Another Thought On Evangelicals And Mainline Denominations

From time to time I’m going to deal with objections evangelicals have with mainline denominations. Here’s one for today:

Don’t serve in a mainline denomination. You may lose your family. Who will your wife associate with? Who will your kids grow up with?

This is a common objection. A man is responsible for his household and there is nothing more important than your family. If a man can’t effectively lead his own home, he isn’t fit to govern the church (1 Tim. 3:4-5). My father in law once gave me great advice when it came to discipling children. I was marveling at the fact that both of his daughters were not just surviving as Christians, but had flourishing faiths. He told me that his philosophy of parenting was to treat the faith of his daughters like a wheel. In order for a wheel to work, there has to be numerous spokes. If one or two of those spokes failed, it was ok, because there were other spokes to support the rest of the wheel. He said that his goal as a parent was to provide as many spokes as he could, realizing all the while that a few of them would not work out. My wife, for example, definitely had one of those spokes fail her, but still has a flourishing faith because of the other intentional connections that he provided for her.

I bring this up to show that while the church is a normal means of discipleship for a wife and family, we live in a fallen world and sometimes things don’t work out the way we plan them to. I know plenty of people who have gone to great churches but haven’t been able to make the right connections. It’s not as if going to a great church is a guarantee of great friends and a spouse. Friendship, like many things in life, are a chasing after the wind, a la Solomon in Ecclesiastes.

The larger problem with this objection is the affect it would have on missions. The same argument applied to mainliners could equally be applied to church planters and missionaries. How could you send your family to Papua New Guinea to preach the gospel? It’s dangerous! Your wife won’t be able to go to a Beth Moore small group. Your kids won’t go to Muskoka Woods with all their church friends each summer. I can hear John Piper groaning in the background.

Last year I read D.A. Carson’s biography of his father, Tom Carson, who spent his whole career ministering ‘unsuccessfully’ in Quebec. Carson grew up being bullied by Catholics in church plants that never seem to have grown beyond 30 people. Should Tom Carson have packed up and moved to an area of Canada where there were more evangelical churches? Well, he didn’t because he felt called to preach the gospel to unreached areas of Quebec. Similarly, evangelicals in mainline groups may feel a similar call to preach the gospel, not just to an area, but to a particular gospel-less congregation, and sometimes, even to a gospel-deficient elder board.

It seems then that what’s good for Samoa is good for St. Andrew’s by the Gas Station.