Rethinking Church Unity

As I said in my last post, I never expected to take a confirmation class and join a very liturgical denomination, yet now I’m doing just that and loving it. Perhaps the most important way God’s using this experience so far is to debunk some myths about church that I’ve held onto for years.

Myth #1: Nondenominational = NO denomination

I’ve always considered myself nondenominational (since I became a Christian at 14). And, somehow, I came to believe that nondenominational = NO denomination. As in, believers who don’t affiliate with a particular denomination in fact should only attend churches that don’t affiliate with a particular denomination (a.k.a. churches with names that often end in “Community Church” or “Bible Church.”)

When I was a naive and idealistic 16-year-old (as opposed to a naive and idealistic twentysomething!), a Duke Divinity School professor told me during an intimidating exchange that nondenominationalism is a denomination — and a burgeoning one at that.

I was offended.

“No,” I insisted, “the whole point of nondenominationalism, as you called it, is to supersede denominations. The point is unity.”

But ironically, I’m realizing, that logic gave far too much power to denominations. No -ism has the power to supersede anything; Jesus does. 

(Oh, Google. I was searching for something a bit more informational. But OK.)

Jesus appointed Peter to be the rock on which he built his church (Matt. 16:18). And, from Peter, a long line of bishops has followed in unbroken apostolic succession. From what I understand, the line has developed branches, yes, but brokenness not so much. No matter what, all believers — whatever denomination or lack thereof they espouse — must look “unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:2). By maintaining Christ as common denominator, perhaps like how all the individual members of a family share a last name, all the individual denominations and their congregations share a name — the “one holy catholic and apostolic Church” (Nicene Creed).  

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