At the age of fifteen I’d been living a double life. Every other weekend I’d visit my father and attend Catholic mass on Saturday evening by myself and then join him for his independent Baptist Church on Sunday morning. The two worlds couldn’t have been more different.
When I left the liturgy, muted songs, and a clear chain of command of the Catholic Church for a Baptist congregation at the age of 15, I needed the freedom the Baptists offered to approach God without a priest peering over my shoulder each time I read the Bible. That encouragement to take responsibility for pursuing God is the thing I’m most grateful for when I look back at that season of my life.
However, there were plenty of negative moments among the Baptists along the way. In fact, I met some friends who couldn’t wait to escape the Baptists, even if I’ve met some who have been content all along. A few friends even left their freewheeling Protestant denominations in order to join the order and structure of the Catholic Church.
It’s almost a guarantee that most Christians will switch from one denomination to another at some point or another. Whether moving to a new town prompts a church switch, doctrinal issues prompt a change, or relationships with leaders or members fall apart, it can only benefit us if we know what makes each denomination great. Even if we never join a particular denomination, understanding the best of a denomination will help us become gracious conversation partners who can celebrate what God is doing throughout the church.
I’m grateful that we have all of these different expressions of the faith, and perhaps we spend so much time comparing and contrasting them that we sometimes forget how useful our denominations can be.
These days I worship in a Vineyard Church. I call it Liturgy Lite. There’s a blend of contemporary music and liturgical prayers, communion, a lengthy sermon, and prayer ministry time every week. The theology hits me where I’m at, even if some of the papers at the last Society of Vineyard Scholars Conference soared over my head.
I try to always tell visitors that it’s not a church for everyone, even if I believe my little church is a great church for myself and for many others. I’ve belonged to enough churches that I have a pretty good idea of what’s out there, having attended a fundamentalist Baptist church, a conservative Baptist church (that was quite reformed at times), a Church of God congregation, another fundamentalist Baptist Church, an Anglican Church, an Episcopal Church, a range of other charismatic churches as a visitor, and a progressive independent evangelical church. This is the first time I’ve been in a church that is part a larger movement that I felt I could support.
As I’ve become more established in my Vineyard Church, I thought it would be really awesome if I could invite folks to guest post each Friday about what they love about their own denominations.
We can all find a reason to not join a denomination, but there are plenty of great reasons to either stick with your denomination or to consider checking out a new denomination. I’m launching the series with posts by a few friends, some of whom have been great dialogue partners and representatives of their denominations for me.
Starting next Friday I’m hosting a guest post each Friday by someone with a bit of theology training and ministry experience (staff or volunteer). I have a few denominations slotted with writers, but if you’d like to nominate someone to write for a denomination not listed, please drop me a note in the comments.
Once we’ve got enough denominations listed, I’ll open the series to ministry leaders/volunteers or theologians who want to write about what they love about their denomination.
Subscribe to my RSS email list to make sure you get the posts each Friday as they go live.
Tentative Posting Schedule
Next Week: Vineyard
(I know, it’s not a “denomination,” but… close enough!)
November 7: Anglican
November 14: Presbyterian Church USA
November 21: Church of Christ
Stay tuned for more posts! We have a lot of denominations to cover!