In the last year, I’ve been asked many times, “How did we get here?”—in reference to our religious landscape. The people asking this question wanted to know why we have so many Christian denominations in America. After reading Why We Belong (referal link), I think I would just hand that person the book and tell them to read it and then we’d discuss it later. Since many of the major denominational shifts happened in the past, many wonder what all the differences mean today. Why We Belong gives the reader a simple digest of origins of the major denominational movements. The views of those represented here all reflect those who hold God’s word to be authoritative, hence the inclusion of basic evangelicalism in every chapter. In a day and age where many question meaning and relevance, this shows the reasons why the different denominations came into existence, while also including why they still believe the Bible to be the word of God and hold to basic orthodoxy.
Also in this book, a reader can investigate without having to hunt and navigate through mountains of denominational writings. This book could be helpful in congregations where people have a wide variety of religious and denominational backgrounds. For example, if a Muslim became a Christian, they might wonder why they were at a Presbyterian church verses a Baptist church. The origins of both can be found and explored in this book.
Also, a new members’ class could use this book to explain why they were a Baptist church verses a Methodist church. A small group could read this book and discuss the differences and hopefully confirm their position or change to another one if they felt it provided a better understanding of scripture.
As a Presbyterian minister, I think I would use this book to act as an introduction to officer/leadership training. We would read the chapter on Presbyterianism and also look at selected parts of the other chapters to explain why we took a different position. Bryan Chapell’s basic description of the distinctive and origins of the Presbyterian Church are simple and concrete.
Rev. Wes Neel (MDiv '10)
Assistant Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church