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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Henry Kingsley on Important Distinctions: Part 2

The denomination leader addresses
the regional assembly.

When I was growing up, regional assemblies of my local church's denomination where held in city convention centers. Regional leaders rented such large facilities because, by and large, none of their local churches were big enough to hold all the pastors, lay representatives, and other parishioners who wished to attend. These events bustled with energy, the anticipation of learning what the denomination was doing in their region and around the world, and the welcome camaraderie from touching bases with people who attended different churches. These days, regional assemblies are held in large churches, which are never filled. The denomination's publishing house sends no representatives or books that could help local pastors and lay leaders. Those attendees who do come, by and large, leave disappointed that these conventions don't accomplish more. That they don't sizzle with energy, excitement, and enthusiasm.

How do you make people think that the denomination is important, when sermons and worship services are conducted along generic interdenominational lines? Why should a parishioner really sacrifice and give a large portion of their income, such as ten percent, or the Biblical tithe, when they aren't taught to believe in the distinctive importance of their own denomination? Why should people sacrifice their time, and work hard in their local church, when representatives of the denomination do not regularly visit, tell them about all the great things that are happening in the larger Church, and help them see how their local efforts impact the distinctive work of the Church worldwide?

The answer is that, sadly, you can't. Nearly all the churches I attended in my life have closed up. Only the big ones still exist, and of those two, one had to sell the big sanctuary it built because the congregation shrank and could no longer afford it. Congregants seem uninterested in paying tithe, or playing a lay ministerial role on a weekly basis. And even those who do become leaders find reasons not to pay their tithe, which helps support the local church, the church at the regional level, and supports the denomination's ministries across the globe.

It seems odd to me that in a time of so much worldwide religious intolerance, and violence being perpetrated by religious fundamentalists, that believers and leaders would willing strip their denomination of all its distinctiveness and unique importance. In his novel Ravenshoe, Henry Kingsley demonstrated how such people can use the distinctiveness and unique importance of their faith to hurt others. While I've seen plenty of examples of that in a number of denominations (and sadly, plenty of examples of that in my denomination in my adolescent years), I still wish the denomination of my youth were an institution that actually stood for something. That it offered today's believers something positive and distinctly beneficial. That it offered people like me something I could not receive from any other local, unaffiliated, protestant churches.

But then, I suppose I purchase my share of no-name, generic-label products when I go to the market. They save me money, and are just as good as the name-brands, right?

Dragon Dave

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