Here’s the Question:
First off thank you for all your great work. You have deeply impacted me in many ways. I seem to think along very similar lines as far as I can tell from reading your posts, books, articles etc. I would like to pastor a church in the future, but I am in transition at the moment mostly due to the change in perspective over the last couple of years (still love the people). My question is if you were to start as a Pastor today, with all the wisdom and perspective you have accumulated through years of experience, would you choose a certain denomination instead of non-denominational? Do you have any denominations that you would most closely align with?
Here’s the Response:
This is a tough question. Here are five elements – in random order, because all are essential – I’d consider in choosing a denomination (or nondenominational association):
1. Hand/Mission: Is this denomination more oriented toward maintenance, self-benefit, or the common good of the world? In what ways is this denomination practically expressing its commitment to join God in bringing blessing to the world? Is the denomination more dominated by tradition/the past than by mission/the present and future.2. Heart/Spirituality: Does this denomination promote personal and communal encounter with God, the neighbor, and the other and enemy, or is it preoccupied with correctness, numbers, politics, and institutional maintenance or aggrandizement?
3. Head/Theology: Does this denomination create space for vibrant theological reflection, imagination, and investigation? Or does it suppress theological curiosity in order to unquestioningly support a predetermined set of conclusions? Does it expect the Spirit to continue to guide us into truth?
4. Backbone/Structure: What kind of support and accountability does this denomination provide to support its staff and members in mission? How nimble and flexible is the structure?
5. Open arms/Ecumenism: Does this denomination wall itself off from other Christian communities, and other faith communities – or does it use its structure as a bridge to facilitate collaborative relationships? And is this denomination interested in welcoming me?
Some denominations might score well on 3 and 5, but not so well on 2 and 4, for example, so every choice would involve weighing strengths and weaknesses. As for going the non-denominational route, I would have to ask these same 5 questions but in slightly different ways. By the way, I still believe that we need creative church planting, so if you feel a gift and calling in that direction, I hope you’ll fan that flame, whatever denominational (or non-) path you choose.