Needs vs. Denomination

Just recently I saw a young member ask this question: What’s more important, a church that meets your needs or one of the proper denomination?

There are a lot of different ways to address that question, but the first thing that comes to my mind is: What a condemnation of our denomination, that such a question needs to be asked! If there was ever a question that demanded soul-searching on the part of our church, this has to be it.

And yet. . . . and yet, I have to say, I asked that question myself years ago. My answer will not satisfy every one, neither do I pretend that it is the only or best answer.

Legend has it that Alexander the Great was confronted with a supposedly intractable problem, to untie an incredibly complex knot. No one had been able to do it, and some thought that whoever could untie the knot would rule the world. Alexander solved the problem but cutting the knot with his sword.

I mention that because sometimes the way to solve a problem is to reject the assumptions that are inherent in it. What I did was plant a new congregation.  To be honest, I wouldn’t have even attempted it, if it hadn’t been for how I defined “meeting my needs.” As for myself, I could survive without the support of a local congregation. Indeed, for a period of 14 months, I ceased to attend church because of the dysfunctions in what was then my local congregation. It was a place which not only did not promote spiritual growth in its members– it actively destroyed them.

My needs were not being met, but that was not what concerned me. I could not see any reason why my children would desire to be a part of such a church. That need, the need to pass on a faith worth living, to have a church that my children and grandchildren would choose to belong to, became an imperative for me.  That, and only that, could have motivated me to take on the task of planting a congregation.

But that was my answer, in effect, not to choose between a church that met my needs or one of a different denomination, but to cut the knot, and plant a congregation that would meet the needs I had identified, and remain in the denomination.

I do not pretend that is the answer for every one. But that is the first part of my answer to the question posed in the beginning: Define exactly what your needs are.

I’ll have more on this in my next blog.


Needs vs. Denomination — 3 Comments

  1. Ed, I know that some will misunderstand you as advocating a missiology of felt needs. I know you well enough to vouch for your respect for the truths entrusted to our church, and to the denomination itself. I long for the day, and I know you do to, when a core group of Adventists will discern that the truth as it is in Jesus will connect with the needs of the community, as well as with our own needs. There is something organically satisfying about truth, in contrast with the inescapably negative influence of lies of any kind–whether conservative or liberal fallacies.
    At least that’s how I see it.

    • Christians too often forget that ministry must be earned. Running up to people and lecturing them on smoking or diet or Sabbath-keeping is a profound violation of boundaries.

      We shouldn’t then be surprised that the very individuals who respond to such an approach often become the victims of people like David Koresh. And too often, the people who respond to these unhealthy approaches become fervent ‘evangelists’ who bring in more unhealthy people like themselves, and instead of healing them, reward and reinforce their illness.

      We are to give water to the thirsty, food to the hungry, clothing to the naked, and hope to the poor. If that’s ‘felt-needs missiology,’ then put me down in favor.

      But there are wants as well as needs. Many of our church members ‘need’ to feel important, all-knowing, etc. The church should never meet such needs. In fact, I’ll answer this in more detail in a later post.

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