With a possible PCA church plant here in north Jackson County, I've been pondering churches, particularly in our area. We drive about 40 minutes to Emmanuel Presbyterian Church (PCA) where we are members. I'm sure many think we're crazy - after all there are presbyterian churches in Cullowhee and Sylva. However, I believe your denominational affiliation matters. The denomination your church is a part of is either strongly reflected in the character of your church OR is a major influence on your church. I do not believe I can be a part of the PCUSA due to many issues there I will not go in to - and the two presbyterian churches here are of that denomination.
And yet, the lack of visible unity among believers troubles me. I counted this past week and there are 10 church buildings right on the road between our house and Emmanuel. Eleven if you count the school where one meets. Why should that be? Why should I drive past that many different churches (plus who knows how many more just off the road) to get to the one we pick.
The one situation that is most noticeable to me is within 5 minutes of our house. There are three church buildings, all within sight of each other in the area known as Speedwell (basically a crossroads, no town or businesses). Two are Baptist and one is Methodist. I have no idea how such a situation happens - in a very rural area there are three churches. They all look more than 20 years old at least. One calls itself a Missionary Baptist church - my humorous side conjectures that the other church sent this one out as a church plant - about 100 yards away.
But, does anyone think this is bad? Or a problem? That there are churches within sight of each other? We are to be One Body in Christ. We certainly don't look like it.
Thinking historically, the ability to pick and choose between churches (not just denominations but churches) is a very unusual situation in the 2000 year history of the new testament church. I don't just mean Catholic vs. Protestant, but choosing at all. If you live in an area, you would go to THE church there. Christians in Galatia didn't get to pick from Rev. Jones downtown or Rev. William out on the east side. They had ONE church. Certainly as numbers increase, planting another church to handle people in a separate area of a city is wise, but then that becomes your church. You wouldn't worship at one and take the kids to the youth group at the other.
I understand (in my limited way) how denominations came about. But our propensity in Protestantism to split and create a new denomination is not good. While the book of Acts and Paul's epistles lay down many truths about how the church should be governed, how to handle relationships between denominations is not covered. I think that's the case because it shouldn't really happen. What should happen when someone from the PCA that has a discipline case before his session tries to transfer membership to the church down the road that is not PCA?
Though this troubles me, I still drive my family 40 minutes every Sunday. Why? I do not believe I can join a denomination that does not have a commitment to Reformed Theology. I still believe the Westminster Confession is true, and that puts me at odds with the denominations that say many key doctrines in it are not true.
So I'm troubled at possibly being part of the problem.