This is a comment I hear often; “Denominations prove there is disunity in the body of Christ.” I take issue with this premise. Why are denominations often vilified for what they are not and never celebrated for what they are. In this blog, I want to explain why I believe denominations bring unity to the body of Christ, why they are essential, and why I choose to be a part of one.
First, let’s look at why denominations bring unity to the body of Christ. Denominations take differing theological approaches to things. If we were all in one organization, we would be fighting about it. Instead, God in His infinite wisdom separated us so that unity might abound in His Church. I do not hold to a reformed theological position, but I have great respect for those that do.
Many denominations emerged because of proximity, not division. As an example, the several Pentecostal fellowships formed in different locations. There was no internet to keep us connected in the early days. So, we have the Assemblies of God (AG) in Missouri, the Four Square in California, The Church of God in Tennessee. These three fellowships all hold to the same doctrine. Still, lack of proximity allowed three to develop in different areas of the nation near the same time, following Azusa Street.
Second, why I believe denominations are essential. There are many reasons I could point to here. Credibility and authority in ministry are significant. Denominations allow for a credentialing process so that we know a person is called. If someone calls my office and wants to speak, I can call the AG and ask if they know this person and if they are in good standing. Missions work is of vital importance. We can collectively accomplish what a single independent church cannot. Indeed, they can have an impact, but not at the same level. Without missions, there is no way the AG could have grown from 300+ in 1914 to more than 80 million today. Finally, I believe in the Biblical principle of a spiritual covering. Too often, fly-by-night ministers wreck the local church because they do not have to answer anyone. I am thankful for my district and national pastors. Both of which I am privileged to know.
Third, why did I choose to be a part of a fellowship/denomination? I love being a part of something bigger than myself. I love having spiritual mentors all over the world. I love being able to mentor others across the globe. I love the unity and common purpose among us. I love having authority over me. I love the opportunities that being a part of a denomination afford the church I pastor and me.
Let me close out this blog by sharing one final thought. Denominations can be wrong when they refuse to work with or support other ministers not from their own tribe. I believe in this last day, God is raising up multiple denominations to reach the lost. Let’s face it, no single one of us can accomplish it on our own. We in the AG will reach some that the Lutherans cannot reach. Anglicans will reach some that Southern Baptists cannot reach. It is a collective effort. I am thankful for my Apostolic, Baptist, Lutheran, and Methodist colleagues. I am also grateful for my independent-minded colleagues. Though you have chosen a different path than I, we are all working to build Christ’s Kingdom together, not our own. So, let unity of mission and purpose abound as we disagree on some aspects of theology. You are still my friend and I need you!