I will be out most of the month of June on vacation. You will be reading articles from great friends of mine who are also pastors in Hope. Please be kind and encouraging as they unpack their thoughts with you over the next several weeks. It is such a blessing and privilege I enjoy to share my thoughts with you each week. I know some weeks are more challenging than others. I pray each week, though, God provides a nugget of truth for you to chew on; a piece of truth that will help shape your heart as you allow Him to move you. In a digital world, there is nothing like the written word to pull us back into reality. I pray these pieces are just that for you each week, tugs that grab your heart and mind and yank you back into a world that desperately needs your physical, not just your digital presence. Blessings, Daniel.
I emptied my heart last week as I unpacked the horrible news handed to us about the denomination I am a member of. I’ve heard people say “Denominations are manmade. They mean nothing. Stick to the things that matter, not the things that will pass away.” While it’s true denominations are manmade, if they stick to the boundaries God established for the Church some 2000 years ago, they can be very good and useful. We can ALWAYS do more together than we can apart. While organizations like denominations can drift away from their moorings (we have certainly seen a lot of this over the years), by and large groups of people who keep their eyes fixed on Jesus can move pretty seamlessly with Him for a long time. Every denomination is made up of people, so just like Churches they will have plenty of imperfections. But the purpose of the Church has never been perfection. Our purpose has always been to make disciples of Jesus. This is a simple purpose millions have been able to advance for the last two millennia.
While we don’t see denominations forming in the book of Acts, we do see lots of cooperation between the young Churches. They care for each other, teach each other, commission and send missionaries into unknown territories and pray for each other. This is essentially the work of a denomination. When we begin to take on organizational structures that go beyond these basic tasks, we’ve gone too far. The Church has no need of a CEO or a highly developed board of directors. While boards and officers have their place, they must not move beyond the simple purpose we’ve been given to make disciples. The minute we take steps in the direction of larger numbers, bigger buildings, insuring both people and buildings continue to grow and putting plans in place to teach people the skills just listed, the very minute these become priority is the moment the organization becomes more important than its purpose. This is when a denomination ceases to serve the Church and the Church begins to serve the denomination. Sick things can happen in a role reversal like this. The crisis I unpacked with you last week is just one example.
My concern is twofold. One, just as much as well designed and smoothly run denominations help people, mismanaged denominations can deeply hurt people. The more powerful denominations become, the more than can act in the stead of Jesus. Churches begin to look to the organization to solve their problems, bail them out of crisis situations and heal their people. People seek the offices found in the structure for power purposes, not to help the Church fulfil her purpose of making disciples. Authority quickly goes to the head and the organization begins to protect itself to further its own agenda, rather than sacrifice itself to serve the Church. Every time this happens people get hurt. The longer and larger the denomination becomes, the deeper and more serious the potential for damage. And this is soul damage. This isn’t the kind of pain that goes away with the application of some Neosporin and a Band-Aid. So, mismanaged denominations can hurt the Church.
The second reason for my concern is denominations that seek to serve and protect themselves rather than the Church, build a wall around the Church that becomes even more impenetrable than the obstacles the Christless culture will build. Sick denominations keep people from Jesus rather than inviting them to Him. Hurting people and people who do not know Jesus are the biggest reasons I hate what is happening in many of our denominations today. The question is, do I hate it enough to leave the organization? The answer is an overwhelming “NO! I will stay.”
How can I say that? Because when we step back from the pain and the obstacles, the vast majority of the family is still very healthy and committed to God’s plan for us. Denominations can heal just like Churches. I pray ours is humbled and broken through all of this, but I do not pray for its demise. We need each other like an unhealthy marriage needs the other spouse. But they need each other to be healthy and faithful, not divisive and hurtful. So, I pray Jesus brings healing to our family and that we respond by bending our hearts and heads to His desires. Will you pray for us and will you pray for the organizational structure your Church is apart of? Will you pray with the mindset that the mission must go forward, but not at the cost of the missionaries? Will you pray for the peace and presence of Jesus to be the rally cry of its leaders and not just a segment of its members? Will you pray for the Church at large to do a better job of sharing Jesus and being Light in a dark, confused world? Now is the time. Please pray.