What Denomination Am I?

28 Jul

You’ve been chatting to this person from the office for a number of weeks and get on to the topic of God. They ask the question “What do you believe?” What do you say?

Do you rehearse your church’s confession? Most of us would use a title to describe ourselves “I’m a Christian”, “I’m a born-again believer”, “I’m Reformed”.

How should we describe ourselves? The question is more complex than you’d think…

Both Lee Irons and R. Scott Clark, from differing sides, have passed comment on how we should name ourselves.

This is a “Romans 14” issue, scripture offers no definite ruling. However, just because there’s no definite rule, does not mean that it is not an issue for discernment.

We have to give a good account for what God has said in Scripture and done in our lives all in one word. Evangelical, Reformed, Christian; whatever it is that title has great influence.

So what should you say? You need to make up your own mind, but let me offer a few bits of advice when you choose your response:

Is the name elitist?

The disciples were given stern words for not accepting a guy who cast out demons in Jesus’ name but wouldn’t follow them (Mark 9:38-42). With Irons, I fear many people would be subject to that same rebuke today.

Some use specific denominational words like “Reformed” or “Baptist” in a proud way, cutting off other groups they don’t think are in the kingdom, or who they think are lesser. We need to be careful that in being theological definite we are not just being doctrinal snobs.

Is it unintelligible jargon?

I know someone whose non-Christian Dad told him he’d prefer him not to to go to a Presbyterian church because he thought it sounded like a cult!

Sometimes names that make sense to us don’t make sense to others. We need to make sure the name we choose isn’t just redundant jargon.

Does it mean what you think it means?

R. Scott Clark notes some terms can have unfortunate connotations. He discusses evangelical but it’s the same with reformed.

My fiancée went to the Reformation Museum in Geneva and there was a picture of a pastor meeting the Dalai Lama. Above it was written “Keep on reforming”. Some times words like reformed mean different things to different people.

Make sure the term you use means the same to them as it means to you.

What’s in a name?

Whatever name you are known by, make sure you don’t fall into error. Instead:

  • Proclaim salvation by faith alone, not by denominational affiliation.
  • Break fellowship with those who don’t preach the Gospel, whether they’re your group or not.
  • Don’t be unsure about your beliefs. Search the scriptures, know what they say and once you know the truth stand up for it.
  • Don’t just know what the scriptures say, but obey them.
  • Whether they call themselves Evangelical, Reformed or even Arminian, if they preach Christ call them brother.

(Picture “Lutheran and Reformed???” by wyclif under the Creative Commons Licence)

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