Tuesday, April 07, 2015
Why not join a 'non-denominational' church! Besides, the 'mainline denominations' are in decline and aren't denominations kind of wrong, anyway? Are the 'non-denominational' groups like the first Christians – sort of 'pre-denominational' and therefore closer to what Jesus had in mind for His Church? And so it goes – some of the thoughts that move people to join the most impressive 'mega-church' they can find, leaving behind thousands of years of historic Christian doctrine and practice.
Yet, the question, 'What do we have to lose?' is more than a flippant rhetorical one in this case. For what Christians stand to lose in joining Non-denominational congregations is considerable.
YOU LOSE THOUSANDS OF YEARS OF YOUR HERITAGE as a follower of Jesus Christ. We all know we are not the first people to worship Jesus, but in non-denominational meetings, one feels cut-off from all the worship of Christ that has gone before today's 'hit parade'. The impression is given by them that today's church leaders, make it all up as they go along based on 'what works for you'. How different is that mentality from that of the apostles, men moved directly by the Holy Spirit, who taught, 'what I received, I handed on to you...' (1 Corinthians 11.23, 15.1-4).
YOU LOSE THE SENSATIONS associated with being a Christian at worship since ancient times. Gone is the 'sign of the cross', gone is the kneeling for prayer, gone is the sound of historic chanting and choral music, gone are the sights of liturgical colour, vestments, ceremonial reverence and solemnity, gone, gone, gone. And replaced by what? Sitting as though at a concert or cinema and being merely a spectator? Or, perhaps, jumping about, clapping and trying to sing like a pop-soloist? With hands in the air, only closing one's eyes provides escape from the banal atmosphere generated from the stage, cluttered with praise band paraphernalia, devoid of the sensations that Christians have cherished in past generations.
YOU LOSE THE SACRAMENTS. Period. NONE of the non-denominational groups offer the sacred mysteries, giving by Christ to be the comfort of His Church until the end of time. 'Baptism' among them is reduced to a human display of commitment, and the biblical teaching that 'baptism now saves...' or that through it God 'washes away sin' is explicitly denied. LOST is the teaching from God's word that, through baptism 'he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit' (Titus 3.5). LOST is the comfort of Holy Absolution, spoken into the ears of the penitent as Jesus directed His apostles to do when He said, 'If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld'. ( John 20.23). Nothing replaces such forgiveness, not an appeal to 'get right with God', nor a vague general platitude that God loves you, just as you are. Finally, LOST is the profound mystery of Holy Communion through the Body and Blood of Christ as real nourishment for the soul. The Real Presence of Christ, believed by the overwhelming consensus of Christians until recent years, is denied by the non-denominational groups. Mere bread and wine are consumed as a sterile 'memorial' of Christ, rather than the Holy Supper that Jesus Himself envisioned when He taught that 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you' (John 6.53).
YOU LOSE THE SCHOLARSHIP AND PROFOUND TEACHING. Suspicious of (or simply ignorant of) deeper Christian doctrine, often poorly educated non-denominational church leaders dumb-down the Christian message or deliver a superficial teaching based on trending books or blogs rather than the profounder mysteries of the Faith that Christians have studied over the centuries, with the Holy Scriptures as their source. As the apostles lamented '... by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food (!)' (Hebrews 5.12). Rather than moving people beyond their self-centeredness, non-denominational groups emphasize how it's all about you, just like today's advertisement industry.
YOU LOSE SIGHT OF THE GOSPEL. Many non-denominational groups tend to replace the preaching of the biblical 'Good News' (Gospel - that the reconciliation of Heaven and Earth has been achieved by Jesus Christ) - with the message of self-improvement. Reducing the atonement Jesus has made by His death on the cross and His resurrection to a mere 'back-story', the ongoing theme in non-denominational churches is our burden to please God by every day and in every way becoming better and better. It is not that they deny we are 'justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus' (Romans 3.24). They simply don't preach about that, choosing to preach human works to please God, almost as though by our works we earn God's favour.
PRAYER: We thank you God for leading us sinners and beggars to find the treasure and pearl of great price that is your Holy Church through which we have the Gospel that is able to save those who believe it by the power of your Holy Spirit. By that same spirit give us thankful hearts to gratefully acknowledge Your grace and mercy to the glory of Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, our strength and Redeemer, Who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.Why not join a 'non-denom' church? What do we have to lose?'