A fresh look at denominational affiliation
Are you a glass-half-full or a glass-half-empty person? It’s easy to be cynical when it comes to certain parts of ministry. When the subject of denominational affiliation comes up, talk often turns to criticisms. We exaggerate the negatives, while ignoring the benefits.
Our God is a God of hope. If we want to experience a fresh move of God in churches across our country, we need to stay optimistic about our future. And if we are serious about accomplishing the Great Commission together, we have to connect with something outside of our local sphere.
There is distinct value in being part of a strong denominational network. Rather than focus on what we may not like, let’s decide to see the positive. There are four benefits that anyone who belongs to a denomination can take advantage of to be a more influential leader.
1. Relational affinity. Denominations are families, for better or worse. And just like a family, we have our differences, and we may even disagree. But a family with a strong history has deep connections. The benefits of the relationships we build and maintain far outweigh any moments of friction.
In years past, geographical boundaries defined relationships. You only really knew and interacted with churches and pastors close to you. This is a new era of connectivity. With social media and instant messaging, it’s possible to stay connected with other ministers around the globe. Denominations provide a built-in network in which to grow.
2. Legal protection. We live in a world of uncertainty. Each Supreme Court decision seems to raise fresh concerns about legal aspects of ministry. No one knows for sure what the future may hold. Will pastors face prosecution for refusing to perform same-sex marriages? Will the church’s tax-exempt status be challenged?
A denomination provides assuring legal support. When questions arise about church liability, your Fellowship provides detailed responses to legal rulings. This includes practical information about taxes, by-laws and even procedures for screening volunteers. A cooperative fellowship can act as a banner of protection under which a minister is free to work without overwhelming fear of legal repercussions.
When God called you into ministry, He didn’t call you to go it alone.
3. Ministry resources. Belonging to a denomination means that you have access to a wide and growing range of resources. You have at your disposal quality online resources, printed curriculum, and conferences and roundtable events for training and equipping. In fact, the very magazine you hold in your hand is a resource designed to help you prepare to tackle your day-to-day challenges. And because these resources are so diverse, you can use them like a menu, picking and choosing what you need and crafting them to your specific and unique circumstances.
Any time you face a problem, you can be sure that someone, somewhere is working on a solution. The size of denominations, and the commitment of their leaders, means that answers are on the way. If you ever feel in over your head or out of your depth, help is right at your fingertips.
4. Team mentality. When God called you into ministry, He didn’t call you to go it alone. When Jesus sent out His disciples, He always sent them in groups. Throughout the Book of Acts, missionaries went out as teams. They already knew what we’ve all come to learn: We are better together.
With whom are you doing ministry? A denomination is a team — a group of people all working toward a common goal of fulfilling the Great Commission. What we can do together as a team is immeasurable compared to our individual efforts. A positive attitude always leads to a winning team mentality.
Denominations represent the efforts of men and women who sacrificed for something bigger than themselves. They were on a divine mission to build something strong and lasting. And they never did it alone. They got together, often putting aside differences and egos, and got to work on what God called them to do.
So why should you belong? As I look at the landscape of today’s churches and denominations, I see them getting stronger with each generation. There is much more ahead of us to be hopeful for than behind us to be thankful for.
A multitude of other benefits are available when you belong to a denomination. But any way you look at it, you have reason to be optimistic. Our history is great, our outlook is bright, and our churches are growing. Let’s maximize the positive and pull together to see God move in a mighty way throughout our world.
This article originally appeared in the December 2016/January 2017 issue of Influence and has been used with permission.