Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Rise and Fall of Denominations. Sort of. (An Observation)

Denominations today mean less than they did years ago. It's a label from a different time. Starting from as far back as Luther's Reformation. But if you ask me, to use this classification now is hardly accurate. And I think that's a good thing.

Take for instance:

  • What does it mean to be Methodist? Not much, because more than any other denomination, Methodist has the widest theological spectrum from conservative to liberal beliefs.
  • What does it mean to be Baptist? Baptist can have traditional, contemporary or modern worship environments. Some are KJV only. Some women in ministry or not.
  • What does it mean to be Presbyterian? Depends, are you PCA or PC USA? Those are different from night and day.

Differences don't end in theology, but in practicality, worship styles, ties or no ties, and church building structures. If denomination labels doesn't mean much anymore, then is there an accurate way to classify different beliefs? I think so.

To quickly assess what someone believes, ask what authors they passionately read.

  • John Piper? You're probably dealing with a 4 or 5 point Calvinist.

  • Brian McLaren? Probably a liberal theologian.

  • Ed Young, Jr.? Either a creative or ADD thinker. Could be either. Or both.

  • John Bevere? Strong charismatic theology.

  • Charles Swindoll? Prefers a traditional environment.

  • Francis Chan? Probably frustrated with the status quo of Christianity.

  • Joel Osteen? *ahem* Leave your opinion about that one in the comments section.

Today, these authors and pastors are a better representation of the distinctly different categories of Christian thought. Chances are pretty good that I listed an author that has had a tremendous impact on you.

And then there are a few authors that are more widely accepted despite theological differences.

Andy Stanley, John Maxwell, Rick Warren, C.S. Lewis, etc.

Lastly, I need to mention that there is one great strength that denominations will always offer: networking. Denominations are fantastic to network with or raise support through. And I commend the network set-up to support members.

For better or for worse (I think for better) denomination titles are unimportant. Which is one reason why church plants choose to leave the denomination titles out of their name. And many older churches edit their current title, removing the denomination, yet keeping their affiliations.

My prayer is that it brings more respect and unity in the body of Christ. Read John 17 here. I'd like to focus less on what makes us different (variation of theology), and more on what makes us the same (submission to Christ).

Denominations have served a great role in the past, and for networking purposes, they are still quite beneficial.

For the record, I passionately read Philip Yancey.


Who do you read passionately? Did I list the author? Was it accurate about you?