In Favor of Denominations

Houston Lake Presbyterian Church is a member church of the Presbyterian Church in America, or PCA. As you might expect, I am in favor of denominations and for a number of reasons. However, I know that today there is a growing movement away from them. Many think that denominations foster too much division and sectarian ways of thinking and so they favor non-denominational churches.
As means of full disclosure, I grew up in a non-denominational church called Grace Bible Church. It was a wonderful church that had a real family feel and I am thankful for it. I was loved and nurtured in my faith. So, you’re not hearing me bash non-denominational churches. God certainly does use them. However, I’ve come to believe denominations offer real strengths that can’t be ignored. What are they?
• Denominations can pool resources- one clear example is in the area of missions. The PCA has a very large missions agency known as Mission to the World. It is fostering effective ministry across the globe. The connections in a denomination make fund raising and financial support easier and help encourage the spread of the gospel. Also, the PCA has a college, Covenant College, and a seminary, Covenant Theological Seminary, that serves the Church well.
• Denominations can foster doctrinal fidelity- As a denomination we can seek to maintain faithfulness to sound doctrine. We can work to promote across the PCA commitment to our standards. This primarily happens at the regional, or Presbytery, level. Of course, this is no guarantee as some denominations experience drift but the PCA, overall, has done a good job in its 45 year history of remaining true to the Scriptures and to the Reformed faith.
• Denominations can promote accountability- Our church government requires that we examine and approve pastors before they fill the pulpits of local churches. Also, denominations can deal with problems in churches. That is a good thing for churches who may face a variety of problems. This occurs, again, most often at the Presbytery level.
• Denominations can promote connectivity- this is really a summary strength but we have a family of churches to which we belong. When you travel for vacation and work you can look for PCA churches in which to worship. It’s always an encouragement. Such connectivity truly enhances your vision for the body of Christ which exists outside of the walls of our building.

As one of my former seminary professors, Dr. Knox Chamblin, once said: “Denominations should provide lines of distinction and not walls of separation.” I like that. We want to stay away from thinking we have it all together as a church or a denomination. We don’t. We want to fellowship joyfully with fellow believers of other churches and to pray for all churches that are committed to the Scriptures and to proclaiming the gospel.
On a related note, this past June, the PCA held its annual gathering known as the General Assembly in Atlanta. Dr. Roy Taylor, the Stated Clerk of the PCA, wrote a nice summary of what happened that week. You can read his summary HERE