The doctrinal grounding of non-denominationalism is typically at the mercy of the Senior Pastor. The good news is that the median tenure of pastors has risen to six years in a recent study.[i] But even a change in pastoral leadership every six years means that a congregation will be setting a new doctrinal course at every transition. A doctrinal statement sets the long-term trajectory of a congregation’s ministry and preserves its doctrinal distinctiveness for the long run. That will create more unity and leadership coherence over the decades.
This past year, we’ve visited Evangelical Free, Southern Baptist, Assemblies of God, and Anglican churches and been blessed in each gathering. These are brothers and sisters in Christ who worship the one Triune God. While varied in style and different on theological non-essentials, it is an honor to know that we are part of God’s family: we are rescued by God-made flesh who died for our sins and is risen from the dead. We submit to the same Word of God. We are indwelt by the same Spirit.
In the world of non-denominationalism, the tendency is to scrape theology down to its bare minimum and make room in our local churches for as many in the family of Christ as possible despite our theological differences. The spirit behind this reductionism is admirable: to not create unnecessary division. Why can’t we join together as a church in unity despite our minor disagreements?
New Life is swimming against that current. In a day and age many church’s doctrinal statements could be printed on written out on a napkin; we have a 37-page doctrinal statement.
I discovered New Life’s doctrinal statement when I began considering whether God might be calling apply to serve on staff. I was pretty surprised. I was also grateful. I’m even more grateful for the doctrinal statement today. Here are 7 reasons why:
1) Because Doctrine Matters
At its best, doctrine helps us understand God and ourselves better. It clarifies the purpose of the church and answers questions we have about all sorts of matters: from salvation to sovereignty to sexuality. The question isn’t whether or not the church has answers to those issues, it is how biblical, clear, and unified those answers are.
2) It is Transparent
Have you ever had people leave your church after your pastor preached a sermon on a controversial topic? A doctrinal statement doesn’t mean that will never happen, but it helps.