Denomination or Network?

Denomination or Network?

A few days ago I had the privilege of attending a semi-annual Inter-Denominational Leaders gathering in the Fraser Valley.  Most of the other evangelical churches in BC and the Yukon are served by district leaders and those who normally attend these gatherings serve in a variety of ministry roles similar to mine.  It has been a source of great joy for me to attend these meetings and to represent our churches and ministry organizations amid our evangelical brothers and sisters.

When it came time to share some information about our district network, I made a brief comment that the PAOC did not behave like a typical denomination.  From our inception, Pentecostals were intentionally positioned around five core convictions: the work of global missions, fellowship, spirit-empowered ministry, church multiplication and leadership development.  Early Pentecostals authentically believed in networking; they believed that we were “better together” rather than being isolated.  While some Protestant denominations formed themselves around the core values of church authority, governance, and doctrine, the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada has enjoyed the beauty of voluntary fellowship while sharing in local and global missions, holding onto a corporate spiritual identity and defending several Biblical distinctives.

Recent specialists in church leadership would argue that denominations as we know them today will become obsolete over the next twenty-five years.  These authors go on to state that networks will eventually replace denominations because people value partnerships over hierarchal structure.  Networks focus on resourcing local churches by equipping their leaders to accomplish the mission of God, while denominations traditionally build fences to keep people of dissimilar dogmas out.  I am so glad that the PAOC is a fellowship of self-governing assemblies rather than a centralized denomination that is controlled by their headquarters.

Allow me to take a few moments to explain why I believe the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada behaves more like a network than a traditional denomination.  First, our network of churches have always prioritized relationships over regulations.  Please don't misunderstand me, every healthy family needs to have order and well-defined rules.  We’ve discovered the value of our shared constitution and by-laws which provides our family with healthy parameters for ministerial conduct.  While our constitution and by-laws may appear like a bunch of rules, I have realized how appropriately they protect our churches and prioritize our relationships.  This value is often tested at the very point of a church conflict or personal moral failure.  I can attest that our network deeply values inter-personal relationships and our by-laws support the well-rooted relationships within a bond of love and grace. 

Secondly, our network of churches have always prioritized equipping and resourcing leaders.  During my tenure at the district network office, I have realized how efficiently our resources flow from the supporting churches to leaders who work within our missional priorities of multiplication, health, revitalization and leadership development.  Every month our affiliated churches faithfully remit their tithes and offerings to the network hub, which then empowers our network’s mission and vision.  New churches are being planted every year, next generation ministries continue to reach students and families, leaders from all over the world are being trained and deployed, university and college students are coming to faith in Christ and churches are being revitalized.  Our district network office is simply the ‘hub’ where resources flow freely from givers to receivers. 

Thirdly, our network of churches has always prioritized transformation over information.  We believe it is through a proclamation of the gospel that people are informed of God, but it is through the power of Pentecost that people are transformed by God into the image of His son, Jesus Christ.  I am proud to be Pentecostal.  Not because I belong to a denominational tribe, but because I am part of a movement which connects more than 250,000 people in Canada to a shared Biblical mission and the empowered life of Jesus Christ. 

Thank you for being a valued part of our network here in BC and the Yukon.  You are a treasured part of our network.  Let’s continue to believe God for greater and more powerful results from our fellowship as Pentecostals.