Posted by: The Simple Guy | January 5, 2010

An Off The Wall Question

I have a question I would like to pose to those of you who read this blog.  (Those of you who don’t read this blog, well, you won’t know I asked, will you?)  🙂

Ok I’m weird, I know.

Seriously though, I have a question.  First let me frame it so you understand where I am coming from.

I grew up in the country, and we moved around a lot.   Brand loyalty of any sort has always seemed to me to be a luxury.  There might only be one grocery store in town.  If you were a “Safeway” person, that might be a problem, as there might only be an “IGA” on town.  Get my drift?  Brand loyalty was for those who had more options.  In one town there might only be a Chevy dealer.  The other town might only have a Dodge dealer.  In the first town, you might hear a crusty old farmer say that only a fool would buy a Dodge.  When you asked why, he would say you can’t get parts for them!  (well, of course you can’t there isn’t a dealer in town)  But you might hear the same thing about Chevy’s in the next town.

I have always been non-denominational.  To me, that is my heritage.  Not really a choice, but an assumption.  I have grown up out in the sticks, and the label on the church sign has never meant much to me.  It was all about what went on inside of the church, and how that affected what went on outside the church.  These were measured against Scripture, Christ, and the Gospel.  (not necessarily in that order. . )

Out in central Montana there weren’t a lot of choices, know what I mean?  So in my growing up years, I have attended Congregational, Baptist, Nazarene, and non-denominational churches.  I have never agreed with everything a church that I attended taught.  That has never been a surprise to me, as I don’t even agree with what I thought on some things as recently as a year ago.  I expect to grow, and expect others to grow as well.  This means we won’t always be on the same page.

In my interaction with others, this pattern of non-denominationalism has been seen at times as rather radical or reactionary.  However, in my case it is actually sort of tradition.  I have never given it any serious thought.   And not for some lofty reason, but out of necessity.  Just this past week I realized that I have never seriously asked these simple questions about denominations.  Why?  Why is your denomination important to you?  What are the benefits of it?  Do you feel there is a net loss, or net gain?  Does it help in your fellowship with other believers, or does it get in the way?

Am I looking at taking on a brand name?  Probably not.  But I would like to understand you better.   This ignorant old hayseed from the sticks could use some education here!

Craig

PLEASE DO NOT USE THIS AS A FORMAT TO BASH THE DENOMINATION/DENOMINATIONS YOU DON’T LIKE, I WILL DELETE THOSE TYPES OF COMMENTS.  8)

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Responses

  1. Craig,

    Speaking for myself, I grew up in Southern Baptist churches, my dad pastored throughout my childhood years and so that was where I was taken. But, as I grew up bodily and in spiritual understanding I came to see the reason for dad’s convictions and the scriptual basis for “baptistic” beliefs (that is, baptism of professed believers only, not infants). I too do not neccesarily agree with every “jot and tittle” of the Baptist churches, but I do believe that their efforts are more in line with a contextual interpretation of the scriptures and a desire to follow their precepts. I am currently attending a Reformed Baptist Church which is very committed to expository, verse by verse teaching and preaching and is a fellowship that has blown me away in their evident love and hospitality toward one another! So, I have remained “baptistic” in my denominational preference, but as the years have passed I have also become convinced of the reformed doctrines of grace that, to some extent, had become forgotten and ignored in many Southern Baptist churches. I find it a great blessing to fellowship with believers from various denominations as long as they do not depart from the fundamental tenants of the faith. So, there is my short spill on the matter!

  2. I am member of a house fellowship and denomination is not important to me.

  3. Well, Craig, I just wrote a whole treatise and lost it.

    Anyway, I’m glad you asked that question. Yes, denominationalism means something to me. I always has. I grew up and was a young person in denominations that taught that they were the only ones who were right: the only Christians.

    But, I know where you are coming from, because for the last 13 years, my husband and I have pastored in the Dakotas. The people here are of a common ethnic group (German/Scandinavian). Everybody is community oriented. Every body is of the mind-set that, “I know the whatever-it-is church believes in this-or-that, but I choose to look past that so that we can all get along and have a good community feel.” Unfortunately, they overlook very serious things that they shouldn’t overlook. These days, many of these denominations don’t stand for anything, and even stand for accepting abominations.

    But, this is happening all over the country, and not only in old mainline denominations like you see here in the upper midwest. It is happening in evangelical and fundamentalist and pentecostal denominations, due to all the ecumenism. Due to the lack of Biblical literacy you see today. Due to the watering down of standards of holiness.

    Most people in our country have what you could call “American Religion”: I believe in God, but I believe many roads lead to God, and God loves me no matter what I do, unless I do something really outrageous like kill somebody, and in the final analysis, He will work it out so that I get to go to heaven.

    Here in the upper midwest, the mindset is like, “We’re the salt of the earth — good people — so we’re going to heaven.”

    Denominationalism is important to me because I want to KNOW what the people inside that church building believe — if I can fellowship with them or not. These days, when I hear the name of certain denominations, I KNOW that I cannot fellowship with them, because these denominations now ordain open h*m*s*xuals. That is the “line drawn in the sand” for my husband and me. That sin calls down fire from God like others don’t. I wonder if anybody who stays with a denomination like that can be a Christian. When I see a certain name over a door, I KNOW I’m not going in there.

    But, around here, the people stay with denominations like that out of tradition or habit, so they can keep their building and have their quilting parties and potlucks. We won’t step foot in their buildings for a funeral or anything. They stand for something: liberality and abomination.

    This the product of the deadly combination of an unworthy clergy and a complacent laity.

    This pulling away from denominational beliefs started, or at least came to a head, in the 60’s. I lived through it, and there was rebellion everywhere. Denominational beliefs were questioned and pulled down. Standards of holiness were done away with. “Mixed marriages” between, say, Catholics and Protestants, became common, where they were once frowned upon, and the children now go to one church on one Sunday, and the other on another Sunday, nobody really knowing what is the truth about any subject in the Bible, or what they personally believe. Now, it is harder to know what you will find inside because of the name over a door.

    We were with a certain denomination for years, and my husband was ordained with them. Although the statement of fundamental truths is till up on the wall in the church buildings, in everyday practice, these beliefs are being let go. We are no longer with them.

    We have for 13 years ministered inter-denominationally and independently. These churches are tiny and cannot meet the salary guidelines that their denominations have decreed for ministers, so they readily accept ministers outside of their denominations, like my husband, who has a retirement check, and can get by with very little monetary support from the church. The denominations don’t care. They’ve written off these little country churches.

    The people in these churches, although they belong to liberal denominations, are very conservative, however, they have very little knowledge about the Bible. It is a mission field for us; that is how we look at it. My husband preaches the Bible — book by book, chapter by chapter, verse by verse, with expository sermons.

    The ministry has had little fruit, though. Although conservative, the people still hang on to their American Religion. They get their doctrine from those little devotional booklets, or Chicken Soup for the Soul. My husband tells them that these are snacks, not meals, and encourages them to read their Bibles. We have pastored Congregational, Reformed Church in America, and American Baptist denominations. We try to get them to believe the Bible.

    It is distressing to be with people here who have middle-class propriety, not necessarily salvation. When you talk to them, you realize that that is all they have. It is a mission field here; indeed it is so all over the country now.

    When I look at the name over a door, it can mean something. Usually in our part of the country these days, the mainline denominational name means “liberal”. That is not good. But, I want to KNOW. I want to KNOW who I am fellowshipping with. At least in the past, the name over the door would tell you what the group as a whole stood for.

    It is not good enough to say, “It doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you ‘love the Lord.'” We are to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” (Jude 3)

    And, I want to KNOW if a church stands for Biblical salvation. “These things have I writ4ten unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” We can KNOW if we are saved. If others believe the same, we can KNOW if they are saved — at least it is a good place to start until we know them better, like do they walk-the-walk.

    When I see a name over a door, pretty much, I can know what I will find inside (although not as much these days as in the past). So, it is very important to me. I want to know who I’m with and what I’m getting into.

    When I hear “I’m non-denominational” or “independent,” I’m wary: what does THAT mean? Then I want to quiz the person. What do they believe? It’s important to know. Hope that makes sense. My first treatise sounded better. Can’t believe I lost it.

  4. Tom,
    Thanks for the reply. I was hoping you would respond, as I greatly respect your thoughts. While I don’t always agree with every detail of what you say, I sense a kindred spirit. I also think that there is a good chance that if I was as well studied as you, I may agree with you more often. 🙂
    Natasa,
    I wonder if this question I asked is one that we in the states have the luxury of asking (like the people who live in a city with multiple car dealerships and grocery stores). The fellowship we now attend began as a house group, and got too large, but the format is still much the same. It has been a real growing experience for us.
    Civilla,
    Interesting to hear the history from your perspective. My father came to know the Lord in about 68, and Mom was raised in a small rural town in western Montana – she attended a Baptist church. Not sure what their theology was. When I was a toddler they moved and Dad attended a small Bible college in central Montana. From there he became pastor to two very small congregational churches (simultaneously) that were about to close. They were about 30 miles apart. The smaller of the two towns had two churches, this congregational one, and a Catholic one. From there we moved to Idaho where my grandparents lived. We became part of a church that had been planted by American Missionary Fellowship because they had a Christian School that we could attend. This was nondenominational, and is the church I essentially grew up in. When I left home I began attending a Nazarine church specifically because their theology was more armenian than mine. I knew the pastor and respected him a lot, and wanted to come up with my own beliefs rather than just what I had been handed. Frankly, that has been my only experience with a denomination. I saw choices made because of politics over the heads of the local church government. I really felt that the Gospel was hindered in this particular case.

    Since then, Heather and I have attended a few different churches. Always conservative, usually non-denominational just because that was where we wound up when looking for local government and sound doctrine.

    Where we attend there is a variety of doctrine in the more detailed areas, but unity in the basics. Much like the blog world Heather and I frequent. There are some who would agree with much of your doctrine, and some who would tend more toward Mr Gabbard’s perspective. We have some former Mennonites, and some former Church of God people as well. All are people who have sought to shed their “churchianity” and learn the simplicity of the Gospel.

    Still, I would like to hear what people think who hold to a particular denomination.

    Craig

  5. We don’t hold to a particular denomination now. My husband does have a credential but with an independent type of fellowship. I know what you mean about politics over the heads of local church government and do not like that at all. Some of the people in the church we pastor presently would like to go independent, and that may happen someday; some people are sentimental about the denomination. It will be the peoples’ decision, not ours. Being independent causes you to stretch, and like you said, not just rely on what people hand you. To the negative, there can exist a possibility where there is nobody to answer to, encouraging abusive cult-like situation, or abusive pastors, but they are the extreme ones.

    Interesting topic. Something that should always be avoided is the attitude, “My denomination, or pastor, right or wrong.”

    I like Baptist churches, because the individual congregations are usually autonomous.

  6. Well, although we like the parent-like comfort of a denomination, God has for whatever reason moved us out of that a while ago, and we are independent now. It will cause you to grow. I like the freedom to do what we want — like not be forced to attend conferences, classes, conventions and the like. We never got much out of those. Now we go to the ones we feel like going to. Although we serve a denomination, because my husband is not credentialed with them, we do not “have” to go to their denominational stuff — a relief.

  7. Hi, Craig.
    I grew up in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the denomination in which my Dad was a pastor. I got saved (through a booklet my Dad brought home) while living at home and going to university. I went to the seminary of the Evangelical Free Church; was a pastor for awhile in Evangelical Free Church, Evangelical Mennonite Church (now re-named Fellowship of Evangelical Churches) and United Brethren in Christ. I’ve not been officially a pastor for many years. My wife and I (same wife all of these years, for whom I thank God) have been in Southern Baptist churches for the past 15 years. There was a period of a year or two when I attended a United Church of Christ church as my second church (I attended a different church with my family. That particular UCC church was charismatic and zealously evangelical.

    After all of that introduction, Craig, I agree that denominations are a luxury that not all cultures can afford. I think you and Civilla have pretty well expressed both the value and the dangers of a denomination. I’ll add that of all the denominations I was in, my favorite was the Fellowship of Evangelical Churches, but I think they now have a church or two that has gone seeker-friendly, lowest-common-denominator.

  8. I miss the nice cozy snug secure elitist feeling of belonging to “the only true church.” I belonged to two “only true churches.” Yes, they do your thinking for you. Once you start to think for yourself, you don’t stay. But it’s cold out there, as we have been finding out for a long time. The Lord has never allowed us to again bond with any group like we did back in the early 70’s when we joined that very sectarian fundamentalist group that thought they were the only ones who had “the truth.”

    I do have to admit, now that we’re talking pros and cons, that after leaving them, we were confused (we were still in our 20’s), because after thinking we were the only onces saved, it now seemed like everybody was saved and we didn’t know who to evangelize.

    Well, that was a long time ago.

    Anyway, all this non-denominationalism and ecumenism started in the 60’s like lots of things. It was such a time of upheaval — you wouldn’t believe it. We went from the conformity of the 50’s where you just did what you were supposed to do without thinking about it (from wearing a hat to church to showing up for military duty when your country called) to questioning EVERYTHING. It can’t wholly be blamed on the public schools. Everybody questioned everything from every quarter.

    It was like our country went nuts. My husband says it was post-traumatic stress after two world wars with the Korean war on its heels.

    Even the nuns in Catholic school challenged us to question and think. So did the media. So did everybody. It was the spirit of the times. We’ve never recovered.

    It wasn’t all bad: the Negroes (that’s what we called those folks then) got their civil rights and things like that. But it was like, why do women have to stay home? why do we have to stay married? why do we have to believe and do what the clergy tells us? why do we have to register for the draft? why do we have do dress like this? and on and on.

    Even though I am a conservative fundamentalist Christian, I am a product of my generation whether I think I am or not. We all are whether we think we are or not.

    We had some people in our town very unhappy with the ministers they were sent by the denomination. “60’s me” said, “Tell the denomination to stop sending those liberal ministers and tell them you want one that teaches the Bible.” The ladies much older than I am gave me this blank look and said, “We can’t!” I said, “You can…technically you are their employer because your church sends them money…they work for you! Or pull out of the denomination and go independent.” Blank look again. My parents’ generation just did what they were told. I don’t know if I necessarily want to go back to that.

    Unfortunately what I saw filling the void was shopping-cart religion, not necessarily a well-thought-out Biblical theology. Feel-good stuff.

    And, even when churches say “we are non-denominational” , they do have SOME KIND of theology or belief, they are just not up-front about it (THIS CAN BE A DANGER — YOU CAN FALL INTO A CULT BEFORE YOU KNOW IT).

    Like I said, a danger with independent is that it is easy for a charismatic leader to rise up and next thing you know, you have a cult. I mean, the Jim Joneses and David Koreshes did not pop up in the United Methodist church or the PCA (I realize that those denominations have their own problems: liberalism). These cult leaders were independent. Charismatic personalities like the people I mentioned don’t stay in denominations long: they usually bring in aberrant doctrine and get kicked out, or don’t like being told what to do and leave. A danger with independent can be cultism if people are not careful.

    Have you ever read “Churches that Abuse” and its creepier sequel “More Churches that Abuse”? Scary, scary. All of these churches were independent, mostly Charismatic. But, I see stories of abuse in non-charismatic groups these days (Patriocentric groups), on the ‘net.

    People who are not good thinkers for themselves, or are cult-prone due to weaknesses, are safer in a Bible-believing denomination.

    Speaking of going back to that, I am fascinated by what I see and read: baby-boomers are flocking back to their traditional churches like the Catholic church in DROVES. The younger generation is fascinated with liturgical churches, too, especially the Orthodox churches. Part of it is nostalgia. Part of it is just wanting somebody to tell them what to do. Part of it is that they are impressed with the pageantry of these denominations.

    I don’t like this, although I have felt the draw myself. Such things, while not all wrong in and of themselves, can be a substitute for a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Something has to fill the void, and religion will do it. We don’t want just religion. We DO want to think for ourselves.

    I also wanted to say that every religious revival leaves a denomination in its wake. They stay “on fire” for about 100 years and fizzle out into liberalism. God passes them over and something new starts.

  9. Hey Craig!
    As you know, I’ve only consistently attended 4 churches in my (relatively brief) Christian walk. The first (in ID) a non-denominational church, the next 2 (in Aus) denominational churches (the same denomination, different areas), and currently (WOOHOOO!) a non-denominational church.

    Much of the time we get asked about our church and we reply that it is non denominational. This is followed up with a series of other questions, the most common question…is it Protestant or Roman Catholic? It seems as though in Australia, it is a bit of an unusual concept not to identify as a particular denomination. After time spent in a denominational church, the largest denomination for Australian protestants, I have found that the denomination can mean everything for some people, and nothing for others. Our pastors wife was raised in a different denomination and so it meant very little to her. People in the church were raised (Anglican) and someone even said that they would identify first as an Anglican, second as a Christian. We found that the doctrine was poorly understood even by those who attended the church…because there was no church doctrinal statement as such, but only the Articles of Faith (westminster confession style) in the back of a prayer book. In our experience, the name of the church denoting the denomination, was all that was given to explain the biblical/social/cultural roots of the church. The denomination was also very different within itself. Sydney Anglicans are considered evangelical and conservative, but basically within a 2 hour radius of Sydney there are other Anglican churches who are very liberal, and now have homosexual and women pastors. So the denominational name no longer necessarily reflects the same beliefs. You can be sure Anglicans in Sydney will describe themselves as ‘Sydney Anglicans’ or ‘Evangelical Anglicans’ despite coming under the same umbrella of other Anglicans whose beliefs they may oppose. Its all very confusing. In consideration, I think that one of the main benefits people see in going to such a denomination is that it is well rooted in Australian history, and it is part of an incredibly large organisation (both nationally and internationally) where there is a lot of money to be used for ministry etc. Because of the amount of Anglican churches, they can break up the communities into targeted segments and reach out accordingly. They also have a broad network of sister-churches (if you will) and can effectively help people from other parishes etc. Because they can communicate with so many people, they are also an effective organisation in a political sense.
    There were some negatives as I saw it.
    Firstly, the ‘name’ was rarely backed up by any substance or general knowledge from the congregation. Many people were complacent because the name said it all.
    Secondly, every denominational church will have its own ‘religious’ aspects. Some churches are more pronounced than others, and this can be a daunting thing to visitors or potential church members- moreso when there is no explanation offered for such religious ceremony etc, its just the ‘way that it is’.
    Thirdly, being part of such a broad organisation means that you are tied to a hierarchy other than Christ. We felt that there were lots of titles etc throughout this particular hierarchy, which made the average church goer feel like a ‘lesser’ Christian, or rather, those with titles ‘more worthy’ Christians. This could just be my personal feeling and general scepticism of authority (a general product of my culture!). You are lumped in with people that may have fundamental doctrinal differences to you; despite technically sharing the same denominational name.
    Fourthly, (I dont mean to imply that this always happens, its just an observation) with so much wealth in a large organisation, although there is a lot of ministry opportunities and Im sure a lot of ministers willing to work for free, there is also a lot of money being elaborately spent on clergy etc. We know several people who have gone to Christian University to become pastors in this denomination, because they can easily earn $60K+ and also get free housing and a car. When we asked them why they wanted to become a pastor, their first answer always revolved around financial security for their family. It’s seen as a legitimate career choice, as opposed to a calling from God. (That sounds terribly judgemental and Im not sure how to put it…?).

    From a perspective outside specific denominations, some negative impacts of other denominations on Christian brothers & sisters is apparent. You have Christians who are sick of a particular denominational teaching and either get attacked by their church or turn their back on going to church. There are also denominations that seem to never progress beyond the milk stage, who have firmly rooted and obligated their church members to remain in the denomination, at risk of being ostracised if they leave.

    We value going to a non-denominational, bible-based church. No one is there because they are socially, culturally or otherwise pressured to go to a particular church. A doctrinal statement is available to view and if you asked any person what they believed and why they believed it, they would be able to tell you. Our pastor is incredibly humble, patient, loving…and serious about the word of God. The sermons are Bible based; rather than politically themed or dependant on manipulative music. It sounds …corny…but you can actually feel ‘love’ when you come into this church, its what kept us coming back to begin with. And they are free to minister to the people God has impressed upon their hearts, whilst never boasting in their ministry. In fact, this little church supports three times the amount of missionary families and more, as well as the local community, than our former denominational church (who took in more than ten times the amount of money).

    I hope nothing I wrote came across as attacking or anything like that…it wasn’t my intention. I just wanted to point out some of the pros and cons as Ive seen them; although I stress my very limited experience in such issues.

    Love to all you guys! Missing you all!

  10. Civilla, your last comment was interesting and astute. One small correction: Jim Jones actually was in a denomination. I remember looking at my denomination’s yearbook (the denomination I was in at that time), seeing his church statistics, and thinking he must be doing something right. Only when the disaster hit did I realize how wrong I’d been. A later report said he’d chosen that denomination specifically because it did not have an effective way to discipline churches or pastors.

    Thank you for your observations. They are excellent and enable me to see things in ways that I had not seen them before.

  11. Karina, your church sounds wonderful. Jim, wow, I thought Jim Jones was independent. How creepy that he chose a denom because it did not have an effective way to discipline churches or pastors.

    Lots of non-denom groups claim to have no doctrines or anything, but they DO have a theology, so the name non-denominational is sometimes misleading. What they mean is that they do not have a headquarters, I think, or a heirarchy. They do have some sort of doctrine.

    When my husband was in a ministerial alliance, a woman came from a para-church organization to ask the ministers if they would back her in going to the public school superintendent to gain access to the school for an after-school program to evangelize the children. The woman said, “We are non-denominational…we don’t push any doctrine…just the bible.”

    A woman pastor from a denominational church said, “Oh, you say you don’t teach doctrines, but you DO have a theology, and it is not MY theology.” The para-church’s theology was basic evangelicalism — ask Jesus to forgive your sins and come into your heart.

    The woman minister said, “We of such-and-such church don’t want our children being taught that, because we don’t believe that. We (the ministerial alliance) appear to get along over breakfast, but we really have different beliefs.”

    The para-church lady was confused. She didn’t seem to realize that not all churches believed like she did.

    So, when I hear non-denominational, I want to know, “What does THAT mean?” Then I have to start asking questions, because I want to know if I can fellowship with those people as Christians. Invariably, they do have a THEOLOGY (an interpretation of the Bible) — just not a headquarters or hierarchy, you know?

    I get suspicious when people tell me, “We don’t teach doctrine…we just love Jesus.” That is deceptive, or the person doesn’t know what he or she is talking about. Every church or religious group believes SOMETHING about Jesus, the Bible, etc. They have a theology.

    I hate having to play “Twenty Questions.” Used to be, if a person said, “I’m Baptist,” or “I’m Assemblies of God,” you knew where they were coming from, you had a frame of reference. That is not the case any more even with denominations. Everybody seems to have their own beliefs. Me, too!

  12. I know you love my “books” Craig. I like this subject, because I hear about non-denominational all the time.

    We live in a different day and age now, when you can’t always tell what you will find in a church building by the name over the doors. It did’t used to be that way.

    Why I used to like denominations is because as a military family, we moved a lot, always looking for a new church in a new location to settle into, and we traveled a lot (we still travel a lot — finding ourselves on the road many times on a Sunday, seeking a place to go to church).

    The name over the door was helpful, because you knew what doctrine would be taught inside — Biblical, or non-Biblical. It helped us to narrow down the choices right away. This is important. Too many military families would give up after trying 4 or 5 churches, they’d just get tired of looking, and give up and they’d be completely out of church (and they weren’t resourceful enough to home-church). It is important to get settled quickly so that doesn’t happen. When you move a lot, getting settled quickly is important for mental and spiritual health.

    Same thing if you are on the road. You would know which ones to avoid right away.

    And, of course, we would always pray and ask the Lord for His guidance. Sometimes, the Lord may tell you to go somewhere you ordinarily wouldn’t, so you do have to be open, or maybe there isn’t much choice. Once, a United Church of Christ was all there was when we pulled into a town on a trip, so we went in even though the denom was known to be liberal, however, once inside, the pastor was preaching the Gospel. That was great. But, usually, knowing what a denomination taught helped you to have a frame of reference.

    I realize it is not so much like that any more. Many denoms which were once Bible-believing have lost that commitment. You have to go inside and hear what is preached. Same thing with independent or non-denom: you don’t know what they believe or teach, you have to go inside and sit in a service and listen and ask questions. Takes longer. You have to grow and think for yourself, so this is not necessarily bad.

    Like I said, sometimes the term non-denom is misleading: many of them do have co-operative fellowships and Bible colleges, just no headquarters, general superintendents or like that, the congregations are autonomous, but they do have a fellowship with others like them and a theology.

    My thoughts.

  13. Sometimes, in a new location, God would tell us specifically where to go; other times, we were left to think and search it out for ourselves. Sometimes we would happen on the right church for us “by accident” and know it was the right one by the witness of the Spirit after we got inside.

  14. Civilla,
    You mentioned that the sign on the door used to mean you could count on them having a certain set of beliefs,etc, but not anymore.

    Do you think that as we get older we find this to be true when it (to a certain extent) always was, or have times just changed that much?

    My personal experience would be that the more I get to know people, the more I find that I was assuming things about them that I didn’t know.

    Craig

  15. Karina,
    Thanks for your input. I wondered what it was like on your end of the world and hoped you would fill us in.

    Interesting how many people will take on a label for the comfort of being one of the people with that label without knowing what it actually means. Why are we like that?

    Great to hear from you. Miss you guys!

    Craig

  16. I think the times have changed a lot. People are thinking for themselves more. However, you are right in that the better you get to know people, the more they reveal about themselves and then you find that your assumptions about them were not accurate, not totally. And, it is stupid to take a label without knowing what it means. Lots of people do that. Many many people don’t know what their denomination teaches. That is complacency — a danger when you fit nice and snug into a denomination. I have found people in the older generation who say, “I was born a (whatever) and I’ll die a (whatever), while not living up to the expectations of the denomination at all. My father was like that. That’s just stubbornness, but somehow that generation found honor in that. They felt like they weren’t quitters, where my generation saw no valor in such “loyalty.” Over the years, my husband and I have been members or adherents of many denominations. The churches we have pastored in the last 13 years are not churches that we would attend as church members, because they just have/had American Religion, although they are fine, upstanding people, but we have been in them in a pastoral capacity over years, not to receive, but to teach. To renew their faith in the Word. We are like missionaries. That’s how we see it. It is frustrating, because the complacency is palpable.

  17. Looked it up on Wikipedia and Jim Jones founded The Peoples’ Temple. So, I guess that would make him independent.

  18. Not intending to argue with you, but this article http://www.religioustolerance.org/dc_jones.htm
    (breaking my own rule about links, I know) says he was part of a mainline denomination. I will say however, that I don’t know who the people are who put out the website I am quoting here.

    However, denomination or not, bad leaders can and have used either one.

    This is why we need to be like those in Berea and search the scriptures daily to see if what we are being taught is true.

    Craig

  19. I can testify that I saw People’s Temple with Jim Jones in my (then) denomination’s yearbook. He was an aberration. Most of the people in that denomination were standard main-line church people. I agree whole-heartedly with Craig; we need to search the scriptures to evaluate what we’re being taught. Neither the denominations nor the independents have a monopoly, either on godliness or on dreadful heresy.

    Meanwhile, back to Craig’s original questions. Being a part of a denomination can be either good or bad, in my opinion.


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