signs of the death of denominations

My next set of Church History notes is entitled ‘Denominations go bad when these appear’. I have in brackets [or people, or whatever] beside the title.

This list is a series of observations concerning marks of deterioration to the point of virtual death in denominations. As we look back through church history, the landscape is littered with failed churches and movements that often started well. One could say the grand-daddy of them all is the Catholic church. What could have started better? What could have failed so miserably? Likewise, the churches of the reformation have evidenced decline unto death [in their original forms], spawning reform movements of their own. The Anabaptist and independent traditions also have their share of decline and failure… an all too familiar theme. The Church is not so superior to Old Testament Israel, though with much better advantages.

Denominations, then, go bad when these appear…

  1. When they become ends in themselves (when it is more important to retain a label than to be loyal to truth).
  2. When they tend more toward instruments of control than instruments of service.
  3. When they embrace personalities rather than principles.
  4. When they prefer power to purity.
  5. When they surrender truth to tranquility.
  6. When desire prestige more than piety.
  7. When they tolerate theological infidelity for expediency.
  8. When they honour intellectualism over fidelity.
  9. When they consider size more than quality.
  10. When they love the praise of men more than the praise of God.
  11. When they prefer to maintain the appearance of unity rather than the defense of truth.
  12. When they are preoccupied with apparent evangelism without discipleship (breadth of expansion over the depth of spirituality).

As I remember these lectures, Dr. P would expand on each of his points, while I would seek to pull out just the point form from his lecture for use on the later tests. You couldn’t really simply memorize his points for the tests, he expected you to write everything you knew about a series of open ended questions or a list of names. His method was to train you in a way of thinking, then see if you really got it.

These particular points came from a lecture that spanned two class periods. Points 11 and 12 were added on the second day, in a slightly different format. I modified them for this list.

As I consider the list, it seems to me that we would do well to think of ourselves. It is easy to pick out the errors of others, but aren’t some of these things problems that plague the fundamentalist movement as well? We are often too personality driven. There are men among us who delight in prestige more than piety.

In all my argumentation for the idea of fundamentalism, let that idea be front and center: pure religion and undefiled, loyalty to Jesus Christ before anything else, willingness to be hated by men for love for Christ. We can’t be easy on ourselves, for we, like all men, are prone to these same errors. May we have the discernment to see them in ourselves, the humility to receive correction from others (or the strength for self-correction), and the courage to maintain a testimony loyal to Jesus Christ, come what may.


P.S. Can you think of things that could be added to this list?