Under the most ideal of conditions, there would not be any Christian Denominations. Christians would gather in ‘home’ churches for worship, have local members as pastor and/or teacher, be visited by believers recognized to have calling of Apostleship, or Prophecy, or Evangelism.
Sounds purist does it not? In the current world system, however, totally impractical. In context of the small ‘home’ church, the Christian Church loses power of organization, loses power of numbers or influence that come with size, is not able to accumulate much needed resources for influencing of society, for creation of a viable socioeconomic ecosystem.
In historical times, people were largely agricultural, there hardly was any migration across towns, cities, states, or countries. Every socioeconomic space was, for the most part, localized space. Within these localized spaces, home churches could be effective as nodes for change and influence within society. Up until perhaps conversion of Constantine in 312 A.D., the home church was the most prevalent form of Christian congregation in early years of Christianity.
The issues that obtain in current state of the world are as varied as they are complex. In presence of a home church congregational system, absent organized cooperation between home churches, the Christian church would lack capacity for concerted meaningful responses to many issues, would lack resources for adequate responses. This is part of the essence of the Baptists. Local churches run things, but all local churches benefit from being part of a much larger conglomeration of local churches.
Consider the year 1843. In 1843, the Wesleyan Church separated from it’s mother church because while it opposed slavery, it’s mother church located in the South felt it was prudent not to oppose slavery. Without the power of organization, opposition to slavery could subsist within Christian churches, yet no one would have heard about it. Organization, clout, and wealth made it possible for people to hear the voice of the Wesleyan Church.
How then do we view the mother church to the Wesleyan Church, the mother church which continued to support slavery? For insight into a likely moral rationale, consider silence of the Catholic Church during Jewish Holocaust of the Second World War. The Catholic Church kept quiet because it lacked the resources to take on Germany. Germany took on Russia, the UK, and the USA and it took almost five years for the tide of the war to turn inexorably in favor of the Allies. What could a Church without an armed forces do in face of such colossal military might?
In presence of the lack of resources, any speaking out by the Catholic Church could put Catholics at risk alongside Jews. Rather than speak up, the policy was for priests to help Jews to the extent it was in their power. Some Catholic Priests were remanded in concentration camps for their refusal to validate actions of Germans in respect of the Jewish Holocaust. Silence was not, and did not induce protection of Priests from mistreatment at hands of German authorities. Silence was for the benefit of the individual Christian, the individual person for whom the church was responsible.
I do not know what exactly were the actions of the mother church in question, suffice it to say that sometimes refusal to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ enables arrival at much better outcomes than insistence on provision of a definite answer.
The Hindrance that can be Christian Denominations? Christian Denominations can get so caught up in socioeconomic agendas of life and society, they lose sight of why exactly it is they exist in the first place. Christian Denominations have tendency to become more about the social and economic ecosystem of the denomination, than about people.
Natural hazard you might proffer, and you would be right. The strength made possible by organization simultaneously is Achilles heel of organization. Organized, the Christian Church has tendency to become more about issues, than about it’s people and their relationship with Jesus Christ.
I have been a Christian since 1990. I never have been in a church where people were taught the process of Christian growth. I have been exposed to doctrines, and theology, I never have been in a church that taught the ‘how’ of Christian growth to it’s members. In most churches, baptismal classes focus on garnering evidence for acquiescence to core doctrines, as opposed to teaching of ‘how to’ of Christian growth. While grounding in doctrine cannot be considered unnecessary, sacrifice of ‘how to’ of Christian growth is not a like for like exchange.
Lack of knowledge of ‘how to’ of Christian Growth is more likely to induce frustration. When new Christians become frustrated from lack of knowledge of ‘how to’, they resort to what seemed to work before they became Christians. The Christian Church cannot afford for this state of affairs to continue to occur.
Consider, however, the unifying power of the ‘how to’ agenda. While different denominations can disagree on technical details of theology, they are less likely to disagree on the ‘how to’ of Christian growth, a question that is eminently practical and ecclesiastical, as opposed to theological in nature.
In presence of possibility of agreement on the ‘how to’, while Christians can choose denominations on basis of theological leanings, commonality of understanding of the ‘how to’ of Christian growth produces a ‘bridge’ between different denominations. Commonality of the ‘how to’ further can mediate any tendencies to theological excess because excesses under consideration contradict essence of process of Christian growth.
In presence of an ‘how to’ bridge between Christian Denominations, Christians have a language with which they can communicate across denominations, resulting in possibility of cooperation for achieving of socioeconomic agendas around which they possess commonality. Given the bridge that enables cooperation is the ‘how to’ of Christian growth, relationship with Jesus Christ, and spiritual health of Christians never can be lost sight of in midst of pursuit of socioeconomic agendas. Regardless then of whether it be within-denomination, or between denominations, focus on socioeconomic agendas never engenders loss of focus on spiritual health of church members.
My book, In Jesus Name is about the ‘how to’ of Christian Growth. While Christian growth is not formulaic, there is a well laid out process for it, a process which somehow (to the best of my knowledge) until now had yet to be laid out in writing outside of Christian Scriptures in the manner in which it is revealed to me by the Holy Spirit.
It is time for Christian Denominations not only to be effective at tackling of socioeconomic agendas within their constituencies, but also to be effective at empowering their members, people who believe in the name of Jesus Christ, for understanding of the process for arrival at mature knowledge of their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.