The encouragement of being part of a denomination

The encouragement of being part of a denomination

Last Sunday night, my church hosted the annual Reformation Day combined service for our denomination. We are part of the Westminster Presbyterian Church. This is a small denomination of 11 congregations in Western Australia and 6 congregations in other states. The combined service was a couple of hundred people from these congregations singing with gusto to our good God, being reminded of the gospel, and encouraging one another. It was so good to meet together.

This made me reflect on what it means to be part of a denomination. I do know that in many church circles, denominations are some token thing where churches have the same badge on the door but little in practice to do with one another. Worse, in some places, Bible-teaching churches need to work around and against their own denominations. Many have concluded that denominations prevent creativity and growth and churches are better when they are independent.

Our denomination is far from perfect. We are sinners who make up churches of sinners who are associated with other churches of sinners. We have had episodes in our past that could have been handled better. We have had churches close their doors as well as churches planted. We live in real life, not a pretend world where everything is wonderful all the time. That being said, there are a great many things to thank God for when I reflect on being part of the WPC.

The Westminster Presbyterian Church, by God’s grace, is a church that holds to the inerrant word of God and a Reformed understanding of Scripture. It is also an outward-looking denomination which has a history of planting churches and being active in evangelism. The churches that are part of our denomination all look different from one another – some small and some large, all with different local church cultures – but we are united around the things that matter most.

Here are some things I thank God in my experience of being part of a faithful denomination:

  • It is encouraging to know we are part of something bigger. That was evident in person at the recent combined service. It is something I note when I attend Presbytery, the local gathering of elders. When we are busy in our own local church, we can forget that God is working in other places too.
  • Maintaining faithfulness is a large and important work. One of the key roles of our denomination is training and examining people for vocational ministry. The examinations set by the WPC before a candidate is able to preach regularly or be called to be a pastor of a local church are the most rigorous in Perth. And that is a good thing. To safeguard the preaching and teaching in the church, we need to take this seriously. I am grateful for the many who give their time to help with training and examination.
  • Mission work is something that can be effectively done together. Our denomination has received and send mission workers. We have relationships with churches in other countries. We have funded short term mission work for our pastors.
  • Compliance to government regulations is difficult and becoming more so. Our denomination registers marriage celebrants. We have moved to help each of our churches to train their people in Safe Church practices. We have worked to make paperwork like constitutions available, so new church plants are not overwhelmed with administration.
  • Some of our churches do not currently have pastors. In those cases, preachers have been supplied from sister churches to ensure the word of God is proclaimed faithfully in those places.
  • We want to be a church planting denomination, and we have several new plants and upcoming plants. The wisdom of others helps in these endeavours, and while one church might plant a daughter church, often people from other WPC churches join the planting teams. Plants might need prayer, financial or other supports that might be available from sister churches.

More could be said, of course. We should remember that the call to unity in the church is a common and critical one in the New Testament. Working with other like-minded churches in denominations is one way to live this out in practice. We are stronger together than we are apart.