This week I’m going to Minnesota for a denominational event called Gather, which is the Covenant Annual Meeting. The Covenant is our bigger church family, our denomination. Our denomination is not that big: 875 churches and about 200,000 people in the United States and Canada. We also are connected to different branches of the denomination in countries around the world.
It is great to be part of a bigger church family. People sometimes ask me, “Why be in a denomination?” So I thought I would share some of my reasons. (And it just so happens that these are the same reasons why an individual Christian should be part of a church.)
1. Together we can reach more people.
The Covenant was originally called Mission Friends, poor Swedish immigrants who had come to America and deeply loved Jesus. They grouped together so that they could support missionaries in other countries. We are still supporting missionaries, together. We are still seeking to find ways to reach more people together. Together we can reach more people, a greater mosaic of people. One church cannot reach everyone – all races, ages, economic groups, or needs. But together we can be part of something bigger something that reaches a great diversity of people. This is life together, tearing down the walls of division and fear, worshiping Jesus together. This is the family of God.
2. Together we can do bigger things.
Christians and churches love to dream big. And together we can dream even bigger and do even bigger things. When there is a disaster, Covenant World Relief shows up and provides help. In church planting, our denomination assesses future church planters, supports them, and trains them. The Covenant has a university; it provides healthcare and pension. It has retirement facilities, financial services, and a hospital. These big things would not be possible for most individual churches, but together we can do bigger things, we can dream bigger dreams.
3. Together we have connection and accountability.
I’ve been a pastor in three different states and served in seven different churches. But I’ve stayed connected through it all with different Covenant pastors who have held me up, supported me, and kept me accountable. There is also accountability in our church. If someone disagrees with me, I am not the final authority. My license is held by the Covenant; and someone can go talk with the Covenant if they think I am teaching something that is unbiblical. Being part of a bigger family also keeps us connected. The Covenant has camps across the country, and I have run into different people I met at camp. In fact, my roommate in college and I found each other in an old camp picture!
Denominations aren’t perfect, churches are perfect, families are perfect. But we don’t need them to be perfect; what we need is a family. And it is so good to be part of a bigger church family.