Saturday, July 15, 2017
Networks or denominations. . .
What has begun, perhaps to take their place, are networks that are not really denominations but are more than simple arrangements or partnerships. It is the triumph of practice over doctrine and what works over what is believed. So congregations even from seemingly different confessions can join together in what works, what makes things happen. Since the growing churches in the USA are generally seen to be mega churches, many of these associations or networks are tied to those mega churches and their star-studded cast of celebrity preachers and leaders. Some examples are the old and familiar Vineyard Association or the Saddleback group or the Willow Creek network but added to them are Andy Stanley's Life.Church Open Network Community or T. D. Jakes The Potter’s House International Pastoral Alliance. I assume that there are many more I know little about. You tell me.
What is a question worth pondering is whether or not these networks or associations will become denominations, replace denominations, exist along side denominations, or some other version of this structure we have not yet conceived. What is not a question is that the diminishing of doctrine over practice will surely continue in many, if not most, shapes of Protestantism. Missouri surely is faced with the same pressures and we have caved in various ways (borrowing worship from evangelicals, evangelistic techniques from whomever seems to be packing them in, and embracing a diversity which finds it hard to prevent doctrine from being diluted). If Missouri continues to throw off the great temptation to join the party and dance with whomever seems enticing, the LCMS will definitely being going against the tide. But that is kind of Missouri's history. Hopefully we will not forget. For the future of Protestantism cannot lie with muddy associations content with sharing the latest techniques while dogma is pushed to the side. Jesus did not say that whosoever has a good time on Sunday morning He will acknowledge before the Father but those who acknowledge, confess, and give unfailing witness to Him as the crucified and risen Savior. The thing that gave birth to denominations was at least in large measure a desire to do just that. Unity was certainly important but not for the appearance of being one. No, unity was not an exchange for truth but the expression of it. Maybe we will remember that someday.