The importance of denominations

From the National Director: Denominations help fulfill the Great Commission

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2068
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Denominations. Do they still have purpose? Although technically USMB is a conference of churches and not necessarily a denomination, the question still pertains to us.

Some will say that denominations are unnecessary and actually hinder the commission of Christ. I submit that although denominations are not perfect, their existence is very important to the complete fulfillment of the commission of Christ.

Church history is filled with divisions stemming from the way we see Jesus and how we determine the way we are to live out what he has told us to do. For followers of Menno Simons, that came to the forefront in the years of the Radical Reformation. What we know as Mennonite Brethren is that there are ways of following Jesus that others have minimized but we see as primary.

This includes being true disciples who are people of the Word, believer’s baptism, the importance of community and being people who promote peace. These are just some of the things that drew my wife and me to join an MB church in the late 1970s.

As Mennonite Brethren, we disagree with those who are convinced that baptism brings conversion (through regeneration) as a means of grace and regularly baptize infants. That’s a significant difference. I have Presbyterian brothers and sisters who are convinced that baptizing infants is necessary in their covenant theology. I disagree wholeheartedly and would not be able to celebrate with them in their practice of the sacrament of infant baptism.

It’s not just baptism either, as we have historically disagreed over church polity and ecclesiology, eschatology, soteriology, covenant theology and a ton of other “ologies.” Not only is church history littered with theological arguments, but the practice and fulfillment of each position are huge points of contention as well. We disagree about things like evangelism methods, worship, church discipline, church planting, missions, etc.

In the big picture, we are sinners saved by faith in Jesus through the grace of God, but we still live in a fallen world and are still prone to sin. And we tend to disagree on a lot of things.

It must be our foundation to understand that our faith is collective as well as individualistic in nature. The Great Commission was given to the church, and we’ll likely fail when we try to accomplish it all on our own. We need the unity of the Mennonite Brethren body to reach people with the gospel, not only here but around the world.

We have biblical convictions that should be derived solely from our understanding of Scripture, but we also should come to grips with the fact that some of our brothers and sisters will disagree with us. So, in order to keep our peace, it is necessary to gather with like-minded believers. We need our MB family in order to abide in that way.

That said, there are times when we can do things inter-denominationally, especially with those who are close to us in core theological positions. We can pray for one another as we seek to reach people who don’t yet know Jesus. That is a very good thing when believers can lay aside their differences to accomplish a bigger purpose—as Jesus builds his church. I respect what other denominations can bring to the table with their passion to reach the lost.

Though all believers are ultimately founded upon the work of Christ and his Word—and that’s pretty solid standing ground—we still need our tribe. We truly do need local churches that share our convictions and practices, strive to remain biblical and consistent and together plug into the work of the kingdom. That’s where unity can be found and that is a very good thing—and worth it.

Don Morris
Don Morris is the USMB national director. He and his wife, Janna, live in Edmond, Oklahoma, where they attend Cross Timbers Church.

3 COMMENTS

  1. So denominations are good so we can keep our periphery preferences? Inter-denominational cooperation around issues that are core to our theology? Where do you actually see that happening.

    All in all, this is an excuse, not a solid reasoning for denominations. My brain interprets your thoughts as, “Denominations are good because they make me more comfortable being with people I agree with rather than having to bear with others who would be hard to work with by my own perspective.”

    I thoroughly disagree and believe that when we are with Jesus in perfection in the new heavens and new earth He will tell us in sober and cutting terms that He was displeased with with our senseless fighting and wasted breath on inbred issues rather than fighting for community and sacrificing our comfort for the salvation of others.

    Some people are aware of the need for this community beyond tertiary issues, but have little influence over the broader assembly who have been lulled into comfortable stupor of convenience-based relationships (especially in ministry).

  2. Kaleb – did you even read my article? Much of what you say is included in it. I’d appreciate it if you would read or re-read what I said.
    Thanks,
    Don Morris

  3. Hi Don, I’m just looking at this now, how can denominations not be in rebellion to the scriptures when 1) Paul emphatically condemns the idea of a “denomination”:

    But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?

    What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.” – 1 Cor. 3:1-9

    Paul, of course, goes on in length declaring this, but it should be enough just from the beginning of this rebuke, that Paul says such things are “fleshly”, “infantile”, “merely human”.

    To make the claim that I am a part of _______, naming anything other than I’m saint in the body of Christ, that gathers with the saints at _______ location, is unbiblical. There is no argument. Its clearly commanded.

    Furthermore, James, the Lord’s brother, declares to us that showing any partiality amongst ourselves is breaking the law. We are not to make any distinctions amongst ourselves within the body of Christ, it is clearly unbiblical. “My brothers, show NO PARTIALITY as you hold the faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?”

    While giving a clear and specific example of dividing and distinguishing over socioeconomic status, the Church does this with all sorts of things, the most acceptable seems to be theological 2ndary issues. Which, is, absolutely unbiblical. The only division God makes is the “children of wrath” and the “children of God”, “the workers of disobedience” and “the workers of righteousness.”

    Thus, there is no room for denominations at all, of any sort. How can there be? To consider that Martin Luther has a denomination named after him, would lead Martin Luther himself to unleash his terrible anger, and roll over in his grave if he were able… Ha, imagine that! He would not be able to bear it.

    The fact that the Church divides over things that it is not allowed to, shows the sick state of the modern era of the Church, it is horrible. It must be reformed! Self-righteousness is wicked, in the declaration of this “tradition” vs that “tradition”. Are we to serve the traditions of man, or of God?

    Jesus said, “I in them and you in me, that they may become PERFECTLY ONE, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” Jn. 17:23

    How, in any many, with hundreds if not thousands of denominations, often, many on the SAME STREET, are we declaring ourselves to be “ONE IN CHRIST.”

    The Church needs to repent of this, we all do, because we are the Church. WE LOVE to make distinctions amongst ourselves.

    When you wrote, “So, in order to keep our peace, it is necessary to gather with like-minded believers. We need our MB family in order to abide in that way.”

    Is that biblical brother? In order to keep the peace we must divide? That is completely unbiblcal. God’s word in no way supports drawing the distinctions you have made and justifying yourself over that. You are called to bear with one another, which means, that in the body of Christ, you may disagree on everything except that it is Jesus alone who justifies and saves you. If a person has the Spirit of Christ, and is a follower as shown by the fruit of the Spirit, then it is your duty, to get along with them.

    I think that this article needs to be reconsidered brother!

    May the Lord bless you and keep you, and His face shine on you, and may you repent of the distinctions that you have tried to make for yourself.

    Jesus has given us His righteousness, He has called is a “people for his own possesion”, we are ONE BODY that GATHERS in many, many places. But only because we have been “called out of darkness into His glorious light.”

    Much love in Jesus Christ our Lord!

    Andrew Coyne

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