Denominations. Where did they come from anyway? Why are there so many of them? Why can’t we all just get along? And is it possible for the different denominations to coexist and serve God together?
I’m VERY blessed to go to a church in which a variety of different denominations not only coexist really well, but also worship and serve God together as ONE body of believers.
It really is a beautiful thing to see and an even more beautiful thing to be part of!
But that’s not really the experience of most local congregations. It isn’t even the expereience of most denominations.
In our Christian circles we say things like, “Well, we’re all going to spend eternity together so we might as well get along while we’re here.” But we really don’t make any attempt to coexist.
If you look around, you don’t see too many churches crossing the very visable denominational lines, that have somehow been drawn in the sand, in order to minister together for the sake of winning a community to Christ or to worship the Living God together.
What we do see are churches of different denominations flying solo as a congregation with no interest whatsoever in linking hearts and hands with the church down the street to reach those living in the neighborhoods that surround them.
To be honest, I never noticed that before. I just functioned where I was without thought of how the body of Christ might really be one as Jesus prayed that we would.
No schism. Just one church.
But that isn’t reality, is it?
Instead, we choose to remain isolated entities that claim to be superior because one thinks they know more than another or has something another doesn’t have.
- Some baptize babies. Others don’t.
- Some speak in unknown tongues. Others don’t.
- Some speak in unknown tongues but require an interpreter. Others don’t.
- Some offend others by saying they are “Spirit filled” implying other denominations aren’t. Others say they are “Spirit led” and therefore are “Spirit filled.”
- Some say there is a 2nd baptism of the Holy Spirit. Others say there is only one baptism of the Holy Spirit but many fillings.
- Some lean more towards Calvinism. Others lean more towards Arminianism… some even stand in the middle of both lines of thought and believe a little of both.
- Some believe you aren’t allowed to wear makeup and you have to wear skirts. Others have no problems with wearing makeup and jeans.
- Some won’t permit women to cut their hair, others don’t even give it a thought.
- Some are elder led, some are pastor led, some are deacon led and some are led by the hierarchy of the denomination.
- Some do communion weekly. Others don’t.
- Some have contemporary music. Others are very traditional or liturgical.
- Some are pre-tribbers. Some are mid-tribbers. Some are post-tribbers.
So many differences. Yet ONE CHURCH!
So, where did all the denominations come from anyway? We don’t really find denominations in Scripture… or do we?
Let’s examine it biblically.
BELIEF: Denominations are unable to coexist.
- “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, lest anyone should say that I had baptized in my own name.” 1 Corinthians 1:10-15
- “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” Psalms 133:1
- “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.” 1 John 3:14
- “ For in the first place, when you assemble as a congregation, I hear that there are cliques (divisions and factions) among you; and I in part believe it, for doubtless there have to be factions or parties among you in order that they who are genuine and of approved fitness may become evident and plainly recognized among you.” 1 Corinthians 11:18-19
- “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father,are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.” John 17:20-21
- “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Ephesians 4:4-6
For time’s sake, we won’t go back to the early New Testament church. But let’s start with the denominations that evolved from the Protestant Reformation. With a bold move, Martin Luther nailed the 95 Thesis on the door of the Catholic church to proclaim, amongst other things, that salvation was by faith and not by works. It was a movement to reform the Roman Catholic Church during the 16th century. From that, four major divisions of Protestantism (from the word ‘protest’) emerged: The Lutheran, Reformed, Anabaptist, and Anglican churches were all different denominations that formed from the Protestant Reformation.
Much like we find in 1 Corinthians 1:12, many denominations were named after church leaders. The Lutheran denomination was named after Martin Luther. The Methodist denominations was named after its founder, John Wesley, because he was famous for coming up with methods for spiritual growth. Presbyterians are named for their view on church leadership and the find the basis for their name from the Greek word for elder, which is presbyteros. Baptists were named after the fact that they sought to focus on biblical baptism as the standard for all baptisms.
When is the last time your church joined the church down the street to reach out to and/or pray for your community? It isn’t happening. But maybe you can be part of the solution. Perhaps you can become an agent of change.
1. What if churches within a 10 mile radius would strategize together to try to reach their community?
2. What if churches organized events together to minister to their communities or to worship together?
3. What if churches didn’t wait for a big conference to come to town before they meet, pray and worship together?
4. What if churches in each community would schedule time to meet and pray together for the salvation of their community and the good of the country?
5. What if we wouldn’t be put off by our differences but driven to know God’s Word more because of them?
6. What if we loved each other well and our love for one another would cause the world to know we are Christians by our love rather than wonder what we’re about because of our bickering and backbiting?