Denominations Ought to be More Like a Family

I really loved this post by Trevin Wax:

“I guess that’s what I love most about my family. We are more passionate about each other than we are about our ideas. We’re united without being uniform.”

“During the past few weeks, we’ve all been cheering on my sister as she leads a Bible study with three unsaved women. We’ve been praying for my mom’s manicurist for years. Whenever we lead someone to the Lord, we celebrate over email. Dad is in his fifties, but he wants to plant a church to reach unbelievers. Grandpa may not go to movies, but he’s spending his retirement years printing Bibles for other countries. You see, the mission matters more than our family debates.”

“I wish denominations were a little more like family. I wish we’d sit across the table more often from precious saints who don’t always see things the same way. I wish our passion for each other was stronger than our passion for our pet preferences. I wish we’d cut each other some slack instead of nitpicking each other to death. And I wish the fervor of our denominational debates was matched by our fervor for evangelism.”

“We are family. Because of Christ’s death, we share the same bloodline. Because of Christ’s resurrection, we share the same power. Because of His ascension, we share the same mission. So let’s act like it. Let’s live in the unity Christ bought for us and love each other fiercely, even more fiercely than we sometimes disagree.”

You can read the whole thing here

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9 thoughts on “Denominations Ought to be More Like a Family

  1. Colin

    is it possible for this to happen? I am asking a question that how become important to me.

    ‘denomination’ means, of a particular kind. So it is not going to be inclusive, not in the way Paul speaks. where their is freedom of conscience on many issues that are not core. freedom of practice according to who you are and where you have come from. a unity in diversity because Christ is not divided.

    Surely by definition it sets out to be divisive? I know it is argued that it forms in order to cooperate together. people who have drawn up the box within which they choose to work together. but is that then the church that we say we belong to and that we call our true family and to which we must remain monogamous or be considered untrue?

    Once you have chosen to submit to the distinctives of a denomination surely you have immediately made something else lord? Almost undetected (could it be a kind of mob dynamic happening?), the bible no longer has the freedom to cut deep and call you to turn and follow wholeheartedly. especially when other subtle factors are playing games with your heart and mind (I’m talking mainly about those employed within a denomination). Things like: job and security; the need to always submit to denominational authority; keeping the peace; possible loss of friendships; rejection and considered to have somehow departed from sound doctrine; ….

    there is always the barely visible shadow that somehow carries more weight than the gospel. But to truly be and live who you are in Christ, to find your identity and security in him alone, and to find you are not alone, but part of a family you never imagined possible… that is the church we are called to maintain… the church Christ is building.

    If only we could associate as greatly diverse human beings who have found our true identity in Christ and who are happy to have hIm help take the log from our own eyes while we love him, his gospel and our call to love all that he loves. . this alone is what should be our distinctive.. nicely put in your quote:

    “We are family. Because of Christ’s
    death, we share the same bloodline.
    Because of Christ’s resurrection, we
    share the same power. Because of
    His ascension, we share the same
    mission. So let’s act like it. Let’s live
    in the unity Christ bought for us and
    love each other fiercely, even more
    fiercely than we sometimes
    disagree.”

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    1. John Post author

      Some of your comments are more about things that can go wrong with denominations, and in my reckoning do not preclude a denomination working well?

      Others of your comments could just as easily apply to networks (e.g. distinctives)?

      I do not really have too much of an issue with the concept of a denomination but rather it’s practice. And perhaps the hierarchical nature can often make organic, spontaneous mission more difficult. But this could again be an issue of practice rather than an issue with denominations itself?

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      1. Colin

        sorry if I sounded like I was dismissing organisation. not at all. Just suggesting that denomination by definition is not going to be as inclusive as the people of God are called and saved to be. if it is an association of people committed to Christ as rescuer, reconciler and restorer, then of course we need association or networks to express that and to work together.

        however, denomination can too easily become something we choose out of a particular homogeneous need, than out of a desire to let God be lord of his church.

        Let’s not fool ourselves, historically the need to safeguard what we construct ends up betraying itself in so many non essential commitments which then become more important than the gospel and supersede a love for all that God is doing in his mission.

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      2. John Post author

        I agree with all your points. Suffice to say that I think a network or any other association could suffer the same problems.
        I prefer a network over a denomination because I think it is more difficult to create some of these problems. But surely that does not mean that a denomination is per se bad? It could work surely? The problem remains our sinful, prideful, divisive hearts. Even if denominations as structures do unwittingly feed that, that does not make them wrong, does it? The same problems are heart problems and therefore can and do surface in networks also.

        But I am not sure that anyone who is in favour of denominations would

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  2. Colin

    At the risk of bashing denominations wholesale, perhaps I should clarify that I suppose I am talking denominationalism. I think Paul would agree, ‘is Christ divided?’ The human heart so easily goes there that it can easily become a subtle and false form of identity that begins to demands our allegiance beyond what is acceptable. in so doing it sets itself up in opposition to Christ in our hearts and consciences.

    Lesley Newbigin talks of this revealing a
    privatized faith – we tend to treat denominations as the means by which we choose what beliefs best suit us as individuals. We shop around, looking for a group that holds tight to what we deem most critical. Not all bad. But it’s subtly consumeristic.

    The unintentional result is a Christianity that is highly privatized. It’s what is best for me. It’s what I like best. it’s what most connects with me .

    Newbigin says, “Denominations cannot confront our culture with the witness of the truth since even for themselves they do not
    claim to be more than associations of individuals who share the same private
    opinions.”

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    1. Colin

      btw, I’m looking once again at the original quote. the author wished denominations could be more like families that disagree. I’m simply asking if that is in fact possible by definition of what they are. and yes, my own experience does make it hard to believe so.

      Thank God for his Spirit among His people everywhere. And may He help us in our weakness.

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  3. John Post author

    I agree with you that from where I stand that denominations seem to cultivate this thinking more easily than others but I would not want to (a) write off denominations wholesale – as I think a good denomination can still partner with, fellowship with and be in favour of those with whom they differ (experience may tell a different story of course) (b) not recognise that these same dangers lurk in the hearts of those of us who value networks over denominations and we can easily become guilty of “networkism” and thankful that we are not like those sinners in denominations over there

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