Six Blessings of Denominations

I have been blessed these past ten years to lead, pastor, and preach in a nondenominational church, Cobblestone Community Church. There are many great advantages to being a nondenominational church. Many people--churched and unchurched--are suspicious, even antagonistic, toward denominations. And nondenominational churches can innovate to an extent not always tolerated or encouraged in denominational churches. Plus, our missions money goes directly to missionaries on the field who have been chosen by us, not by someone else.

There are more advantages besides those. BUT, as someone who has served gratefully in both denominational and nondenominational settings, I can also appreciate some of the advantages of being part of a denomination:

1. Resources.
Since starting Cobblestone ten years ago with just a few families, we have seen a half dozen new church plants start up in our little town. Most have had the advantage of two or three years' worth of financial backing from a sponsoring church or denomination. That would have been nice...and would be nice even now in planning for multiple campuses someday.

2. Networking.
There is a huge advantage in networking for those who belong to a denomination or network of churches. Without a denominational structure, independent churches often have to repeatedly reinvent the wheel when it comes to youth retreats and camps, specialized ministries, conferences, published materials, etc. And one of the things I miss most from my days in ministry in a fine denomination are the blessings of being part of a big family, and enjoying camaraderie and fellowship with other churches and pastors in the denomination.

3. Counsel.
We are blessed in our church to have an abundance of wise and godly servants of God. But even so, there have been many times when the counsel of a denominational "higher up" would have been worth its weight in gold, so to speak. Like when funding and building a new facility. Or navigating serious conflict. Or hiring new staff. And more. We have more than once paid handsomely for such counsel (and only sometimes gotten our money's worth), but a denominational structure might have saved us some difficult and costly missteps.

4. Clergy benefits.
It is a gigantic challenge for us as an unaffiliated church with a small staff to make decisions (and keep costs down) in providing pensions, health insurance, educational options, and more, for pastors. For denominational churches, the options may be more limited....but they're also more attractive, and less of a headache. Ordination (how, whom, when, etc.) can also be a challenge for a nondenominational church, while in a denomination it is a settled issue. And pastors in a nondenominational setting typically have a better chance (and easier time) of finding a new ministry opportunity when the time comes for a change.

5. Accountability.
There are times when the oversight of a national or international body would be valuable to a local church and to pastors and elders in the church. Of course, there are also times when such larger connections are more hurtful than helpful. But it is a good thing to be able to call upon godly, objective, experienced counsel from those who share the church's mission, vision, and values.

6. A shared loyalty.
I don't miss the parochial mentality I used to have, that upon moving to a new neighborhood or town, I would consider ONLY churches of my denomination as potential places of worship. On the other hand, I now minister in a town where some people have changed churches three, four, or more times in a relatively short span of time! Their reasons may all be valid, but there is a lot to be said for my friends in denominational churches who have weathered storms big and small, and through good times and bad remained faithful, year after year, to their family of faith. That kind of loyalty and perseverance can engender true Christian community--in a way that many with little or no loyalty to their faith community will never experience, hurting themselves and their testimony.

I love my church. And I love the fact that we are nondenominational. But I also recognize that my brothers and sisters in various denominations enjoy some advantages that we do not. So I am thankful for me...and for them.

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