Are you part of a denomination?

People looking for a church often ask about denominational affiliation. This question is usually asked for one of three reasons. Some ask the question because, when looking for a new church, denominational affiliation is a good indicator of what a church believes. Being Baptist, Presbyterian, etc. is a good indicator of their beliefs and practices. In this case the question is asked to efficiently gather information. Some are looking to stay within a specific denomination when moving from one location to another. For example, members of a Southern Baptist church in one town, upon moving, tend to look for a Southern Baptist church in their new location. This is not always from convinced denominational faithfulness, but is often because in a new place the familiar gives a sense of security. The third reason for this question may be a negative view of denominational churches, or denominationalism. Such people may simply be looking for a non-denominational church.

Answering questions about denominational affiliation can be tricky at times, because the person asking may include certain unspoken assumptions in the question. If you don’t understand these assumptions you may actually answer the wrong question. To illustrate this, let me share with you a conversation I had with a woman several years ago. She asked, “Are you Baptist?” We are not a member of any Baptist association, but do share certain views common to Baptists—believer’s baptism, for example. Fortunately, something about her tone told me there was some hidden meaning behind her words. I probed by saying, “If you are asking whether we baptize believers only and if we do so by immersion, then yes. However, if you are asking whether we are similar to a church currently protesting various things, then no.” She said, “I meant the latter.” The Westboro Baptist Church had recently come into the headlines and the woman, whom I had assumed was asking about our practice of baptism, was actually asking whether we were in agreement with the Westboro activists. This is one reason I so dislike this line of questioning.

Another conversation I had with a person along this line will illustrate another version of the problem. I spoke to a person who was very anti-denominational. I got to talking with him about his view of denominations. In his understanding, denominations refused to work together with any group or persons outside of their own affiliation, even refusing to take communion or fellowship with those not of their affiliation. He also believed denominations did not recognize anyone as a Christian who was not baptized in one of their own affiliated churches.[1] Funny thing about this conversation is that even though we are part of a denomination, according to this definition we would be non-denominational because none of these define our church or our denomination.

In answer to the question, we are part of the worldwide ministry of the Christian & Missionary Alliance. Though the C&MA is legally organized as a denomination, we strive to work with all who call on Christ for salvation.[2] I (Pastor Ken) have held credentials with the C&MA since 1995. While this membership comes with some requirements—such as a Statement of Faith that all associated churches espouse—it has very little impact on the daily operation of the church. We reach out to our local community as we see fit, and work with the denomination to reach the rest of the world. However, since our denomination was formed to accomplish a mission—the Great Commission—rather than to protect some specific doctrinal view, we openly work with all other Christians in a sense of brotherhood and fellowship.

This drive to cooperate for the advancement of the Kingdom has impacted our churches from top to bottom and as a result we practice what we call “Big Tent Theology.” We understand that people disagree on many fine points of scripture. So long as these doctrinal differences do not affect salvation we allow freedom. This freedom is even expressed in the local church where people of very different views on some divisive issues still worship the Lord together in one congregation. Our motto could best be summed up with the words of Augustine: “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.” I prefer to say it as, “If you belong to Jesus, then you’re family.”

So, the simple answer to the question is, “Yes. We do belong to a denomination.” However, we are not ‘denominational’ and by this I mean we do not use denominational label or affiliation to divide from other believers. We are all plowing the same field; we are all given the same mission. We seek to unify the body, and not divide over non-essentials.

Would you be comfortable as part of Resurgent?

If you do not believe in denominational divisiveness, then you will be perfectly comfortable because we do not believe in it either. But refusing to divide includes refusing to force a church to divide from a denomination which it has long been associated.

If you are part of a denomination but agrees with us doctrinally then you will be perfectly comfortable among us. We are not asking you to join or identify with the C&MA. We are asking you to join us, the local church, in reaching our community and the world with the Good News of Jesus Christ. Even if you still identify as with your current denomination, you will be perfectly welcome. We have others who, though long time members of the church, identify themselves by other names: Methodist, Lutheran, Baptist, etc. We aren’t interested in labels. We are interested in reaching the world.

[1] There are many denominations just like this, but they are more the exception than the rule.

[2] There are several denominations who practice an openness that defies the usual assumptions about denominationalism. Besides, the C&MA there is also the Church of God (Anderson) and others.

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