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There is never a dull moment when the Wax family gets together. We are all opinionated, loud, and passionate. Just ask our spouses. Or our kids.

We have never been the kind of family who gets together at holidays and birthdays and wastes time with chitchat. Polite conversation is boring. So we tend to focus on subjects you’re not supposed to discuss in polite company. Politics and theology dominate.

Sometimes, when I see my family going at it, I wonder if I’m witnessing a microcosm of the Southern Baptist Convention, my denominational family.

My grandparents are staunch conservative Baptists. Christians shouldn’t go to movies, which means they won’t babysit our kids if that’s where we’re going!

My parents would line up pretty closely with the recent “Traditional Statement” on Baptist soteriology, although I suspect Dad might have some quibbles with Article 2.

Mom is a premillennial dispensationalist, which tends to influence the timing of when she serves dessert.

And then there’s us kids. I’m the oldest, so I need to take responsibility for being the one who started all these discussions by questioning much of what I was taught in American Christianity. (Five years overseas will do that to you.) Today, soteriologically speaking, I’m about where W. A. Criswell was, but I’ve got a soft spot for high church liturgy and a major man-crush on the late G. K. Chesterton.

My younger brother is an Iraq war veteran, a deacon in his church, and a Sunday School teacher. He’s the most politically involved, and he keeps us all politically informed. I call him the “Richard Land” of the Waxes.

Then there is my sister and her husband. Their church is elder-led. They lead a community group. They’re personally okay with Christians who drink in moderation, which horrifies my mother to the point she might take up drinking, were it not for her stance on total abstinence. They’re vegans too, but I don’t think that has anything to do with anything, except that we never know what to cook when they’re coming.

My youngest brother is a recent college graduate. When we talk theology, he sounds like someone put John Calvin and Stanley Hauerwas in a blender. The result is that he is the strongest Calvinist and Anabaptist in the family. For a while, we battled over pacifism (irony, I know), but “just war” theory won the day. Whew! Close one.

So…when you put us all at the table during the holidays, you can imagine our conversation topics:

  • Election – God’s election or the next U.S. election, take your pick
  • Debates over the rapture that last so long I’m convinced we’ve begun the millennium
  • Alcohol, abstinence, and wisdom
  • Capital punishment
  • War
  • Christian political involvement
  • Patriotic displays in church
  • Extent, intent, sufficiency of the atonement
  • Open communion, closed communion, and everything in between
  • Church polity and structure
  • Lord’s Supper – sacrament, ordinance, how often?
  • Age of accountability
  • Baptizing young kids

When we have guests, they say things like, “You guys don’t hold back.” But then they also say things like, “The only thing more surprising than the intensity of your discussions is the obvious underlying commitment you have to one another.”

I guess that’s what I love most about my family. We are more passionate about each other than we are about our ideas. We’re united without being uniform.

During the past few weeks, we’ve all been cheering on my sister as she leads a Bible study with three unsaved women. We’ve been praying for my mom’s manicurist for years. Whenever we lead someone to the Lord, we celebrate over email. Dad is in his fifties, but he wants to plant a church to reach unbelievers. Grandpa may not go to movies, but he’s spending his retirement years printing Bibles for other countries. You see, the mission matters more than our family debates.

I wish denominations were a little more like family. I wish we’d sit across the table more often from precious saints who don’t always see things the same way. I wish our passion for each other was stronger than our passion for our pet preferences. I wish we’d cut each other some slack instead of nitpicking each other to death. And I wish the fervor of our denominational debates was matched by our fervor for evangelism.

We are family. Because of Christ’s death, we share the same bloodline. Because of Christ’s resurrection, we share the same power. Because of His ascension, we share the same mission. So let’s act like it. Let’s live in the unity Christ bought for us and love each other fiercely, even more fiercely than we sometimes disagree.

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17 thoughts on “Denominations Ought to Be More Like Family”

  1. Lynn Drewry says:

    Trevin, I think you have said something here that pinpoints a critical need in our SBC! In my opinion, our internal bickering in recent years has created a distraction from our mission. Thank you for this article.

  2. Sue Lee says:

    Thanks Trevin! Well said!!

  3. Michael says:

    I think this is one of the best things you’ve ever written.

  4. Crystal Godfrey says:

    Absolutely wonderful article, Trevin!

  5. Adrian Wallace says:

    Excellent article.

    This is an issue that I feel particularly called to help eradicate. I truly believe that with the traditional church losing its vigor and sadly, its young members…the Church just may begin to look again like the Acts 2 church that we should all desire. We must, though, reach out to these distraught Millennials in love and bring them back to their Savior.
    I hate to blame our elders for their zeal for Christ, though it may have been overzealous, in fact pushing Christ right out of the center. I look to Revelation 2:1-4, when Jesus commends the church at Ephesus for all it has done, yet he has one issue with them, as they have left their first love.

    We are IN FACT one big family, united in Christ and we can do so much more working together to win souls to Christ, which must be the main thing.

    “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”
    -Rupertus Meldenius

  6. Trevin,
    This is a great post. This is how denominations ought to work. Sadly, I am at a faithful church that is a denomination that has lost the mission. How do you act as a family when part of it doesn’t properly acknowledge the Father by honoring the Son and his Word? Are you still family with all of it? When basic theology (and therefore basic paternity) is up for grabs, then sitting at the table becomes awkward. I’m thankful that the SBC is in a position for this to be a reality. Let’s just pray that they can model this family-style denominationalism in the future for the rest of their brothers and sister struggling with the strife that comes with the hard work of shepherding the people of God.

  7. Mark says:

    Good thoughts. I am hard core reformed/presbyterian but I also know the body of Christ is bigger than that. My concern is though that even in local churches we don’t excercise enough the love of Christ with the people we see regularly. Jesus said men will know we our Christians in that we love one another. I fear we often don’t look all that Christian. I’m criticizing myself here too. I also doubt we can show the love of Christ across denominations any more than we show it in our local churches. We (I) need to work a lot harder me thinks.

  8. Jeff Higgins says:

    Hi Trevin,

    Thanks so much for this and so timely, I just began preparation for a sermon on Psalm 133 today and then this article popped up. Would you mind if I quoted the following in the sermon –

    “We are family. Because of Christ’s death, we share the same bloodline. Because of Christ’s resurrection, we share the same power. Because of His ascension, we share the same mission. So let’s act like it. Let’s live in the unity Christ bought for us and love each other fiercely, even more fiercely than we sometimes disagree.”?


  9. Dave Miller says:

    This one goes in the blogpost Hall of Fame!

    1. Trevin Wax says:

      That’s an honor, Dave!

  10. Phil says:

    Ok, here’s the real burning question:

    Why is no one wearing shoes? :)

  11. Nick Carraway says:

    A truly beautiful, hilarious and profound post. Thanks!

  12. Nick Carraway says:

    Just a follow-up… Could the embrace of the Gospel Coalition be widened just a smidgen so folks (such as myself) who are still wrestling with tulips but are thrilled by the values, foundations and spirit of the movement felt welcome?

  13. Adam Davis says:

    Sounds like your family would get along with my family. When we get together, we have these same discussions (theology, politics, sports, and more theology) with great passion, and yet, great love and respect for one another. I absolutely LOVE IT. I am challenged and strengthened through the intense gauntlet of conversation. Thanks for sharing!!!

  14. Trevin this is great. You won’t get a million “atta boys” because controversy seems to sell at a much higher level than positive correctives… But for what it’s worth- “Atta Boy Trevin”

  15. Love this so much. Thanks Trevin.

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Trevin Wax

​Trevin Wax is Bible and Reference Publisher at LifeWay Christian Resources and managing editor of The Gospel Project. You can follow him on Twitter or receive blog posts via email. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

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