Often, I hear it said that we are in a post-denominational world. It is seemingly progressive, of course, to be post-everything. Logical, isn’t it? For those who see contemporary relevance in a Christian faith, the trend seems to be that because the average person doesn’t care for the sign over the door, so to speak, denominations are out. Not so fast!
Organisational structures in the form of religious denominations cannot be written off as necessarily stuffy or controlling. Those new to church life or experiencing it at the user-interface may not care much for systems, but they would probably experience little discernible difference, then, between denominational and non-denominational churches. In other words, it is only as we delve a little deeper that we find the value and realise that it is often misunderstood. I actually find that most people who are ‘over’ denominations will conveniently disparage their many great benefits to thinly veil their desire for control. This presents more problems than it solves.
My experience has been that autonomous churches have a small pool of the administrative and governance skills that are often undervalued, but critically important to smooth function in a world that is so very different to the first century in which the church was originally born. Incredible damage is done when the checks and balances of denominations are absent. They need to be overseen by the wise and experienced leaders that are statistically more likely to be present in denominations. Very few churches are able to provide the legislative benefits that denominations can utilise (e.g. marriage celebrants’ licences) and then end up joining one, anyway, perhaps one that requires minimum commitment.
Most denominations allow significant freedoms at the local church level, but we all know that freedom without responsibility is recklessness, anyway. Also, for those preferring organic church, this can only really work at the house church level (even then, there can be problems), but if health means growth, there will inevitably end up being the very systems and processes that were being spurned. More growth inevitably generates various church campuses which end up creating a mini-denomination after all. Naturally, autonomous churches seldom have the breadth of gifts and ministry expressions that enrich the lives of people; denominations are simply more easily able to cater to diverse needs.
I am not pro-denominations for denominations’ sake, just pro-sense and pro-God. When power blindly affects people to such a degree that they want to wrest control and simply give God the credit, then I ask why it is so important that they be at the top of the heap!