Denominations are not super popular like they used to be. I overheard a young minister speaking to a homeless couple in need at Braums the other day, and when they asked what denomination his church is, he said, “Well, we are affiliated with Southern Baptist, but we’re really non-denominational.” I thought to myself – “So, you’re Southern Baptist. Why dodge the question?”
Whereas Southern Baptist might have a negative image to some folks, the Table has an opposite problem – most folks don’t know who the Disciples of Christ are. We’re not a big denomination. We used to be bigger but have been in decline for a while now. That’s both good and bad. It’s good in that it means we are already ahead of the curve in shifting to new ideas and avenues of ministry. It’s bad because it means we don’t have the clout we might have once had in the religious landscape of the US.
I love being a Disciple, and so as a quick and dirty introduction to our denomination, here are the key things I value highly that come out of our way of being and doing church together:
- We believe Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God and proclaim him as Savior of the world. Beyond that central core belief, we are open to other ideas. We do our best (but are not perfect) at trying to make space around the table for folks who see Jesus, the Bible, and God differently. Granted, this will vary from church to church, but it is a gift that defines many DoC churches.
- We practice weekly communion. We don’t claim that we own this sacred tradition or that we have defined it completely. In fact, because of my first bullet point, people in DoC churches come to the table in a variety of different ways. Some see the bread and cup as the literal body and blood of Jesus. Others see it more symbolically. Still, some of us picture it as a radical, egalitarian act that points to a taste of heaven. Either way, it’s beautiful, uniting, and nourishing.
- We rely on our local leadership to make decisions about our future, our property, and our budget. I’m trying not to use common religious terms here, but the basics is that we are very democratic and “flat” in our structure. Our property is not owned by the denomination. An individual congregation hires its own pastor and staff. Every member has a vote and an opportunity to share their voice.
- We are diverse. The fastest growing part of the DoC are our terrific ethnic churches, which bring vital leadership and vision to our denomination.
- Our mission statement is awesome – “we are a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world.” Can more be said?
- We see ourselves as part of the larger church and respect other traditions and denominations in the same way. We don’t have all the answers. Our theology isn’t better. Our way of doing church isn’t better. It’s just different, but we do use our voice to encourage unity among Christians as we work for peace, compassion, and hope in our world.
Again, I am thankful to be a part of such a denomination. We have lots of gifts to offer. Your spiritual journey may lead you to such a community as this, and I hope you find your welcome around the table as I have.
So, what’s your story? What do you look for in a faith community that will connect your spirituality and passion to make a difference in the world?