On Sunday morning, we sang the hymn “Heaven Came Down and Glory Filled My Soul” in worship. My wife Rita and I glanced at each other and exchanged smiles. When I was a student pastor in Texas, the church where we worshipped on weekends loved this song. We were not familiar with it when we first went there and Rita, who was the pianist (of course), had to get the hang of it. Once she did, they wanted to sing it every Sunday.
Sunday afternoon Rita asked, “I wonder if that that church is still there?” I went to the Baptist General Convention of Texas website and did a search, but the name of the church did not come up. I began to speculate about what might have happened.
Perhaps the church just closed its doors. They were small 50 years ago and only had a few families. Maybe they could no longer support the church.
Another possibility is that they had gone independent or joined a more conservative Baptist group and no longer identified with the BGCT. It happens.
Of course, it could be that no one wants to fill out all that information for the denomination any longer. It hardly seems worth the effort to a busy church member.
What might have happened to that church on a micro-scale is happening on a macro-scale. Denominations have splintered with new offshoots and permutations. Many churches still carry the denominational name but don’t really participate in local, state, and national bodies any longer. Others have dropped the denominational name for public relations purposes and have weakened their tribal ties in the process.
This is not necessarily a generational thing. I know a number of millennials who have moved to religious tribes with much stronger connectional ties than those of Baptists. Their choice was often motivated by a desire to find opportunities to serve that were denied to them in the denomination that nurtured them.
This is not an argument that denominations are dead, but they are evolving as churches as well as individuals exercise the freedom of choice about which tribe they choose for fellowship and ministry. In all honesty, this may be another sign that the Spirit of God is moving in a unique way to further the Kingdom. Perhaps this diaspora is enriching the church as a whole.
(This post originally appeared here on August 2, 2016.)