This is the question. The question of the hour, the day, the week, the month, the year.
Should we, as a house church network plant, join a denomination? If you want to weigh in on the discussion feel free. Just realize, as we have, that it may sound like a very dividing conversation. While I don't normally like these kinds of discussion (b/c they are not usually very productive or Kingdom of God centered), for us, at this time, it is extremely important. It affects the direction and future of our house church network. How much it affects us, is open to opinion, b/c we are who we are, yet, it will still affect us.
Most of us in our group desire to join a denomination for the following reasons.
Accountability. We want to be accountable to someone else so that we don't sway off our own way, but keep our roots connected with orthodox Christianity and theology. While we believe that God has given us vision to doing Church differently than most these days, we don't want that to be license to completely go our own way and disconnect ourselves from any accountable relationships. We want to be able to fairly easily address questions or concerns of heresy being taught or discussed within our Life Houses, but we do want some freedom to wrestle with and think about the scriptures and how they apply to our lives today.
Support. We hope a denomination will desire us as much as we desire them. Relationships don't work so well, if one is deemed to be sucking Life from the other. We want a symbiotic relationship. We hope for prayer support, a small amount (for a church plant) of financial support, and mentoring relationships. We want to be able to contribute to a larger network of Christian relationships in many different ways. (potentially district events and/or worldwide missions) We want to be a people that a denomination is proud to have as one of their churches.
Reputation. House church is outside the box for most and we certainly don't want anyone to wonder if we are a cult. Being connected to a denomination should help relinquish any of those kinds of concerns. (Interestingly as I've talked to folks outside of our group about this, some have pointed out that all of those negative cult situations, actually come from one person being given too much power, not from a shared leadership/participation type of group, like house church.)
However, I'm not sold on the fact that we need to be a part of a denomination.
Part of it comes from the fact that when I first became a Christian, I rejected the idea of denominations. It all seemed way too divisive. I would answer folks with what denomination, I held onto, but rather I simply said, "I am Christian."
Control seems to be an issue through our discussions. Some denominations want lots of control over a local congregation and some give lots of freedom to local congregations. Many aren't sure how and would have to work through how to have a relationship with a house church network versus a traditional style church. I am okay with (though I'm not a big fan of) being a part of a denomination because of a particular view of systematic theology. (I'm not a big fan of systematic theology) I'm not a big fan of a denomination mandating some gray areas of morality for not only a national church, but an international church. I do believe that the community of faith has something to say about how we should live morally, but more in the context of those who are in truly in relationship to one another (ie small group, house church, etc.)
One last thing that I'm finding. It's seemed to be a challenge and/or many challenges ahead of convincing a denomination or a board within a denomination of our vision for house church. I'm struggling with that. If you want someone to marry you, I'm not sure you should have to tell them why you're so great. They should just know it. Or they should just accept who you are. Context once again is also a reality. We are pursuing them at this point and not the other way around. Most of them don't really know us. (However, there is one denomination that has been pursuing us.)
Lastly, I've had some very good people who I trust, love and respect talk to me about their concerns regarding us joining a denomination. Mostly, they are against it. Not really too many folks have encouraged us to join. (except for maybe one friend) I find that interesting and curious. I wonder if those folks would be willing to pony up some financial support in place of that denomination. :~)
Well, I must go for now. I'm sure this discussion will come up again. Please pray for us. We will be doing the same. God knows we want to follow His direction.
If you've got something to offer in productive and helpful ways, please share. We are definitely willing to listen, consider, and dialogue about.