Sunday, November 02, 2008

Is Denominationalism Partisan?

I am firmly opposed to the two party system in American politics. It doesn’t really give anyone a real choice, just two sides of the same coin. Real change isn’t possible, because the issues are all blocked by partisan rhetoric and limited logic. No one can take a really effective new look at politics and effect real change. Rather, change is slow and bogged down by the fact that nothing will change until it is obvious to almost everyone that the old system has completely failed.

But is denominationalism just another form of the same kind of system? Are we locked into traditionalism this way? Can we really accomplish anything new and exciting in the Spirit through the forms of denominational agreement? Are we not locked into old institutions, with their old systems of bureaucracy, unable to enact the true change of the Spirit?

And if that is the case, then should we be supporting these old systems? And why do we support them? Because of money? If we follow the old means of doing church business, then the old money and the old resources will follow. But should we be limited by these old means? Or should we be set free to seek out the direction the Holy Spirit is going, so that we can also be freed from these old ways of doing God’s business?

I am not denying God’s Spirit in the denominations, nor in traditional ways. I know that God was there, especially in the past. But it reminds me of an ant trail. Certain worker ants, when they find food or something of benefit to the colony, leave a trail that other ants can follow to the significant resource. And that trail will last, and the ants will follow it, long after the food or resource is gone.

Even so, it seems that denominations follow these trails to the Spirit, only to find, in the end, that the old measures are empty and devoid of the Spirit’s true life. Sure, we can obtain the world’s resources through these old trails—money, denominational contacts, the support of the old guard. But when it is empty of God, what is the use?

We need to first seek God, His kingdom and His righteousness. We need to stop first seeking the resources of this world, as if that’s our real goal. Our goal should always be God through Jesus and the Spirit. If something is but the empty shell which Jesus and the Spirit left behind, then it is time to go. This doesn’t mean that I’m saying that we should leave denominations behind, necessarily. But perhaps we need to see where in a denomination God is really working. Where is the Spirit really moving? Who is living out the life of the power of God? Where is Jesus’ word and live truly being fleshed out in the denomination? That should be the direction of any denomination, leaving the past behind.

Because God is not I Was. God is I Am.

And finally, we should not allow the resources of God’s people be limited to those who are a part of a denomination. We should allow God’s resources be used by whoever is doing God’s work, and take it away from those who are only following the structure of old tradition.

Who is giving generously for the poor, not just seeking the least for the least?
Who is living successfully on faith, not just depending on a regular salary for doing the same old thing?
Who is receiving the outcast and helping them life for Jesus, not just keeping an arm’s distance from those outside the church?
Who is discipling the people of God, not just educating them?
Who is getting the world ready for Jesus’ coming, not just talking about it?
Who is building bridges between the separated, not just creating new divisions?
Who is delivering the healing of God, not just the pomp and circumstance that surrounds it?
Who is living out God’s generosity, faithfulness, mercy, truth and forgiveness, not just preaching about it?

This first group should be the focus of any denomination. The second group is the empty shell that should be discarded. However, the difficulty is that the first group is hidden within each denomination. They are the ones who cannot be found unless sought for. They are the hidden saints, the secret heart of the body of Christ. If any denomination, any conference, any board, any bishop, any minister is worth the salt of the earth they claim to be, they will spend their energy seeking these out and pouring all of their effort supporting them.

Otherwise, the denomination is no light of the world, no city on the hill. It is just another part of the shadow f the world.

Set aside the ways of the world, and find the hidden power of God within your ranks.

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