Why Should I Care About the Denomination?
As part of my role with the Missouri Baptist Convention's "Operational Study Group" (OSG), I spent the last two days in Jefferson City, with fellow Baptists from all across Missouri, discussing how we can more effectively impact our state with the Gospel. It was a challenging time of brainstorming, discussion, and debate. For various reasons, the MBC is going to be working with a LOT less funding in coming years, and we have to figure out how we're going to pull that off.
As interesting as all that is to me, I also know something else... 99% of you really don't care. That's not intended to be a slam on you. It's just the reality. Most of us really don't have any interest in following what's going on in our denomination...
It is generally recognized that Christianity in America has moved into a post-denominational era. In other words, there is very little loyalty to denominations anymore. It hasn't always been that way, but nowadays, most people don't care if the sign says Baptist, Methodist, or Assembly of God. They're more interested in what the church itself has to offer, than what denomination it's affiliated with. People are more concerned with the quality of the worship service and the conditions of the nursery, than the church's doctrinal position on baptism or the method by which it funds missionaries. Again, I'm not necessarily criticizing this; it's just the reality.
No doubt, this can be at least partially attributed to theological apathy. (People don't know what they believe about God and the Bible, and don't really care to.) However, I think there is also a significant group of people who do care about theology, but simply don't have the time or energy to keep up with what's going on at the denominational level. It's everything they can do to juggle family, work, and church. And by the time they do those things, denominational issues aren't even on the radar screen. (And by the way, this doesn't just hold true for laymen, but for pastors as well!)
I totally get that... But let me just give you something to think about... If your church is similar to ours, a significant portion of every offering you give goes to your denomination. Our church voluntarily gives 10% of our offerings to the Southern Baptist Cooperative Program, and another 5% to our local Baptist association. Selmore folks, that means that for every $100 you give, $15 goes to the denomination. In our church's case, that amount of money would pretty much pay for us to bring on another full-time staff member, or do some really awesome ministry projects in our own church/community, or pay off our new building in half the time!
Now there's a reason we give that $15 to God's work through our denomination. We believe it helps us fulfill the Great Commission in ways that we never could by ourselves. (I personally believe the Cooperative Program is the greatest tool for missions in human history.) But you get my point. When you consider the great things we could do with that money in our own church, it becomes pretty important that we have confidence when we mail it off that it's being used in the best way possible. That's just one reason, why the denomination still matters... Should it be a priority in your life? No way. That's unrealistic... Would it be good stewardship to have a basic understanding of the denomination and stay somwhat abreast of what's going on?... You bet. If you belong to a Southern Baptist church in Missouri, the best way to do that is by checking out our state Baptist newspaper on the web.