“Can we save the good, and get rid of the bad and the ugly? Can we do away with the bad and the ugly, and still keep the good? Only in degrees. We can get better and better. How about a more radical idea?” suggests Harrington. “Be inter-denominational. Be a church that majors on the essentials, is not afraid to talk about and deal with the non-essentials but doesn’t divide over them. Welcome folks to join based on the gospel essentials, but still maintain strong theological differences without dividing over them.
“That’s what we are trying at First Baptist. We are a Gospel-centered, believer’s Baptist, complementarian church in practice. However, we have a good handful of paedo-baptists. I’m what would be a labeled a five-point Calvinist, but I would be happy to welcome an Arminian into fellowship and debate. We are covenantal for the most part, yet open to dispensationals at all levels of leadership. We major on the essentials.”
A recent conference on the future of evangelicalism raised some interesting questions about denominations. Blogger Trevin Wax tried to keep up with the discussion for his readers. “At the core of the issue of denominationalism is a simple question: is it a good or bad thing that the Christian church is split into so many different denoninations?
“Answering that question requires addressing many other issues as well, such as how a denomination might help or hinder individual churches’ ministries, and how members of different denominations should (or should not) work with each other,” reports Wax.
He puts forth an interesting reason that denominations can be useful: they bring balance to individual churches’ tendency to “over-specialize” in just one area of ministry.
“Evangelical churches in general tend to specialize in, unsurprisingly, evangelism,” he writes. “Narrow definitions and limited experiences do not stretch us into the people that Jesus came to make us into. Even though we are all called at different points to different specialties (gifts, ministries, vocations – insert your word here) in the church, God has also called us to be first His in ALL aspects of life. We need to experience others who are specialists in aspects that we have, but may not concentrate on. We need their perspective, and we need to learn form them.
“Is your church part of a denomination, and if so, has that association been a help or a hindrance to its ministry? Share your thoughts!” he asked readers.
“I have maintained for a very long time that denominations equate to traditions,” answered reader Howard Gunter. “When a tradition and its accompanying practices become MORE important to the following than basic Bible doctrines, that denomination becomes a constraint rather than a blessing. I especially adhere to the point that specializing in a single or few practices derived from Scripture may rob the following of a full teaching of the Christian life as set before us by the ONE EXAMPLE: Jesus the Christ and in some cases encourage an attitude of eliteness. Another thing that emerges in some “specialized” practices is a forced or choreographed response which only tends to serve man and allows for personal pride.
“There are positives as well to traditions. The most glaring is that it provides a certain structure and comfort for a following and certainly order. I simply believe that we need to be open to guidance and leading of the Holy Spirit, without any sense of trepidation when something occurs that falls out of the realm of “tradition” as long as there is NO conflict with basic bible doctrine. I am well aware that various denominations interpret the doctrines differently and therein lies the draw to followers that seek a personal comfort zone in which to worship.”