Fast forward to after the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, after His ascension, and after the “birth” of The Church, spoken of in Acts. People were coming to faith in Christ, being called Followers of The Way, enduring much persecution, and, eventually called “Christians” first in Antioch. The Apostles went about proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and the “church” grew. We have only a few references in The Bible about church structure and practice, although the Apostle Paul taught well about keeping order and maintaining faith, so as the church grew it certainly developed unique character from place to place.
Whether you recognize the Apostle Peter as the first Pope is not critical, but there was “one” church, thus “catholic”. It became Catholic, with a capital C, as the structure developed and leadership evolved. Emperor Constantine is famous for his effective evangelistic campaign of “convert or die”, so one may question the integrity of some of the converts, but still the church grew as many people genuinely put their faith in Christ Jesus.
Along with genuine converts to faith in Christ, however, there also developed what I’m calling the structure of the church (its organization, leadership, and authority) and thus its power in people’s lives, or, sadly, over people’s lives. Contrary to Jesus’ teaching to His disciples to NOT lord it over the people, it seems this is what man does as he seeks to control his fellow-man. What may have started out as simple economic control soon grew to include much more than money or land, but also lifestyle and a person’s independence. Power over people is a dangerous narcotic, and usually leads to over-dose!
Fast forward to Martin Luther, a Catholic priest unhappy with some of the developments within the church, but with courage to address them. Result? It’s what we call The Reformation! And, in addition to reforming the Catholic Church, it began The Protestant Church, as the protestors “left” the Catholic Church and started “new” churches- protestant churches. This can be very confusing if one still holds to the belief that there is “one Church”, which I do! Let us never lose the truth that The Church is the Bride of Jesus Christ, and that everyone who believes in Him is part of His Church, whether Catholic or Protestant!
Fast forward to today, finally, and we have, quite literally, thousands of Protestant “denominations”. It seems the protestors are not finished protesting, and new ones start up all the time! It gets worse. Add in The Independent Church, or non-affiliated, or non-denominational, if you will, and the problem of unity broadens. We have Episcopal type church structure, from the top down, and Presbyterian type church structure which is from the bottom up, or congregational. We have mixes and blends of these two, just to make sure everyone gets to do it the way he/she wishes. It seems we can receive our marching orders from Headquarters, or we can all vote on a thing, or we can even vote on whether we will accept what Headquarters tells us. Yikes!
What I see when I look back over history is the “move of God” to do a thing. God Almighty “moved” upon Martin Luther, for good, to help the church and not to hurt it. The Lutheran Church, as a Protestant denomination, may have been a result of that move of God, but it was based upon a genuine visitation of the Holy Spirit! I’m sure each denominational historian can point to a move of God to do whatever it was that created their “distinctive” denomination, and I’m sure each of them see it as a positive thing, for the good of man and the good of the Church. In just my lifetime I’ve seen the growth of Calvary Chapels as a “move of God”, as Pastor Chuck Smith simply and passionately wanted people to read and learn the Bible. It was a Bible movement. I’ve witnessed the birth of the Vineyard Churches, through Pastor John Wimber’s passion to be open to the Holy Spirit. I trust you get my point, as there are so many more.
In 1981, Dayspring Christian Fellowship began, as a few folks banded together for a unique and distinctive way to worship and approach the Faith in Jesus Christ. The name Dayspring comes from Luke 1:76, referencing a “visitation” or “move of God”. I like the word “distinctive”, because it does not mean “better”, but unique. We are not a denomination, because we are only one church, and not affiliated with another corporate structure, thus “independent”. We are, however, a part of THE CHURCH, as are all believers in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Our Board of Elders attends to the spiritual needs of our congregation, and our Board of Directors tends to the financial concerns of the corporation. We have the proper “covering” to maintain our integrity and yet allow for balance. We welcome all who wish to worship with us, who will maintain unity and order. We have written By-Laws as required by the State for incorporation, and a Statement of Faith to address our spiritual positions, albeit briefly. The various ministries of the church are, I hope and pray, based upon a “move of God”. We desire to be led by the Holy Spirit, and if He moves this way or that way, well, we want to be sensitive to that and move with Him. This means we are flexible, and not very rigid in our services or practices. This does not mean, however, that we are loose or easily swayed, but that we are serious about “testing” the prophetic, and earnestly desire to follow where He leads.