Are We Denominational?

Jack Wilkie

     Much has been written on the plague of denominationalism on modern religion, and rightly so. The very name itself implies division, a disunity that Christ neither intended nor desired for the church.

But it’s not an acceptance of division itself that lies at the heart of denominationalism. Instead, it’s the idea that man can reject Scripture and insert his own opinions when convenient. Though it’s nothing new, lately we’ve seen a number of examples:

  • Some churches ignore the Bible’s teachings on male leadership in the church by instituting women preachers or elders.
  • Some decide man-authorized forms of worship would be more enjoyable or engaging for those in attendance, so they twist the Scriptures to make the case that worship form doesn’t matter.
  • Some find that the Bible’s teachings on sexuality and marriage aren’t very palatable for today’s culture, so they compromise and say that there’s nothing wrong with homosexuality.

Obviously the church does well to use the Bible to stand against those teachings… but that self-determining heart of denominationalism doesn’t exist only on the church level. As much as the spirit that leads to denominationalism has to be rooted out on the congregational level, it’s just as important that we put it to death on the individual level.

It’s not fundamentally any different to say things like:

  • I know the Bible says it’s my job to train my children in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6, Ephesians 6:4) and train them to follow God every single day (Deuteronomy 6:7), but I’m just going to hope their youth minister, Bible class teachers, preachers, and even their school teachers can give them the tools they need to be successful in life.
  • I know the Bible says I’m supposed to treat others how I want to be treated (Matthew 7:12) and to forgive as God has forgiven me (Matthew 6:12), but this one person is really driving me crazy, so I can treat her however I want.
  • Sure, the Bible says that the husband is the head of the wife (Ephesians 5:23) and that each has a particular role within the home (1 Peter 3:7, Titus 2:3-5), but it’s the 21st Century. That all went out of style in the 50s. If a woman isn’t doing everything her man is doing, in the same way he’s doing it, she’s letting herself be oppressed.
  • Yeah, God wants us to think on what is noble, pure, and right (Philippians 4:8), but it’s not like He cares if I watch this TV show or movie that’s filled with gore, nudity, or profanity. I mean, it’s just entertainment.

We can go to church and hear sermons or get online and read articles about how wrong it is for churches to embrace the spirit of denominationalism, and we can agree whole-heartedly with those teachings – but we had better make sure we’re not being hypocritical. The same attitude that lets entire churches excuse practices that God didn’t authorize is the one we have in our hearts when we decide we don’t have to obey Him on a particular issue: We don’t believe Him.

Faith is believing that God knew what He was talking about. Faith is believing that if we do things His way, everything will turn out the way it should. When a church decides to ignore doctrines God put in place, they declare that they believe disobeying Him would be best for their growth as a church. When individuals ignore the principles God gave to guide their lives, they declare that what He said is subject to their personal interpretation. Disbelief reigns.

The challenge for us is to take home the same conviction we expect from our churches and apply it in our own lives. If we chose the congregation we attend based on their respect for the Scriptures, shouldn’t our lives be governed by a similar respect for them?