Next year our Denomination celebrates its 50th anniversary. In 1968, at our Oregon City Evangelical Church, we became the Evangelical Church of North America (long name and I’m not sure why we limited ourselves to this continent).
Three words could describe our history as a Conference and Denomination: Dependent, Independent and Interdependent.
DEPENDENT. When we were first organized, we were very dependent on the Conference and Denomination. We looked to it for leadership and direction. The role of the Superintendent was much more central and direct. Jennings Lodge was a gathering point for unity and transformation. This was a time when we launched the “Decade of Extension,” a commitment of the Conference to provide finances for salaries and building payments for a number of new and existing churches. During these infancy years, expectations were high.
INDEPENDENT. In the typical pendulum swing, we moved from dependence to independence; perhaps it was reflective of the changes in our culture as we moved through the 70’s and 80’s, but something happened to move us toward an independent spirit. It may have been the diminishing use of Jennings Lodge and the change in connection there. It may have been that we own our properties. Maybe it was disappointment with the Conference or disillusionment with the “establishment.” Maybe it was a combination of all of those things. The consequence was that our churches grew stronger or weaker without the input of other churches in the Conference and our congregants became less and less familiar with their counter parts.
INTERDEPENDENT. Today, we are experiencing greater interdependence. We realize that we can’t and won’t go it alone. We are better together! Paul talked about this when he wrote the churches in Philippi, “I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now…” (Philippians 1:3-6). I love this word “partnership.” It’s “koinonia” in the Greek, meaning fellowship and sharing things in common. We are doing more and more of that in the Conference. One recent example of this is our “Turn Around Project” where a number of church pastors are meeting monthly for accountability, encouragement and learning. Another example is some of our lay people helping another church cut down trees on the church property. We are partners in the gospel, doing life and ministry together.
BEFORE YOU GO…
Do you agree with my “three word” description of our history as a Denomination? What are some examples of us becoming more “interdependent”? At which stage do you think you and your church are?