Many Protestant churches today are affiliated with a denomination like Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, Episcopalian, or Assemblies of God. Churches. But how important are denominations to being a Christian?
A person can be a Christian without being a member of a denomination. A Christian is someone who has responded to the gospel of Jesus Christ in faith (Rom. 6:23, 10:9-10). Church and the denomination each one is a part of is important, but it doesn’t determine if a person is a Christian.
What exactly is the importance of denominational affiliation? Does it matter what denomination a person is a part of if denominations don’t determine if a person is a Christian? How should a person choose a denomination? Keep reading to learn more.
How important is membership in a certain denomination?
Denominations are comprised of groups of churches that have a common history and the same conviction on certain beliefs and practices. For example, all Baptist churches hold to “believer’s baptism,” which means they only baptize professing Christians, not infants. The Protestant branch of the Christian faith has many denominations.
How important is denominational membership? Membership in a denomination can help a person live out their Christian faith, but it doesn’t determine if a person is a Christian or not.
Some people choose to belong to certain denominations because they are Christians, not to become a Christian. A person can also be a Christian in a non-denominational church. (Also see Do All Denominations Baptize?)
How important is church attendance? Going to church is an important part of living out one’s faith in Christ. Yet a person can attend a Baptist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, or Assemblies of God church and be a Christian in any of them.
A person’s response to the gospel determines their identity as a Christian, their salvation in Christ, and their entry into heaven, not denominational of church membership.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV), emphasis added
Does a particular denomination or church matter at all? Yes. Just because denomination and church affiliation don’t determine if a person is a Christian doesn’t mean they aren’t important at all. Churches and denominations that promote unbiblical doctrine should be avoided, even if they have retained the name of a historical denomination.
Sadly, some denominations and churches have abandoned biblical truth in recent years and are no longer effective in helping Bible-believing Christians grow in their faith. (Also see What Bible Translations Do Different Denominations Use?)
How should a person choose a denomination?
Choosing a denomination is an important decision. It’s common today for a person to choose a church, and then as a result become part of whatever denomination it is. It used to be common for a person to look for a church in a certain denomination. For example, people would look for a Baptist, Methodist, or Presbyterian church to attend.
Today, people often choose a church and then later learn that it’s Lutheran or Assemblies of God or something else. Denominational affiliation no longer drives the decision about where to attend church for a lot of people. (Also see the full article, How to Choose a Denomination)
Here are three important biblical considerations for choosing a denomination and church,
- Choose a denomination that teaches the Bible. Some denominations no longer value the teachings of Scripture. Other topics, like politics and social issues, are central to the detriment of the Bible. Some pastors pick certain verses of the Bible to support what they want to say. The better way to preach and teach the Bible is to start with a verse and construct a sermon based on its content.
- Choose a denomination that practices baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The New Testament clearly teaches that baptism and the Lord’s Supper are central to a person’s church experience. Yet many people today choose a denomination or church for other reasons, like music, ministries, and facilities (more below).
- Choose a denomination that worships in Spirit and in truth. Worshiping God through music, prayer and praise, and in other ways is an important part of church. Worship in church isn’t about entertaining those in attendance or merely appealing to their emotions.
“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”John 4:24 (ESV)
What is the gospel of Jesus Christ?
The word “gospel” means good news and it refers to an announcement about what Christ has done to save sinners. There are two parts to the gospel announcement,
- The announcement about Christ. God sent his only Son into the world to save sinners (John 3:16). Christ lives a sinless life while on Earth and willing sacrificed his perfect life to die on a cross as the punishment for sin. On the cross, Christ took the place of sinners and paid their penalty for sin. Three days later, he rose from the dead, and soon afterward, ascended into heaven.
- People must respond to the announcement. Sinners who hear the announcement must repent of their sin and trust Christ for salvation, as opposed to their own morality or good deeds. Though other aspects of their new life in Christ will follow like baptism, the Lord’s Supper, Bible reading, and prayer sinners are saved by God’s grace through faith and in Christ alone.
Also see What Denominations Are Calvinist?
How do people commonly choose churches today?
While some still consider denominational affiliation, theology and doctrine, and other now-considered “traditional” reasons, many people base their decision on factors like,
- Musical style: some people prefer worship bands with drums, electric guitars, and simple lyrics. Others prefer singing older songs from hymnals, with instrumentation for accompaniment only. Whatever a person’s preference is, many people consider musical style in their decision about what church to attend and only later learn what it believes and why.
- Children’s ministries: some people won’t consider a church unless it has a vibrant children’s ministry. Some churches impress visitors with hallways, buildings, and other facilities that are devoted to children. They stress the importance of safety and fun. Only later do parents realize what their child is learning. Sadly, some parents see church as a glorified daycare who can give them a break for a few hours on Sunday mornings.
- People choose a church based on its facilities. Comfortable chairs, air conditioning, and large screens are appealing to many people. It can be easy to prioritize comfort over more important aspects of a church.
Also see What Denominations Are Arminian?
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