I've been part of the association of vineyard churches for the past 22 years, more than half my life, and we have our annual national leaders conference next week, that I'm looking forward to. Over the past 22 years my enthusiasm for conferences has waxed and waned and I find myself in a different place this coming year.
One way I understand the cycles of my engagement with life and relationships is the 'romance-disillusionment-joy' motif. The first flush of excitement an engagement, that then leads to a period of where reality kicks in, and the honeymoon is over with the false understandings falling away, and then the rebuilding of relationship around better understandings, insight and growth, that leads to joy.
I've found there is no way around this process, no matter what we are engaged in and with, and as a church planter I think the same goes for involvement not just in church planting but in the relationship of being a church planter in a denomination. And I think that process is normal and healthy, the move from dependence to independence and into interdependence.
If the idea of being involved in a church as necessary for Christian identity and formation has been going the way of the dodo these past few decades in the UK, the relevance of denominations must be even more remote and unpromising. Yet I find myself 22 years later discovering the 'joy' of being in a denomination, and making a quick list of some of the immedaite benefits that I am re-discovering (and as I post this I am not romanticising denominations):
1. Shared beliefs & values: Having others who share the basics of what you think church is about, is excuse the pun, 'invaluable'. Some of the most important values our community has, are the DNA of our denomination and movement.
2. Shared story and history: The vineyard movement is over 30 years old and interpretations of our history are much contested. But I;m finding the comfort of having my 22 years of memories to share with others who have been along similar roads. There is a comfort in reaching back over nearly 25 years of church planting experience around shared stories.
3. Shared Mission and action: Doing something things with others within our denomination comes quickly and easily. There is a short hand from your shared values and story that enables action around these values, that is easy to take for granted.
4. Accountability: Having a group of peers who will and have asked what I believe, and why I'm doing it, is a life saver. I'm talking about mutuality in accountability here, the asking of hard questions out of live and support, not control. I know my heart is deceitful above all things, and needs the questioning of people who are for me.
5. Training and Resources: I've been the beneficiary of some amazing resources over the years that only a denomination can put together and deliver.
Any other benefits to being in a denomination that you have experienced?