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Why We Need Denominations: How the variations of practice show us the beauty of the Gospel

denominations

SOURCE: The first church I remember attending was an Assemblies of God church in Albuquerque, N.M. After we moved, my family joined the Evangelical Free Church of America in St. Louis, Mo. Now I am on staff at a non-denominational church in the area while I finish up my Master’s at a Presbyterian Church of America seminary. And my favorite writer is C.S. Lewis, an Anglican.

These are the ecclesiastical flavors in which my mind has soaked. And I have loved it. I love denominations. That’s not to say that I would like to be in a denomination, but I appreciate them enough to write about it.

Denominations are beautiful. While some within the Church see them as schismatic and unhelpful, I see them as lovely, imperfect variations on a single, pure theme.

But personal preference aside, are denominations actually biblical? That’s a difficult (and perhaps unfair) question.

Try asking it another way. Are Baptists biblical? Are Methodists biblical? Are Lutherans biblical? Or is it only us “non-denoms” who have gotten things right?

On issues that aren’t the Gospel and don’t pertain to the Gospel, Christians have this wild freedom to lovingly differ with their brothers and sisters.

Paul reminds the Corinthian church that he preached to them the pure, unadulterated Gospel. The Gospel is of first importance to the Church (1 Corinthians 15:3-5).

Opponents of denominations will argue that Paul is calling the Church to unite around the Gospel and forsake all other creeds and confessions. (“I’m not a (insert denominational label), I’m simply a Christian.” After all, denominations focus us on the secondary issues when what we need to focus on is the primary issue: the Gospel of Christ.

But rather than explicitly forbidding ecclesiastical denominations (a concept that didn’t even exist in the early church), Paul is reminding one local congregation in central Greece to focus on one thing as of first importance. He doesn’t say that other issues are not important. But he is reminding them of the overshadowing primacy of the Gospel.
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