Why we must have denominations (of one type or the other)

A pastor in New Hersheybar emails me. “Pastor McKeever, I read your articles. We need your help.  We are a struggling community of small churches trying to get established, trying to get financial support, trying to get our ministers educated. Can you come help us or send cash?”

Well, maybe it’s never worded exactly like that, but that’s the gist.

How to know.

Is this guy for real, and is this a genuine opportunity to make a difference for the Kingdom of God?  Or is this fellow preying on the (so-called) rich Americans who in addition to having lots of spare cash also have zero discernment?

I tell him to contact our International Mission Board at www.imb.org.  If we do not have missionaries in his country, we surely have a department with responsibility for his part of the world and someone in that office will be delighted to hear from him.  Maybe someone there will know somebody who can assist him.  And once in a while, we have a “representative” or “consultant” (as they are frequently called these days) living right there in his village.

Usually, that’s the last I hear from this fellow. Whether I discouraged him or exposed him is hard to know.

I’m thankful for this denominational agency for a thousand reasons. Okay, five thousand. (That’s how many “missionaries” they have serving throughout the world now.)

A pastor in New Marsbar writes to invite me to speak at their international conference to be held on the grounds of their new seminary.  Having never heard of New Marsbar or the pastor or his church, I do not know whether this is legitimate or not and something I should take seriously.  So, I contact our International Mission Board in Richmond, Virginia, and someone there knows.

An uprising breaks out in Old Zagnut and churches are in peril.  Our Baptist Press sends someone to interview our missionary representative for that part of the world who informs us about the issues, tells how many Christians live there and how the churches are affected.  At the breakfast table, we read the Baptist Press reports and are better informed and thus pray more intelligently.  Later, when a state of normalcy returns, we’re able to send money to assist the Old Zagnut churches get back on their feet.

Our denomination makes this work.

A series of tornadoes destroys hundreds of homes and a great many churches in a hundred mile path.  Those of us hundreds of miles away want to help, but we will be needing some guidance. What’s the best way to help? Who are the ones on the ground? Where should we send assistance? Answer: As a member of a denomination that covers this entire country, we have brothers and sisters there, both those who are affected and the neighbors who are ministering to them.  Immediately, our North American Mission Board activates its massive army of Disaster Relief teams, scheduling them so they don’t all arrive at the same time, and overseeing the systematic and Christ-honoring work of ministering to the needy.

What I do is pray for them, send an offering, and encourage the DR people I know personally.

A young man is called into the ministry.  He is eager to learn to pastor or to prepare for service on a foreign field, but has no clue where to start. Fortunately, due to the foresight of some godly brethren decades ago, our denomination has seminaries in place with highly trained professors to teach the next generation of Christian workers. A number of those professors are veteran pastors and missionaries themselves–many of them longtime friends of mine–and we have great confidence in what they do.

These days, we are hearing how young Christians hold no allegiance to denominations, how they flit from church to church, depending on who has the best programs with the most to offer.  Many of the mega-churches to which they are drawn are unaligned with any denomination and thus may have little or nothing to offer the young people whom the Holy Spirit calls from their midst.

I’m all for each new generation finding fresh ways to do the work of Christ.

I just don’t want to see them throw out a system God has used effectively for so many decades without something far better to put in its place.

I’m so grateful to be a Southern Baptist.

We’re not the only denomination, and not the only–you’ll pardon the expression–excellent denomination.  (This would be a good place to insert a list of denominations which I’ve found to be faithful and effective. However, since I’ve devoted myself to working through the SBC since 1959, I have little knowledge or experience with the others. I’m grateful for all who love the Lord Jesus and serve Him devotedly and faithfully.)

Young Christians, you love the Lord and love His church, right? (The two are synonomous the way I read the Word. But that’s another article.)

All we’re saying here is you get a lot more done for the Kingdom by working with other churches. Call it a denomination or federation or fellowship, whatever you will.  We need one another.


4 thoughts on “Why we must have denominations (of one type or the other)

  1. Admittedly, Henri Nouwen (in “Show Me The Way”) is referring to the Catholic Church; however, we might well substitute “denomination” or “fellowship” for “Church” and still yet agree. Nouwen writes, “Listen to the Church. I know that isn’t a popular bit of advice at a time and in a country where the church is frequently seen more as an ‘obstacle’ in the way rather than as the ‘way’ to Jesus. Nevertheless, I’m profoundly convinced that the greatest spiritual danger for our times is the separation of Jesus from the Church. The Church is the body of the Lord. Without Jesus, there can be no Church; and without the Church, we cannot stay united with Jesus. I’ve yet to meet anyone who has come closer to Jesus by forsaking the Church. To listen to the Church is to listen to the Lord of the Church.”

    That is to say, the Bible is replete with references illustrating that we need each other – relationally and ecclesiastically – as no man is an island unto himself. We do ourselves and the Body of Christ a disservice when we function as “lone rangers” in the kingdom of God.

    (SIDE NOTE: Realizing that Nouwen was quite controversial on many fronts, the use of his quote is not a endorsement of all that he said or did so please be nice in your remarks!)

  2. Read this article on Sermon Central and couldn’t find it again there, so I came here. Just looking at the title, there are so many things wrong with it and what it means, one hardly knows where to begin. I guess I would begin by using a form the title itself: We must have denominations because…
    1. Jesus died to create many differing religious groups (Matthew 15:13; 16:18):
    2. Because religious division (which is what denominationalism is) is a faithful witness to the prayer of Jesus in John 17:20-23:
    3. This is the example we have of Christianity in the New Testament:
    4. God’s plan for the work of the church cannot be accomplished without denominations (Eph 3:9-11):
    5. It is not possible for all men to believe the same thing about the church of the New Testament (1Cor 1:10; 4:17).

    Long story short — Demoninationalism is the antithesis of everything the Bible teaches about the church.

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