Why a denomination matters

Why a denomination matters

By Rev. Dr. Dean Weaver
Stated Clerk of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC)
Teaching Elder, Presbytery of the Alleghenies

Denominations as we know them today were not a part of the early church, but the idea of Christians being “together in one accord” (seen in Acts 2 and 4) as well as the Council of Jerusalem (seen in Acts 15) are foundational. The council is the basis for the Pauline mission that followed it, not just in terms of accountability, but also Christian unity. In fact, next year’s General Assembly meeting will focus on Ephesians 4:11-13 and the gifting and equipping of the Church.

Our system of church courts (Session, Presbytery, and General Assembly or GA) provides both the support, accountability, and “protections” for a local church. For example, let’s say someone applies to become a commissioned pastor; then the Ministerial Committee (MinCom) runs a background check and discovers something significant that would preclude his ability to serve. Another example: a congregation is ready to call a pastor and the MinCom feels something is off and calls my office. The person is coming from another Reformed denomination; I call my counterpart in that denomination and find that this person has a long, unhealthy track record of broken church relationships. Thus, that church is spared the pain because of the built-in relationships. The EPC has attorneys on call for legal questions, a chief parliamentarian to help with governance issues, and a National Church Health Director to assist with pastoral and leadership issues.

We also are one of the few denominations (and the only smaller denomination) with our own health/ benefits plan. A good number of pastors in small congregations outside of the EPC actually don’t even have health insurance. Our benefits plan is a huge advantage for pastors in the EPC.

Here are a few more reasons why it matters to belong to a denomination:

  • Greater mission impact
    • $500,000 of hands-on relief work in the Ukraine—coordinated by our hands-on EPC World Outreach staff
    • 53 church plants
  • Greater accountability: built-in “Matthew 18” levels of accountable support in terms of both behavior and doctrine (for both pastors and churches)
  • Greater understanding of the global scope of the kingdom—not just from a congregational perspective (in Acts 1, the equivalent of Jerusalem), but through Presbytery (Judea/Samaria) and the World Outreach and Fraternal Relations committees (the ends of the earth)—connected in real time to a truly global Christianity.
  • Greater discipleship
    • availability of resources (transitional pastors, leadership manual, evangelism tools, etc.), which is particularly needed for medium-to-smaller churches
    • best practices leveraged though denominational connections and relationships
    • Just as practicing evangelism actually grows your faith, denominational involvement actually makes our leaders less self-absorbed and more “others-focused”
  • Greater vision
    • The EPC’s mission is anchored in the Great Commission (evangelism), thus the vision of the larger body can act as an alignment for the local church.
    • Seeing the bigger picture of the body of Christ expands the vision of the local congregation
    • Pulling together in the same direction with others strengthens the whole church.

Learn more about the EPC here.