Last week an article written by Cathy Runyon appeared in the Ottawa County Advance. The Advance has recently changed their method of distribution, so perhaps you saw the article, or perhaps you didn't. Cathy met with a few of us in leadership at Lighthouse to discuss some of the facts surrounding our recent decision to become a non-denominational congregation, disaffiliating from the Reformed Church in America. Because we have heard several rumors about what is really happening at Lighthouse and why we have made this decision and how it will affect our ministry in the future, we believed it was important to get some facts out into the public arena. Since we have been involved in a process to withdraw from the RCA for more than a year now, we have tried at all times to give to the congregation and to anyone who asked the honest reasons for our actions. While others may mis-interpret or misrepresent the motives for our actions, it has been and continues to be our utmost desire to glorify God, to build up His Church and to advance His kingdom by proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all people. To do anything less would be to dishonor Christ and to find ourselves failing in our mission to make disciples who will love God and live in obedience to His Word as His Spirit works within them.
Cathy did a great job of hearing and reporting not only what we said, but our hearts as well. Our desire to be non-denominational has everything to do with reaching out to ALL people with the Gospel. To love Jesus is to love His Church ... not just part of it (a denomination), but ALL of it (the Church that is made up of those who believe in Jesus Christ from every people, nation, tribe and tongue). Denominations have become barriers for many. They seem (and often are) divisive. Desiring to stand on the truth of God's Word in all things, they seem to start out being faithful to Christ and then to drift toward cultural trends, interpreting Scripture through the lens of the culture, rather than allowing Scripture to speak to the culture. There are good things about denominations and there are good people and faithful Christians in denominations. But the Church is bigger than denominations, and more important than denominations. Denominations, ultimately, are organizations designed to gather like-minded believers together for common purposes. When committed to the truth of God's Word and reaching the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, they can be powerful instruments in God's hands. But denominations can and often do become inwardly focused, even while doing things together with others in their denomination to reach out to the world. People in different denominations hesitate to cross denominational lines, and in communities around our nation the body of Christ is hopelessly divided.
Jesus prayed in John 17 that His disciples would be "one," as He and the Father are one - one in the truth. That prayer has been answered. Ephesians 4 says there is "one body and one Spirit ... one Lord, one faith, one baptism (the Holy Spirit); one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all" (Ephesians 4:4-6). We are encouraged to "make every effort to KEEP (to maintain) the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." While we have left a denomination, we have not left the body of Christ. It is our prayer that being a non-denominational congregation will allow us to reach people who have grown weary of denominational seclusion and distractions within denominations due to differences of "interpretation" when it comes to the truth of God's Word.
The article in the Advance speaks about just a few things that we have been concerned about in the RCA for the past six years and longer. The Reformed Church in America is associated with the World Council of Churches, which promotes things like "inter-faith dialogue" and a distinctively social gospel. The RCA also has a "Formula of Agreement" with the United Church of Christ, the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, all of whom ordain practicing homosexuals. Repeated efforts have been made by us and others to remove ourselves from these associations, to no avail. Now, with the efforts of a group within the denomination called "Room for All," there are a growing number of leaders and congregations not only tolerating, but endorsing same-sex marriage and homosexual behavior, which the RCA states is "sin," by biblical definition. Where there is no call to repentance for sin (ANY sin), there is no true Gospel, and where there is no church discipline for openly sinful behavior, there is no true Church.
The leadership of Lighthouse has been "fighting" this battle for at least the past six years, through the presentation of overtures to the Zeeland Classis and the General Synod. Believing that God has called us to remove the barrier of denominationalism in order to reach out to our community, and witnessing the steady drift away from biblical authority within the RCA, it became increasingly clear that this is God's will for us at this time, so that we may stand firmly on the truth of God's Word without being distracted by what we believe are unbiblical associations with those who claim to be brothers and sisters in Christ (I Corinthians 5:9-11). We have been urged to "stay and fight," but we believe that God has called us to lead in another way, and that is by declaring Christ's truth and at the same time proclaiming that there is one true Church and calling all those who confess Jesus Christ and who hold to the authority of His Word to come together as one body in Christ. By THIS the world will know that we are His disciples.
It is our prayer that we may better be able to express the true "oneness" of the body of Christ, for which Jesus prayed, and towards which His Spirit leads us, as we move forward as a non-denominational congregation. Our stand on the authority of God's Word continues, as we have added the Cambridge Declaration to our list of standards. We invite all who are seeking truth and who are standing upon God's truth to join us, believing with all our hearts that the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ sets people free from bondage to sin in order to serve the living God! Amazing grace, how sweet the sound!!