November/December 2007 Issue
God at Work in Denominations
A Vision and a Strategy
By A.F. (Bud) Penner
What good is a denomination today? To support, encourage, resource and empower the local church in its community
Successful new movements continue to be birthed in the Christian community. Most have a clear vision and purpose. Almost all are led by an individual, family or group with vision, dynamism and drive. It seems obvious God honours strategic, energetic leaders with vision and a sense of mission.
What about long-standing denominations? Those that do not have the advantage of being “new,” are structurally cumbersome and have for years believed in their uniqueness, either in their belief structure and/or in calling. Will they again be recognized and blessed as in times past?
Although I claim little special insight into Canadians’ future choices, I tend to think most people will be attracted to something dynamic and relevant to our times. The following material from my own family of churches may offer this in a form relevant to new and long-standing denominations.
The Associated Gospel Churches (AGC) came into being at a time when the authority of Scripture was being challenged and when the understanding that individuals needed to repent and embrace Christ as the only way to be accepted as a child of God was seen as narrow and irrelevant. In response, our predecessors developed an extensive statement of faith and named the denomination/association after the heart of its mission: gospel churches. The movement has grown to 145 churches in Canada.
The AGC Vision and Strategy Here is the current AGC vision of a new, healthy, reproducing church in our multicultural society in Canada:
1. Churches must be a reflection of the community they view as their primary calling.
2. Churches must be intentional in their reproduction, relational care, partnerships, discipleship, leadership development and cultural transformation.
3. Churches plant churches; denominations resource, empower and coach churches to be obedient to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.
4. Local community-focused churches led by supported, trained pastors, church staffs and lay leaders are our best hope for transformed lives, communities and cultures.
5. We value biblical authority, dynamic spirituality, loving relationships, effective discipleship, intentional reproduction, strategic partnerships and cultural transformation.
As we assess, build, coach and develop in an unending circle, pastors and churches that are clear in their appreciation of the authority of the word of God and focused on people will flourish.
Assess leadership and church health using tools that have corresponding helps to strengthen weaknesses and exploit strengths.
Build leaders and churches through every available resource in partnership with other organizations.
Coach pastors, church staff and key lay leaders through area clusters, monitoring coaches and regional superintendents.
Develop an ongoing recruitment and assessment process that values people and the sovereignty of God.
Old denominational structures may be dying, but denominations that empower, resource and encourage community-based leaders and pastors have every hope of God’s blessing and impact on the community.
An Ontario church noticed a strip of older motels populated with people waiting for more permanent housing. They began to offer a Saturday evening hot meal free, served by people from the church who were there simply to show care, acceptance, love and hope, and to provide interaction and understanding. After one year a number of the motel residents are participating in an Alpha program, others are in Bible studies and a few are now attending church services.
In a Western Canada church, people volunteer to help the town maintenance department and have stepped alongside farmers and small business owners to offer help and encouragement. The result is that the church has grown from 35 to 135 people worshipping each Sunday. They have built a new church building in a declining town, giving hope to the community and purposeful life to the church.
In thinking about the purpose of a denomination today, one would be wise to focus on the local church.
A. F. (Bud) Penner is the president of the Associated Gospel Churches with its home office in one of its churches in Burlington, Ont. This column continues a series by leaders of affiliates of The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada listed at www.evangelicalfellowship.ca/affiliates.