I recently overheard a conversation two people were having about the impeding split in the United Methodist Church. I surmised from the conversation that they aren’t so united anymore. It was disheartening to hear so much talk about church politics and nothing about reaching the lost or spreading the Gospel.
It is odd that when I often type the word denomination that it is sometimes misspelled demonations. Is that really a coincidence or is there something to that?
In the first century, there were no denominations – only the Lord’s church (Matthew 16:18). Paul said there is just “one body” (Ephesians 4:4), and that body is the church (Ephesians 1:22-23).
The religious folks really line up along their denominational lines and that’s a shame. Why is it that the church has to be so divided and split up so many ways? You also have people who SAY that their church is independent or non-denominational but it is simply yet another division in the church. God never intended for it to be this way.
I heard someone declare once that there won’t be any Catholics in heaven. Seriously? I don’t know anyone has been to heaven and came back to give that report. It seems that God’s people are more divided than ever. If you don’t believe me, just look at the political climate. There’s not going to be a denominational heaven or separate heavens for each church organization. There’s just going to be heaven. That’s it. Fly your church flags as much as you want but it isn’t going to be about anything that man made thinking they have the exclusive revelation from God. Man-made religions have divided God’s people for years. It has become a Christian Tower of Babel where there are so many beliefs and interpretations.
Denominations are all man-made religions. One man or group will get a different “revelation” and then they split off to create yet another organization. Currently there are over 200 various Christian organizations in the United States.
Here are some of the origins of the various major denominations:
- Adventists – Adventism is a branch of Protestant Christianity that believes in the imminent Second Coming (or “Second Advent”) of Jesus Christ. It originated in the 1830s in the United States during the Second Great Awakening when Baptist preacher William Miller first publicly shared his belief that the Second Coming would occur at some point between 1843 and 1844. His followers became known as Millerites. After the Great Disappointment, the Millerite movement split up and was continued by a number of groups that held different doctrines from one another. These groups, stemming from a common Millerite ancestor, became known collectively as the Adventist movement.
- Baptists – Baptists form a major branch of Protestantism distinguished by baptizing professing believers only (believer’s baptism, as opposed to infant baptism), and doing so by complete immersion (as opposed to affusion or aspersion). Baptist churches also generally subscribe to the doctrines of soul competency (the responsibility and accountability of every person before God), sola fide (salvation by faith alone), sola scriptura (scripture alone as the rule of faith and practice) and congregationalist church government. Baptists generally recognize two ordinances: baptism and communion. Historians trace the earliest “Baptist” church to 1609 in Amsterdam, Dutch Republic with English Separatist John Smyth as its pastor.
- Methodists – Methodism, also known as the Methodist movement, is a group of historically related denominations of Protestant Christianity which derive their practice and belief from the life and teachings of John Wesley. George Whitefield and John’s brother Charles Wesley were also significant early leaders in the movement. It originated as a revival movement within the 18th-century Church of England and became a separate denomination after Wesley’s death.
- Presbyterian – Presbyterian churches derive their name from the presbyterian form of church government, which is governed by representative assemblies of elders. The roots of Presbyterianism lie in the Reformation of the 16th century, the example of John Calvin’s Republic of Geneva being particularly influential. Most Reformed churches that trace their history back to Scotland are either presbyterian or congregationalist in government. In the twentieth century, some Presbyterians played an important role in the ecumenical movement, including the World Council of Churches.
- Pentecostal – Pentecostalism is a Protestant Christian movement that emphasizes direct personal experience of God through baptism with the Holy Spirit. The term Pentecostal is derived from Pentecost, the Greek name for the Jewish Feast of Weeks. For Christians, this event commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the followers of Jesus Christ, as described in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles.
- Evangelicals – Evangelicalism is a worldwide, trans-denominational movement within Protestant Christianity which maintains the belief that the essence of the Gospel consists of the doctrine of salvation by grace, solely through faith in Jesus’s atonement. Its origins are usually traced to 1738, with various theological streams contributing to its foundation, including English Methodism, the Moravian Church (in particular its bishop Nicolaus Zinzendorf and his community at Herrnhut), and German Lutheran Pietism. Preeminently, John Wesley and other early Methodists were at the root of sparking this new movement during the First Great Awakening.
And those are only the top ones. There isn’t enough room to list all 200 in this blog. Let’s just say there are a lot of versions of the Christian church in America.
The trouble is “holy and religious” people who get a vision something special that others reject so they rally their own followers. No wonder that today’s church lacks the power that the New Testament church had. Instead, you have wackos that declare whatever they are declaring against the animal kingdom, marine life and speaking in tongues that make absolutely no sense but only do it to so us how spiritual they are.
Here is one of the simplest charts I have found on the various groups:
For the first 40+ years of my life I was part of an organization which had been split from the Church of God. This group taught that we were the TRUE church and that we were the “Bride of Christ”. We were the only ones that had a church flag. We were the “chosen ones”. Sounds a bit cult-like don’t you think? Then in the 1990s our church was deciding about the wearing of wedding rings as well as the issue of divorce and remarriage. Wedding rings or any jewelry had previously been prohibited. This change caused yet another group split off from the church and took their people with them.
With all of this bickering over doctrine and positioning for power within church organizations, the church lost sight of its true purpose. When I hear people say they don’t believe in organized religion I can’t say that I blame them. Organized religion has done nothing but create divisions. There is nothing organized about them.
Am I saying you shouldn’t go to church? No. That’s your decision. Some people NEED church. I won’t say that all churches are bad but I think the denominational separations hurt the influence of God’s church. I once attended a meeting where various denominations came together for a church service and the first guy that got up made a statement I have never forgotten. He said: “I am proud of my denomination. It has given me a pulpit to preach it.” Wow. That defeated the whole purpose behind the meeting.
No wonder people are leaving the church.
Folks I have lived church in my life and I have seen it all. The good, the bad and the ugly. Mostly the bad and the ugly. So I am not surprised to see how divided people are today. This is exactly what Satan has done to the church. By dividing it with over 200 organizations, he has weakened it and it has no power to stand against the world.
It took me a long time to break away from belonging to a church denomination. It was firmly entrenched in my thinking and took some time to fix the faulty thinking I was taught. What did it take? It took a week getting away from the world and going to a monastery where I spent the week in silence, prayer and fasting. No loud preaching and no one speaking in tongues. Just alone in silence with God. That is when I find a REAL personal relationship with Christ. It was nothing tied to a doctrine or traditions handed down to me.
I’m not anti-church, I’m just not ONLY church anymore. Our relationship with God is much more than being aligned to catholic, baptist, Methodists or Church of God groups. I think we will all be surprised who will be in heaven. I often think about my dad who was a strict man and firm believer in the church. I wonder what he thinks now? I am pretty sure he realized that he was a bit too strict about the doctrine and understands more about God’s love.
I have attended many church services when the whole theme was about the reasons that other church organizations were wrong. I have been told that Catholics are wrong because they worship Mary (which is wrong), Baptists believe that once-saved-always-saved (out of context) and others are cults (takes one to know one?). Most pastors and avid church folks like to quote Hebrews 10:25 that has a phrase about “forsake not assembling yourselves together” but it also says “encouraging one another”. I don’t see much of that with the many variations of the church today.
The church doesn’t need to be in competition with each other. It was never about reaching the world so that (insert denominational group here) gets the most church members. It isn’t the church with the most members wins (or goes to heaven) it is those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. It’s as basic as John 3:16. It’s the “whosever” that is important here, not WHERE you go to church. There’s nothing wrong with going to church, let’s just not let church be the reason that we are believers.