“Christianity Today” on Denominations, “Church Growth Movement,” and Confessions, by Pastor Martin Noland

The June 2010 issue of “Christianity Today” (Vol. 54 #6, pp. 24-29) has an excellent article on denominational loyalty and the continued relevance of denominations in America. It is worth reading the whole article, and is presently not available online.

I was initially interested in the article because many of our LCMS leaders have, over the last dozen years or so, told us how denominations are increasingly irrelevant. I always thought those leaders’ comments were (unintentionally) ironic, because it means that those leaders are increasingly irrelevant. And I disagreed.

Now from “Christianity Today,” of all places, the standard bearer for non-denominational Protestantism, comes this article: “Life in Those Old Bones” by Ed Stetzer. It tells me things I always knew and believed in, but had difficulty convincing: 1) my LCMS brothers who like the leadership of Jesus First; and 2) those pastors of LCMS mega-churches who think their congregation doesn’t need the LCMS. Maybe they will listen to “Christianity Today,” if they won’t listen to me.

Here are some of the more relevant quotes:

“We can do more for the kingdom of God by doing it together with people of common conviction—which usually means a denomination—than by doing it alone” (p. 26).

“The vast majority of world missions, church planting, discipleship, and other forms of ministry are done through denominational partnerships” (p. 26).

“A variety of recent movements among emerging generations demonstrate the need and desire for rootedness and history. The church growth movement in the 1970s and 1980s (itself a kind of proto-denomination) perpetuated the mistaken idea that only new and novel methods were effective in reaching the next generation. In exchanging older traditions for newer methodologies, it unintentionally cut itself off from a rich legacy of faith. A generation later, emerging leaders are yearning for a sense of rootedness. In an age of fragmented social identities, connecting with the past has become synonomous with finding purpose and meaning” (p. 27).

“Many leaders of the baby boomer generation untied their churches from tradition and charted their own courses; many of the boomers’ children have spent the last decade looking wistfully to the shore. Denominations have not done a good job of making the case, but they can provide history and legacy to a generation longing for stability” (p. 27).

“Orthodoxy is more likely to remain established in denominations with clear faith statements. Confessional anchors have prevented drift in such denominations as the Assemblies of God, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, and the Evangelical Free Church” (p. 28).

“Confessional statements build trust for denominational agencies; without them, there is inevitably justifiable concern about whether the agency shares the denomination’s standards. But doctrinal standards are not mere safeguards. They have also long been teaching tools for churches, helping in evangelism, discipleship, and spiritual growth” (p. 28)

I recommend that the readers of this post obtain a copy of the complete article. It deserves wide readership and study in the LCMS. Maybe it will help people appreciate our Missouri Synod birthright, i.e., what has been given to us by our spiritual fathers and mothers, before we squander it on a mess of religious pottage.


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