Archive for the ‘denominations’ Category

“The Kingdom of God is bigger than your denomination.”

“Here’s what it boils down to with the emerging church thing. I don’t lie about people. I’m not perfect. I probably have my nauances and stuff, but I think one of the things people within the emerging church would say is I don’t lie about them. I think I have never seen evangelicals lie so much, conservative evangelical fundamentals, about the emerging church and Rick Warren.” (18:45)

“I think there’s levels. There’s essentials…there are convictionals…and then there are preferentials. Fundamentalism is that everything is an essential. Your convictions are essential and your preferences are essential. There’s nothing that is not essential for you. If you don’t do that you’ve abandoned the Gospel. If you don’t sing hymns, you’ve abandoned the Gospel. If you don’t baptize the way I think you should baptize then you are not a Christian.” (24:20)

Wow! Scary good.

Ed Stetzer, at Exponential, as interviewed by Scott Hodge.

FYI: Ed is not supporting fundamentalism.  He’s calling it out.


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Blue Like Elvis has this great quote from a guy I don’t know. But I like it.

“If we act like a denomination, we become irrelevant.” BGCT Executive Director, Randel Everett

At the heart of mission is restoration of relationship. And by default, denominations create barriers to relationship. Our role is to become so distinct in reflecting His love that we draw people in, not draw lines that keep them out. To be restorative is to tear down those barriers that keep us from relating to people.

And the natural argument is to want to counter with, “but how will we know what we believe?”  And this I believe was the trick the enemy loves to pull on us.  Jesus didn’t focus on theology in the abstract sense.  He didn’t focus on the subtle esoteric nuances of belief.  We either did or we didn’t.  And those that didn’t He let walk away.  He didn’t focus on how we believe.  He focused on how we loved.

Perfect theology is to love, as expressed in his two greatest commandments.

Related Post: Help – What Denomination Was Jesus?

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Every once in a while someone says something in a way that really makes me think, “Gee I wish I had said that.” This is a fascinating article by Terry Mattingly, who interviewed Phyllis Tickle, author of God Talk in America. Phyllis was the founding editor of the religion department at Publishers Weekly, and has a new book in the works at Emersion. It has a working title of The Great Emergence.

Phyllis has some really great points about the nature of the church, the first being that the church encounters a reforming every 500 or so years. She says,

“So Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492 and then a flat, neatly stacked universe flipped upside down. Soon, people were talking about nation states, the decline of landed gentry, the rise of a middle class and the invention of a printing press with movable type. Toss in a monk named Martin Luther and you’re talking Reformation — with a big “R” — followed by a Counter-Reformation.”

She also says this about the emerging church,

“Emerging or emergent Christianity is the new form of Christianity that will serve the whole of the Great Emergence in the same way that Protestantism served the Great Reformation,”


This kind of revolution, said Tickle, doesn’t mean “any one of those forms of earlier Christianity ever ceases to be. It simply means that every time we have one of these great upheavals … whatever was the dominant form of Christianity loses its pride of place and gives way to something new. What’s giving way, right now, is Protestantism as you and I have always known it.”

I loved this.

“The truly “emerging churches” are the ones that are opening their doors at the heart of this changing matrix, she said. Their leaders are determined not to be sucked into what they call “inherited church” life and the institutional ties that bind. They are willing to shed dogma and rethink doctrine, in an attempt to tell the Christian story in a new way.”

What is interesting is that this is from a woman who is not what we would think of as typically postmodern or emerging. But she has been studying faith for a long time and is considered a leading voice on the subject. Interesting perspective to consider for those looking in at the emerging church.

Can’t wait for the book.

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Emergent Village is looking for feedback on developing a Greenbelt type festival. And as I was taking it they included the following demographic question: “Primary Theological Orientation”. And to a certain extent I looked at the list and identified with almost every one, which made me think about Brian McLaren’s, “A Generous Orthodoxy.

I’m a former marketing guy so I get why they want to do this. But to be honest I surprised me that Emergent would seek out this information. Facetiously, are they going to stamp this on the name tag?

Spiritual but not religious: Yes, I am a spiritual person but I can’t stand oppressive religion.

Orthodox (Eastern Rite, OCA, Coptic, etc): Yes, I’m trying to be orthodox. Aren’t we all?

Roman Catholic: Yes, even though I have serious concerns.  I love the liturgy and art forms that are part of the history. The Apostle Peter was part of this church too.

Anglican (Episcopal, Anglican Church of Canada, etc) Yes, These are my brothers from up North. Need to know more though.

Methodist (UMC, AME, Nazarene, Wesleyan, etc) Yes, I love Wesley’s focus on discipleship.

Reformed (PCUSA, PCA, UCC, etc) Yes, I hope I’m reforming.

Lutheran: Yes, see “reformed”.

Anabaptist: Yes, I love the focus on Kingdom.

Pentecostal (Charismatic, etc) Yes, I truly believe the Holy Spirit is alive and well and leading for those who are listening.

Evangelical (Non-Denom, Vineyard, Southern Baptist, etc) Yes, I love the beauty of freedom and intimate worship and losing labels.

Contemplative Tradition (Quaker, etc) Yes, you bet. I need to remember to remember and reflect on the journey on a regular basis.

Metaphysical Christian (Unity, etc) Yes. It’s hard for me to knock anything that has the word unity in it. 😉

Other Religion (Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, etc.) Yes with an obvious asterisk. Jesus was Jewish and I have learned a tremendous amount from Hebrew culture, Buddhists and Muslims on commitment and conviction, but the real word here is human.

None: Yes, because it is hard for me to identify that I am simply one of these.

I’m being facetious with all of this to a certain extent.  But the list really got me thinking about the nature of the emerging church and our desire to move past traditional belief labels and find deeper distinctions that bring us together so we can learn from each other. I recognize that we don’t have these distinctions yet. But I’m not afraid to learn from my Buddhist friend or my Anabaptist brother. I can easily imagine God speaking through them just as much as he would through an ass. I made a decision a long time ago to be open to listening to the Spirit in what ever way He chooses. I have Scripture to help me sift.

I suddenly had a renewed appreciation for what Brian was trying to accomplish with his book. How do we begin to learn from each other rather than separate ourselves? How do we learn to connect as human beings rather than disconnect based on differences? Love calls us to move past these differences and see each other for who we really are, God’s beautiful creation. We may believe differently but it doesn’t mean they each of us doesn’t need love.

My end choice was “other” for this reason. It was a good exercise though.

Which one would you pick?

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This synchroblog is about asking what would Jesus do with the church. The question was meant to stimulate our thinking about what we could do bring life to the church, instead of just complaining about it. And as I was thinking about it I kept wondering what Jesus would actually say to us if He were here. And the more I thought about the idea, the more I thought that he probably wouldn’t give us the answers. He’d ask really good questions that would require us to think and engage.

So this is a non-exhaustive list of what I think Jesus would ask if he were here today. This is assuming that we would be listening.

Do you know My Father’s mission?

Jesus understood that God had always been on a mission of restoring all of His creation. And without an understanding of this, everything gets muddled.

Is the church structured in a way to accomplish this mission?

So much of what we think when we say “church” does not exist in Jesus’ ideology. He took ordinary people created an organization that changed the world. Yet so much of our focus is on the outward process. I get this. Getting people into heaven and then turning them into ushers or pew sitters is the easy part, because there will always be people who are looking for this part.

Are you personally taking part in His mission for your own life?

Jesus was always interested in the restoration of the person, the individual. Are we taking part in what it means to follow Jesus so our own hearts can be restored? If we’re not then what’s the point?

What denomination was I?

This is a serious question and I wrestled with it before but it needs to be addressed. If His mission is about reconciliation, we don’t look very good when we are the ones who can’t reconcile.

Are we following the Holy Spirit’s lead?

Jesus provided us complete access to the Father, which gave us His Spirit. This gave us the potential to live as Jesus did. Are we listening and following?

Do you know you are worth it?

The cross was the ultimate evidence of God’s willingness to go to the ends for us. Are we seeing what Jesus saw when He looks in the eyes of everyone He restored.


I’ve wrestled with these issues in my own life for ages. And yet I recognize that answering them is not easy. Part of the synchroblog was to put these ideas into practice. I’ve been working on these issues for a long time but my work this month is to listen to each question in my own life.

(This post is part of a synchroblog called “What Would Jesus Do… With the Church”. See this post or this post for details.)

WWJDWTC Participants:
Glenn Hager
Gary Means
Alan Knox
The Refuge
Nate Peres
Sally Coleman
Rick Stillwell
Jeff Greathouse
Barbara Legere
Jason Ellis

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Last year I picked up and read “A Generous Orthodoxy” by Brian McLaren. I really liked the book for the reason that it explored the beauty of our differences. I appreciated listening to different traditions than my own. It helped me process the beauty in other ways of thinking.

My formative years were spent in a very loving but small Baptist church. It had the small chapel with the hard pews and the stained glass windows. From junior high through high school I went to a non-denominational church (which is a code word for we don’t want you to realize we really are a denomination) that was located in a former computer technology complex. The church was deeply influence by the Baptists but never said so. In college, I floated attending several high profile mega-churches in Southern California. I couldn’t remember what they were? Nothing really stood out to me other than they were really, really big and had 67,000 different programs that were entertaining.

After marriage, my wife and I chose to specifically find a small church, settling on a church that was from the RCA (Reformed Church of America). It was here that I got my first introduction to a true, distinct denominational mindset. It forced us to wrestle with issues of child baptism and women in leadership, etc. Loved the process. We visited a Lutheran church once for a Christmas Eve service and had to stand for the entire 90 minutes. My wife attended a Greek orthodox church with a friend and also had to stand for 2 hours while she suffocated under the potent fumes of the incense. (No slam intended). I went with the youth group to a Catholic church and appreciated the beauty of the building but don’t remember anything else. When my family moved, we found ourselves attending a small CRC (Christian Reformed Church), which is split from the RCA over the question of the masons. Then we chose to leave and attend a covenant church. I really like the evangelical covenant church. They have found a way to agree to disagree.

Which brings me back to McLaren’s Generous Orthodoxy. In each of the churches I attended, I found people who strongly believed they were right. They believed that their way was the correct way to believe. In a lot of cases the differences were minor (RCA/CRC). And in reading the book I began to ask, “What denomination would Jesus attend?” Would Jesus choose the Catholic church, with it’s strong emphasis on liturgy and reverence? Would he choose a protestant church with its strong emphasis on grace? Would he choose a charismatic church, with its strong emphasis on words of knowledge and communicating with God? Would he choose the Methodist church, hoping to find Wesley’s strong emphasis on going to the people and building leaders? Would he choose the Baptist church for its strong emphasis on salvation and baptism? Would he choose the Lutheran church with its rich historical protestant background? Would he choose from one of the other 30,000 denomination for their unique distinctives?

Which begs a couple of questions. How would he have the time to visit all 30,000 different denominations? If he visited every one on every Sunday, that would take 82 years. And would visiting one more than once validate that denomination above the other ones that he either visited once or never visited? Would it invalidate a denomination if he chose to leave the service early because he had to catch an early flight to the next location? Or would he choose to skip the big churches all together and worship in a house church?

And then I began to realize that maybe form is a product of our own need for validation? Maybe we separate ourselves into smaller and smaller camps to validate what we believe? Maybe we find the smallest of differences to argue about so that we can be right and others can be wrong, which elevates the individual above the other, at least in one’s own mind.

I keep thinking of how God chooses to identify himself. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD.” (Deut 6:4) (emphasis mine) How do we find our way back to a shared community that is one, living with a sense of wholeness and togetherness, celebrating our differences yet working together? How do we find a way past our differences to His church?

Your insights are appreciated?

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