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)
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
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 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!