The Benefits of being part of a Denomination
“Within the evangelical world today, denominationalism and denominational loyalty have become unfashionable. But a Reformed church has little difficulty understanding the pervasiveness of sin even in matters of ecclesiology. Put negatively, a church denomination is an accommodation to a sinful world, which touches every aspect and organization of life, including the Church of Jesus Christ. No amount of wishing it were otherwise or glossing over glaring differences in theology and practice among believers will bring about a true organizational unity. But those who come from a Presbyterian and Reformed perspective are unwilling to forsake the structure, order, and unity of the church in favor of unofficial gatherings of Christians who share particular interests and goals. Put positively, being part of a denomination like the Orthodox Presbyterian Church allows believers to continue to sense the unity of the Church and provides them with opportunities to implement Biblical practices to the greatest extent possible. Because of its commitment to the Westminster Confession of Faith and its Larger and Shorter Catechisms, members of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church are able to share true unity of faith, which reaches beyond the limites of their local church and provides a platform from which they may dialogue with believers of other denominational groups, wherever they are in the world. And because of its emphasis on connectionalism, believers who are part of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church may become intimately acquainted with fellow Christians and their needs in congregations in other geographical regions far from their own homes, in much the same way as New Testament believers were able to share their concerns for Euodia, Syntyche, Tychicus, Onesimus, and Epaphras (Philippians 4:2-3; Colossians 4:7-12). Rather than being apologetic or embarrassed about denominational commitment and loyalty, Orthodox Presbyterians have reason to celebrate being part of the heritage and ongoing ministry of their church denomination.”
– pp. 121-123 in Planting an Orthodox Presbyterian Church by Rev. Ross W. Graham (Willow Grove, PA: The Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church)
To summarize from and expand upon the comments above, the benefits of belonging to a denomination such as the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) include:
1. A common confession of faith. Because the OPC has officially adopted as its doctrinal standards the Westminster Standards (The Confession of Faith, The Larger Catechism, The Shorter Catechism), as a summary of what it believes and confesses the Bible to teach, the churches of the OPC do not need to “reinvent the wheel” by trying to figure out from scratch what they believe the Bible teaches and by having to hammer out their own, newly-minted statement of faith. While these doctrinal standards are not infallible, can be amended by the church, and are subordinate to the Bible (which is the Word of God and thus the only infallible rule of faith and practice); nevertheless they were penned by godly and learned pastors and Bible scholars who had studied the Scriptures deeply and knew the Word more thoroughly than most believers today. The OPC confesses that these standards contain the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures.
2. A rich spiritual heritage of faith, practice and history. Unlike many contemporary independent churches which only started yesterday and have almost no sense of history or heritage to pass along to future generations, the OPC traces its heritage not only to its denominational beginnings in 1936, but to the beginnings of the Presbyterian Church in this nation, back to the Protestant Reformation, and through the early church to the apostolic faith and practice as recorded in the New Testament. Unlike many non-denominational and independent churches today, denominational churches like the OPC do not depend on the legacy of a single visionary pastor or a visionary group of founders who are here today, gone tomorrow. Instead, denominational churches enjoy a historical rootedness that transcends the personalities and legacies of their individual leaders. They share a common faith, practice, history and heritage, and thus don’t need to be constantly remaking themselves.
3. A connectionalism to other local churches within the denomination. The pages of the New Testament make it clear that the independent, congregationalist model of church is flat out unbiblical. While each separate, local congregation is indeed a “church” in its own right, in that it is a local expression of the universal Body of Christ; at the same time the churches of the New Testament were vitally connected to one another, not just informally through bonds of Christian love, but formally, organizationally and ecclesiastically. The “Jerusalem Council” which we read about in Acts 15 shows the organizational unity of the various churches of Christ, as the whole church through representatives (apostles and elders) gathered in a general council to decide on an important doctrinal matter that impacted numerous local congregations. The decisions of that general council were deemed to be binding upon all the local congregations impacted by the doctrinal controversy. The point is that the local churches were not left to fend for themselves or decide this matter independent from the broader Body of Christ. Acts 15 shows that the New Testament churches were connected, not just spiritually and vitally, but formally and organizationally. They were not independent, autonomous churches which had no responsibilities for or accountability to other local churches. Denominational churches like the OPC reflect this connectionalism through official meetings of its Regional churches, known as Presbyteries, and official meetings of representatives of the church as a whole, known as the General Assembly.
There are many benefits to being part of a denomination like the OPC. We share a common confession of faith. We share a rich spiritual heritage of faith, practice and history. And we are connected to an expression of the broader Body of Christ. Let us not be ashamed of being denominational, nor let us shun denominational loyalty. Instead, let us thank God for our denomination, even while we recognize as fellow Christians those who belong to other Bible-believing churches.