Last week, I came across an article that caught my attention—“Don’t Ditch Your Denomination.” My interest was particularly peaked when I realized that it was a personal account written by my friend and fellow pastor, Fred Luter. I immediately consumed the piece; and as I did, I noted Luter’s appreciation and devotion to denominational life. In some ways, I was not surprised; but in other ways, I was. After all, most of our culture would suggest that the denominational structure is dead. From many people’s vantage point, there is no need for a larger collection of churches; and if such a need would appear, parachurch organizations could step in to fill the gap. After all, the idea of a local church with no labels sounds biblical! And if they look the part, they also appear cool! So, throw out the dusty old denomination and embrace the new, glitzy opportunity to be on your own! (Or so some think!)
Now, let me be clear here about a couple of things. First, there are some denominations you should ditch. If your ecclesiastical body has rejected biblical truth and has embraced immorality, you should flee from that group as fast as you can. Paul said to have nothing to do with such folks (2 Timothy 3:1-5). Unfortunately, too many have compromised the biblical instruction and accepted the cultural message of the day. Second, there are some good and wonderful nondenominational churches that are serving the Lord and clinging to His Word. I have tremendous friends within such congregations, and I applaud their Gospel fidelity.
So, what do I believe about denominational life? Well, I wholeheartedly agree with Luter when he challenges his fellow Southern Baptists not to leave their denomination. There is something in a name . . . even if we say we don’t like such titles. For example, when believers were first called “Christians” at Antioch, the term was meant to be derogatory as it sneeringly referred to those “little Christs.” But aren’t you proud that label stuck! What an honor to wear His name! But what does the word “Baptist” connote? To me, it signifies Christ-centered, Bible-believing, gospel-driven, church-committed followers who are seeking to impact the world. Indeed, “Southern Baptist” communicates who we are doctrinally and practically. In this day of uncertainty, it is so important to note that your church holds to foundational, scriptural truth. Many would be surprised at the doctrine held by some churches. For example, one church that comes to my mind rejects the classic, biblical view of the Trinity. The leaders there contend that there are not “three distinct persons (Father, Son, and Spirit)” of the Godhead but rather that God just appears in different forms at different times. Some of you say that isn’t a big deal . . . I would just remind you that the biblical writers thought it was!
Not only does the denominational tag speak to our doctrine, but it also speaks to our practice, especially in regard to missions. As “Southern Baptists” in particular, we believe we can accomplish more together than we can do by ourselves. Through our collective giving and going, we can fulfill more effectively the Great Commission. Certainly, the local church is the epicenter of missions, and while many nondenominational churches do missions, I believe cooperating with a larger family is essential to making Christ known among all nations. That is why we give sacrificially to our budgets and our special offerings. It is why we hope to surpass $27,000 to the Georgia Barnette State Missions Offering. The mission is not just about us or even one church! It is about working together! As one recent Tech grad’s message to me stated, “I grew up Southern Baptist but officially decided to stay in college because my GenSend trip to Atlanta was completely paid for by Southern Baptists—Annie Armstrong.” I am proud this young lady didn’t ditch her denomination, and I am proud you haven’t either. There is too much work to be done! We need one another to accomplish that work! See you Sunday!