Chuck Lawless is the Dean and vice-president of Graduate Studies and Ministry Centers at Southeaster Seminary
I’m a Southern Baptist. We’re hardly a perfect denomination, but I’m honored to be part of our team. I realize that my generation in general tends to be more denominationally loyal than younger generations, but I don’t think my age is a primary reason I’m part of a denomination. Instead, here’s why:
1. I know I’m not alone as a church leader. I’ve been in ministry for 35 years, and I’ve never had to walk this road by myself. I’ve not always been the best in building pastoral relationships with other church leaders, but I’ve always had that option via my denomination. I’ve fought battles alone only because of my sinfulness.
2. We really can do more together than we can alone. The first church I pastored had about 20 people in attendance on my first Sunday. Our small church felt we couldn’t make much difference alone around the world, but we believed we could when we united with thousands of other churches to support Great Commission work.
3. We can together promote doctrinal accountability. All of our denominationally-affiliated churches are autonomous, but we do have a doctrinal statement that we’ve adopted. I’m grateful for this level of voluntary yet needed accountability.
4. Denominationalism reminds me that God’s Kingdom is bigger than my church. It’s easy in a healthy church to focus on only that congregation and, thus, to unintentionally promote the idea that we don’t need others. That’s a dangerous position.
5. I need the diversity that a denomination can provide. Granted, many denominations are not nearly as diverse as the world is—but my denomination as a whole is more diverse than my local church is. The larger picture reminds me again and again that God loves the whole world.
6. Denominations require us to consider the importance of biblical unity. No single church will reach the nations for Christ, but neither will churches that compromise truth for the sake of unity. Strong denominations push members to build unity around truth—and to determine the essentials that unite them.
7. I’ve met great people through my denominational affiliation. That’s not to suggest, of course, that I wouldn’t have met great people otherwise; it’s simply an honest reflection. My being part of a denomination has connected me with some incredibly faithful brothers and sisters in Christ.
8. I owe my denomination much. Almost everything I’ve done in ministry has been somehow influenced by, and connected with, my denomination. From that first church I pastored, to my completing my degrees, to my current role as a seminary professor, I owe millions of others who’ve made it all possible.
What other reasons would you add to this list?