Denominations, Traditions, and The Man

“Why did you choose to be a part of a denomination?” is a question that I’m often asked. “Some man began it and you shouldn’t follow the man.” My replies are several: First, the ideology that one should not “follow the man” is unbiblical, unintelligible, and ignorant (of history). The primitive church had leaders in Christ, and it was (technically) pre-denominational. Many claim, today, to simply be “Christian” and, therefore, non-denominational; but the differing theological doctrines of the many make each a different denomination by definition (and different still than the primitive church). While I understand the sentiment that “the man” has attempted to pervert this movement called “Christianity,” according to the logic of not “following the man” because of his perversion, it would necessarily follow to separate from the human race because of its perversion (which, in and of itself, is perverted logic).

Because some think I am an “anti-traditionalist” they question why I’m a United Methodist pastor. First, I am not anti-traditional. I have traditions. If anyone knows anything about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD, or CDO – in alphabetical order as it should be), they know that those who think this way need the order of traditions (routines). As for the traditions of the “church culture,” they are not my traditions and, thus, I do not practice them. Some traditions of the church (and denomination) others enjoy, so I partake for the historicity, and the enjoyment of others, and not for myself. As for being a United Methodist pastor, I’ll say that of all Christianity, the United Methodists align best with my own theology, and that God has opened doors for me to cast the Vision in the denomination and beyond (You’ll have to do something with that).

Since the original apostles, the church has followed “a man.” It is no coincidence that God took the form of “a man” in order to rescue humanity. How many times does the Apostle Paul say, “Mimic me, for I mimic Christ”? What is the point of “leaders” if there isn’t supposed to be “followers?” And why has the Spirit equipped leaders (Eph. 4:11-12) if one is not to follow another with the gift(s)? All of Scripture is written by men and inspired by God. To believe that God wrote the Scriptures, absent of human means, is absurd. If the human agent played no role, why not simply have one gospel account? Likewise, Paul’s letters are the majority of the New Testament, and he wrote some of them out of his own understanding of God’s worldview to differing local churches (1Cor. 7:12). Why couldn’t God have made many different expressions of Himself through different “denominations” that speak to the differences in humanity? Because there are different denominations does not mean that there isn’t still one Body. Could not Paul’s “differing parts of the Body” refer also to denominations?

Logically speaking, hasn’t the notion of “not following the man” become traditional? Non-denominationalism has become a denomination in and of its-self (and launched locally by a “man”). If you have decided to be non-denominational, fine. But do not make the mistake of irrationally (and arrogantly) claiming a monopoly on God and His movement. The issue at hand is not denominations, but the fallen nature of the human beings that fill them. One can argue the mob mentality of a group of humans, but one cannot rationally argue that it is because they are formed into a denomination that they are a mob. Likewise, the ills against humanity that have been committed by humanity cannot be blamed on denominations. The atheist argues that Christians and the church as a whole are the culprits who committed the horrors of the past. But it was a mob of humanity that should have known better, it was not because they were the church or because they were Christians (or the original “denomination”).

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