The world doesn’t need more Episcopalians.
No one wakes up with a hunger to be a Methodist.
No child says "I want to be Assemblies of God when I grow up."
We live in a post-denominational world. The day of being Presbyterian because we grew up Presbyterian is ending. Actually, it’s already ended. Some of us just haven’t caught up with it yet.
People who don't go to church aren't longing to wear any of the labels church people wear so proudly and fight about so angrily. And they shouldn’t.
Our neighbors and co-workers have no desire to be Calvinist or Arminian, Pentecostal or Cessationist, Evangelical or Orthodox. They probably don’t know what most of those words even mean.
And they certainly don’t want to be pew-warmers, giving units, or a target demographic. In fact, when they discover that church leaders sometimes refer to them that way, they’re appalled. And rightly so.
But they all have an ache to draw closer to Jesus. Even if they don't realize it. Yet.
Keep Pointing to Jesus
When believers emphasize our differences and our labels, we add another level of distance between Jesus and the people he loves.
It’s not that denominations and theological identifiers are wrong. I wear several myself. But I only use them with other Christians, and only as a conversational shortcut. Never with unbelievers, and never to create distance between myself and other believers.
What to Do With Denominations
I don't want to blow up our denominations. And I don’t think we need to water down our distinctives. In fact, I work with a lot of denominations and I love the variety they bring to the kingdom of God.
To the degree that denominations draw people to Jesus, they deserve to exist – and they will thrive. To the degree they fail to do that, they don't deserve to exist – and they will die.
The moment our desire to convince people to join our denomination (or non-denominational church) becomes more important than making disciples, we have failed.
As long as our goal is making disciples, God can still use the resources, relationships and history of our denominations, movements and independent churches to do his will.
So join a denomination if that works for you. And support it enthusiastically. Or not.
Just keep Jesus first.
(For more on this topic, check out Are We More Invested In Bringing People to Church? Or to Jesus?)
Copyright © 2016 by the author or Christianity Today/Leadership Journal.
Click here to read our guidelines concerning reprint permissions.