Is Having All These Christian Denominations Good or Bad?

 


churches

I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Corinthians 1:10-13)

The passage above often describe as the first denominations being formed in the Christian church.  The Apostle Paul is responding to this development in his first letter to the church in Corinth which is now known as 1 Corinthians in our Bible.  Today, according to wordpress.com in an article written four years ago, there are about 40,000 denominations or Christian organizations.  Is this what God intended for what Jesus referred to as “My church”?  Below are four of my observations about denominations for you to chew on (whether or not you swallow is up to you).

It’s Human Nature to Choose Sides

Denominations are inevitable because we are not yet perfected.  When we begin seeing our denomination as a source of pride or superiority in the Body of Christ, it begins to become a negative. We begin seeking what Baptists think, or what Presbyterians do or the Church of Christ way rather than seeking God.  We begin training ourselves to defend our own denomination rather than listening to God’s Spirit.  When I read the verse above I can’t help but think that the factions above are born from acknowledging differences:  Whether it is different teaching styles, different doctrinal emphasis, different spiritual gifts, or simply being baptized by a different leader, they are taking these differences and beginning to divide as a result.  A body has many different parts with many different functions; different spiritual gifts and people who God has given different revelations.  Yet it is our nature to separate ourselves from members of the Body we perceive as different. 

Denominations/Divisions are Not the Ideal

The passage above shows there in Corinth they have four denominations developing and it’s only about 20 years after Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected!  It is evident in this verse that the Apostle Paul is not pleased with this development and refers to it as “divisions.”
 
It is evident throughout the inspired writing of Paul which was recorded and preserved in the Bible that unity amongst all Christians is very important. Christians everywhere are called “the Body of Christ.”
 
Let me give the obvious answers to the questions posed in the passage above:  Is Christ divided?  No!  There is one universal church that assembles in many different local congregations.  “The church” is made up of all individuals who have said “yes” to Jesus Christ as the one they will follow and the one in whom they trust for forgiveness of sins.  These people are also known as “The Body of Christ.”  Was Paul crucified for you?  NO! Jesus Christ was crucified to satisfy God’s wrath against sin.  It was He who paid the penalty for the sin of the world which makes God’s grace available to anyone who humbles themselves and says “yes” to Jesus Christ.  This is what unites us rather than divides us.  Jesus unites us, not:  Church politics, doctrine, teaching style, worship style, or the demonstration of spiritual gifts.  Denominations are not the ideal; so what is the ideal?  All of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.  On to observation number three.

A Body Fighting with Itself isn’t Functioning as Intended

Unity is very important because divisions cause the Body of Christ to be less effective.  Calling all Christians “the Body of Christ” is very significant.  The Body (universal church) is instructed by the Head (Jesus) and it carries out His purposes.  Just this morning my head was instructing my arm, fingers and thumb to repeatedly pick up a mug, lift it to my mouth to give myself numerous sips of a hot beverage.  And, by the way, my body performed this task to near perfection!  I wonder how this might have looked if my body carried out the task while my index finger and thumb were fighting with each other during the entire process?  Oh, I think my mouth might have received some beverage, but it would have been less effective and other parts of the body might have been burned in the process. 

Sometimes the Body of Christ acts as if it has an autoimmune disease.  Autoimmune diseases are characterized by the body’s immune system failing to recognize the real enemy so it attacks healthy parts of the body; which can be debilitating!  We in the Body of Christ do have an enemy, and it is not the Christian church down the street.  Competing, dividing and certainly fighting with other Christian churches causes the Body of Christ to be less effective in the world.  Paul addresses the importance of unity in the Body of Christ in the passage below:

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. (1 Corinthians 12:21-26)

Some Not-so-bad Reasons to Group Up

So, what do we do?  Do we all denounce denominations and go join a local “non-denominational church?”  No, that is certainly not what I am saying.  If you are in a non-denominational church that goes to war against denominations, you are doing the very same thing that the Apostle Paul is admonishing in 1 Corinthians.  God has used denominational churches to do mighty works and considers them a part of “His Church.”   You can certainly be in non-denominational local church and have an attitude that fosters divisions and factions in the Body of Christ.  My guess is that the group in the passage above who declare “I follow Christ” might be categorized like this.  They seem to have it right based on their declaration, but they are being admonished just like the rest.  What this really boils down to is your heart and mind.  What are your attitudes and how do you think?  God is most concerned about our souls (mind, will and emotions) and that is what causes divisions in the church.   
 
Part of what denominations do is pool their resources to fund missionaries, charities and help other churches.  These are all very good things.
 
There will naturally develop different groups in the Body of Christ, because there will be different focuses and interests:  Orphan care, bikers for Jesus, mission focus, etc.  Geography separates us, worship style distinguishes us, language culture.  But we are one Body with one Savior who happens to be the head. 

So What Can We Do About It?

  • Resist the us versus them mentality with other denominations, or churches within your same denomination.
  • Reach out to a person or group of another denomination.
  • Participate or fellowship with a congregation that promotes unity in the Body of Christ.
  • Encourage your church, small group, or family to support a ministry that isn’t directly connected to you.
  • Pray for unity in the worldwide church.

Other ideas or suggestions?  Leave a comment!

 

 

9 thoughts on “Is Having All These Christian Denominations Good or Bad?

  1. In an ideal world, Christians would use the Bible as our instruction book and would all agree as to which denomination has it right. The world isn’t perfect and we don’t agree so I guess we will have these divisions that exist. Even within individual churches, we find the silliest things about which to divide instead of working together and solving our differences.

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    1. Yes…. it seems to be in our nature to find differences and divide. The ideal is to “be united in all things.” Until we get there, I think we should focus on what we agree and view other Christians as a part of the same body; none inferior.

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  2. People are diverse so the divisions are inevitable. We need reminders like your article and messages from the pulpits to keep us pointed in the right direction. Dan, although you are not getting as many responses as you would like, don’t give up on this project. The writings are informative and very enjoyable. We all need the extra help and guidance, so keep it up.

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  3. I do believe that for the most part we all are of the same heart. But what concerns me is whether our hearts are about Jesus or on the business at hand. Where is the urgency that we see in the bible. Great job Danny.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree. Often times we fail to see outside the walls of our church buildings it seems. Another reason to view ourselves as local assemblies in a larger body, the Body of Christ.

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  4. Something that has helped me is to view these issues like a 3 level target. The bullseye contains the non-negotiables of the faith that separate Christians from non Christians. These core beliefs unite us across denominations. The second level contains doctrinal issues that separate the denominations. While there is arguing that occurs over these issues, the positive is that it can drive us to our Bibles to seek some understanding (never a bad thing). The third level represents smaller theological debates that people within the same denomination could have (such as the pre-trib, mid-trib, post-trib debate). I read about this somewhere (can’t remember the author) and approaching it this way helps me when I read about heated theological arguments.

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    1. hollyhill,

      I like that and can’t say that I disagree. I have changed a lot in this area (perhaps better said Lord has changed me). I would draw a hard line after the bullseye as being my only area of real concern. The Apostle Paul said that he pleads with people to receive Jesus for salvation. Then speaking about growing in the faith he says “All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.” (Philippians 3:15) In other words, Paul trusts the Lord to reveal “doctrine” to people. Maybe in some areas the Lord will reveal things to me that others know. I hope to always be open to God’s revelation.

      I also agree that it is great to seek the Lord by searching and studying the Scriptures. But the key is seeking the Lord. The inherent danger in declaring yourself a: Baptist, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Methodist….. is rather than seeking the Lord you seek to defend denominational stances.

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      1. For clarity sake…. I’m not saying that doctrine is not important or that I don’t care what people believe beyond salvation. But, I have much less compulsion to debate doctrine than in years gone by and a much more open mind (I hope) to revelation outside of denominational stances.

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