Friday, March 19, 2021

Why So Many Denominations?

We Are living in unprecedented times. The division. The hostility. Apathy is running rampant. Times are challenging. 

This is true not only in the country but in the church, as well. In reality there has been division in the church world as long as I can recall. Even Paul spoke of division in the church when writing to the Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 1:10-14,16-17 CSB

[10] Now I urge you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, that there be no divisions among you, and that you be united with the same understanding and the same conviction. [11] For it has been reported to me about you, my brothers and sisters, by members of Chloe's people, that there is rivalry among you. [12] What I am saying is this: One of you says, "I belong to Paul," or "I belong to Apollos," or "I belong to Cephas," or "I belong to Christ." [13] Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in Paul's name? [14] I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, [16] I did, in fact, baptize the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don't recall if I baptized anyone else. [17] For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel-not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ will not be emptied of its effect.

Division is the reason we have so many denominations. We have denominations that splinter off and form new denominations. This happens for a variety of reasons. Some valid and some not so much. 

Dr. Todd M. Johnson, Professor of Global Christianity and Mission at Cornwall Theological Seminary, observed several things regarding the institutional church world. “We estimate that Christians are now found in nearly 45,000 denominations.” Think about that - 45,000! These range in size from millions of members to fewer than 100 members and are listed for each of the world’s countries.

Why so many denominations? Throughout the history of Christianity, followers of Christ have struggled to express solidarity and unity. Jesus’ prayer in John 17 was an indication that divisions just might be a problem in the budding Christian community.

While multiple expressions of Christianity have existed from the earliest days of the church, the most serious disagreements resulted in splits that propelled different traditions of Christianity in various directions. 

The earliest splits occurred over culture, doctrine, and theology. Later splits seemed to be based in the idea that each Christian should decide for themselves what “church” should look like. 

A story of a man stranded on a deserted island illustrates one of the issues. After many years, a ship sails close by the island and the man is rescued. The ship’s captain comes ashore, notices three huts that the man built, and asks, “Tell me about these huts.” The man replies, “The first hut is my home, and the second hut is my church.” The captain asks, “What is the third hut?” The man replies, “Oh, that is where I used to go to church.”

We have such a skewed view of what “church” truly is these days. Many want to be the “one in charge” or “the big shot”. They have the attitude “If I can’t get my way or if things don’t go my way I’m leaving. I’ll find someplace else to go. I might even start my own church and do my own thing.”

Whatever happened to church and Christianity being all about Jesus? Our relationship with Jesus is what matters. We need to keep our focus on Jesus. Life would be so much better if we would do this. 

Until next time...enjoy the journey!


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