lost my comment again and no, dumb me didn’t copy it! :blush: So, I’m going to just give a quick summary. 🙂

    Thank you both, Pastor John and Stephen for replying.

    What you said about Bible churches, Stephen I think is pretty accurate. Plus, many Bible churches today are now charismatic. The Bible churches I attended also had their problems, that I can see now. They were also rather exclusive and prideful and I think had some problems with application of the Bible, although that is probably just a problem in general with all of us Believers because we have a sin nature.

    Thank you for listing some of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message, and I do think some of it sounded a little scary. Also the part about local churches and pastors signing allegiance. While I do think we need to know and understand what we believe, maybe too much importance is being set on the rules rather than the Bible. Again, we as humans want to be pretty important.

    Stephen, I know you had addressed this to Min, but I wanted to add my thoughts. I would not knowingly attend a church that believed that the gift of tongues was still present. I would leave a church if that was brought in. I believe that I Cor. 13:9&10 are saying that only part was given to us…the gifts of prophecy, speaking in tongues, healing… and when the ‘perfect’ comes, (the completed canon of scripture) the ‘partial’ (the gifts I listed) will end. And that even greater than these gifts is chapter 13, defining love. I have had and do have friends that believe that they speak in tongues. I always ask them to go over the ‘rules’ given for speaking in tongues, given in chapter 14 of I Cor. starting in verse 26-28. It was done in an orderly manner, one at a time and an interpreter with a gift to interpret was there. If there was no interpreter, you were to remain silent. This has not been what I’ve observed.

  45. The Word of God should be challenging the strong believer. Or that believer can find other avenues of friendship. I agree that we all need someone to be our Elijah so to speak, or our Paul. But we are also to be Paul’s to others. So if I am growing, and those around me are growing, even if the church is weak or if I am not in total agreement I can stay.

    The Lord says to let your light shine from the hilltop, not to run away. You are right that if a Church denies Christ we are to separate, there is no question there in my mind. That is not what this post was about, however, it was about where to draw the line before that. I don’t think you need to.

    I also do not think that we ought to just join a church that is weak simply because we are strong, but if you “outgrow” your church, I see no reason why you should suddenly leave. The Lord needs people who are growing up to reach others who are growing behind them.

  46. Be careful about misapplying Matthew 5 in regards to letting your light shine. Since light would be shining against darkness, I believe the proper application would be letting your light shine to those that are without Christ– i.e. unsaved. And it’s also used in Matthew in reference to doing good works, not having sound doctrine.

    As far as discipleship, I think somewhere in this discussion we’ve mentioned how poor a job a lot of churches do training people and doing discipleship, and yet it’s the whole point of the Great Commission. The GC does not say “Go out and get people saved” but “Go out and make disciples.” So, that’s what we should be in the business of doing.

    If a church is not doing that or desiring to do that, then you need to critically look at whether you should be in that church.

    So, you’re saying that you’ll grow more in a church that is crippled spiritually? Interesting.

  47. MIN, I’m so glad you said that about the Great Commission! I think so many times we just want to see people saved…and we should, but the growth is so very important too. The ‘church’ is for the edification of the Saints…the growth of the Believers. In Paul’s day that meant daily teaching. We certainly need believers at every stage of growth to have a ‘growing’ church. The older women are to teach the younger, the older men the same with the younger men. The young and old in Christ benefit from this.

  48. Sometimes we are the messengers God sends into a church to help build it up (even when we are not in leadership). John Kennedy said “Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country.” Well, ask not what your church can do for you, but what you can do for your church (or, to be more specific, the Lord). I believe God has a purpose for us all and puts us where he wants us. What can I do to help my church grow and those that are weaker then I? Or, if I need to grow, what can I do that will help me grow (maybe read the Bible, pray, study, and eat what is feed you?)

    I love buffet style restaurants, you get to choose what YOU want to eat and how much. But our faith should not be a smörgåsbord. We should be picking and choosing what we want to follow and believe (I am not speaking of denominations here my friends, put personal faith within your local church) – but many people and sadly many churches do just that – pick and choose what is to be followed and what is not.

    What has God given you? All you will ever get – Eternal Life and Salvation free and clear. What more do you want? With that said – Love should be the basis of all that happens in a local congregation and also between all faithful Bible based churches.

    Making disciples is the primary focus of church. We can introduce hundreds of people to Christ (or win them to Christ, depending on how you word it yourself) but if we don’t move them to learn, if we don’t make them into disciples that understand and follow the Word of God, then we just end up having a church full of nice people with no worldly mission – and thats not what God called us for. God uses people to reach people and there is no way you will ever reach people if you don’t know what you are asking them to reach for!

    Disagreements are a joy to encounter. They open our minds and let us test our own knowledge in the debate and corrects us if we are wrong (but only if we are open enough to realize that we may be wrong in the first place). I always encourage my congregation to read both sides of an argument – even within the SBC, so that we know what they really are saying. Why, I even encouraged them to see the Da Vinci Code and the Tomb of Jesus – so we can discuss and use the information contained in them to better evangelize and so that we ourselves would be able to give an intelligent answer to questions raised by weak believers or unbelievers – not just well thats what I believe cause its in the Bible.

    But thats me – and I hope and encourage you all to be that way. Never be afraid to question the Bible or your own faith – cause if your faith is strong, you know God without a doubt will lead you to the right answer!

    Man, have we moved away from denominations or what?
    God Bless you All!
    Pastor John

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