This is my third part of a series of blogs answering the question of “Why?” One of the questions I get is “why is Pantano a non-denominational church?” First, to be absolutely clear, I do not believe that denominations are a bad thing. Denominations do provide some helpful things for many churches. And we work cross-denominationally here and around the world.
But here’s why we started as a non-denominational church. We are part of a movement of churches that back in the late 1700’s on the American frontier decided they wanted to break down denominational barriers (the barriers were stronger back then) and focus on unity. This movement sought to focus on the essential truths and doctrines of the Bible (like Jesus as the Son of God and our only Savior, the authority of the Bible, etc.) while allowing for disagreements on the non-essential matters and practices. Why? So we could work together in unity to reach a world that didn’t know Jesus. We believe today, as they did way back then, that we were better together than apart. We take seriously Jesus’ words in John 13:35 that people will know we follow Jesus because of our love for one another and his prayer for our unity in John 17.
So for over 50 years, our church has sought to work with all churches that share the same basic beliefs about God, Jesus and the Bible, even though we may have some beliefs or practices that are different. God needs lots of churches, of different sizes, with different practices to reach as many people as we can. Pantano won’t be a good fit for everyone. That’s okay. We are a foundational part of 4Tucson and join the city church so we can make a difference in our community and advance the kingdom of God.
Here’s how it works for our church in a practical way. There are just some beliefs that we insist that we have unity about. You can read them on our website under Our Beliefs. There are six basic beliefs any true follower of Jesus can agree with. We refer to these as the essential beliefs that we all share in order to have a basic unity in our church. If someone doesn’t agree with these, then they have decided that we are not a church they want to be a part of.
Now, we all have many, many more beliefs than those six points. We hold various ideas regarding the end times, how the Holy Spirit works, how assurance of salvation looks and so on. And it is in these areas that we often honestly disagree based on our own sincere study of God’s Word. So I (we) encourage good honest study of the Bible together to try and understand what the Bible is saying. But the fact is we will disagree over some of these doctrines, as the church has for for the last 2000 years. But those disagreements of “non-essential” doctrines should not divide us. Truth and grace always go together.
So we are free to work with and associate with churches and ministries from many different denominational and non-denominational backgrounds to further and expand the kingdom of God. But that doesn’t mean we are without accountability. I lead our staff and our church. But I’m accountable to our elders (mature men of faith) who love our church and have the power and responsibility to guide our church and me in a direction that is consistent with our beliefs and vision. They are affirmed by the congregation. They have the power to hire and fire the Lead Pastor. They evaluate me and the direction of our church on a regular basis. And they support and protect me as well.
I love our church. I love the simplicity of how we are organized that allows us to focus on the mission and vision God has given us. Thanks for being a part of a group of people who are far from perfect, but striving to know and follow Jesus to the best of our ability.