- Intro: What are Denominations
Denominations – noun : a recognized autonomous branch of the Christian Church.
A long time ago, in a small part of the world there was a rise of people following a man named Jesus. After He died and was raised back to life He ascended into the heavens to return at a later day. Until that day when Jesus returns his followers were commanded to go out and preach His message to all the world. The people spread like wild-fire under persecution and went to many different lands. However it did not take long for there to develop “branches” of the church based on the preferences of doctrine. These differences can even be seen in the New Testament of the Bible. Check on the issues seen in Acts between Paul and James.
Instead of being one completely unified church in doctrine the church was unified in their salvation but not in their doctrinal standards. Different sects emphasised and debated on many different points. However eventually (over the course of several years) the Church in Rome took its place as being a seat of authority to many different branches of the church throughout the world. Nonetheless, there was still many churches that did not come under the wing and leadership of Rome’s church. The split here is where most clearly identify the development of denominations.
Once denominations started (officially and unofficially) there was no stopping it. The church continued to have shoots that would spring off. Like a tree with many branches all of them were tied to the Savior of the world, but not directly united with each other. While this created many downsides it also established positive aspects as well.
- Denominations are important because
If we display our theology we can let people know if they will have disagreeable upfront
Theology – noun : the study of the nature of God and religious belief. Religious beliefs and theory when systematically developed.
Imagine, if you walked into a coffee shop and found that they only serve drip coffee. For the sake of the story you thoroughly enjoy drip coffee. So much so that you are ecstatic to share this place with your friends. You invite them to your new favorite coffee shop and when you all sit down you see one friend seems quite disappointed. Out of natural concern you question them to figure what is going on. They express that their preconceived notion of coffee was not similar to this and felt that this place did not properly exhibit the true delight of coffee as they had grown accustomed to.
Does coffee taste different in different countries? Yes. The beans grow and there are variations in soil, climate, and other conditions that can alter the taste of the coffee. Personally the Italians serve an amazing espresso, but Italian espresso is nothing like American espresso. There are similarities but there are differences.
It allows people to gauge their essential doctrines to the local church
In the scenario if the coffee shop had indicated that they were drip only and served only certain coffees from around the world your friend would have been less disappointed. Upon being aware of the situation they would have been able to enter with expectations that were more realistic. If however the coffee shop did not have it listed your friend may have had pleasant or unpleasant surprises based on what their expectations were.
When it comes to ways of practicing the Christian faith the same is true. Different denominations focus on different things as more important or worth arguing. There are also parts that they disagree on. Denominations do not tell us everything about that church, but they do tell us certain key points that we can use to gauge what their standards are. Of course there are sub denominations within these denominations and some of that comes down to splits, or branches/expressions of the denomination that have developed over the course of time.
It allows people to not fight and dispute over small matters
Most denominations split over a few small reasons. Occasionally those small reasons are large enough (or potent enough) to cause a complete rift where the two can never be reconciled. This is sad but this can also be a good thing. It can weed out heresy.
Heresy – noun : belief or opinion contrary to orthodox religious (especially Christian) doctrine.
If you like to chose your battles wisely and know what you are entering into before committing denominations can help you with that. Without them you would have to attend each individual church in the world to see what/how their practices differed in to determine your prefered style
- Denominations began:
When discussing when denominations began it comes down to when people declare the separation. It could be as early as the first century and the believers that never really fell into line with all the others in common unity. Or we could push it further to when the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic church split. Perhaps we would declare it further down the line such as during the time of the Reformation. Either way you chose they started in massive swing during and after the reformation.
<Why Denominations began
Most of the things churches will disagree on are minor. Preference of when certain parts of worship happen, the structure of church authority, the responsibility of the lay people, music, building structures, etc.
Other times the splits were over major things. Such as, Who Jesus truly is, baptism, salvation, the eucharist, the trinity, etc. Not all splits were started because people wanted to split. More often than not it was because the group/denomination they were with previously finally kicked them out because they disagreed. We could look on that and shake our heads and think what was wrong with them or we can begin to think of how the pull away from a unified church allowed more and more people to just get up and “leave” because they could. However the great reformers of the church such as Luther, and Calvin did not initially want to leave their churches. They were forced out by the Catholic church. All the Reformation leaders wanted was the church to rid itself of the practices that were unbiblical and to teach the truth.
There were faults on both sides of the aisle. There was corruption, political gain, immoral justification, slander, hatred, biases, affairs, love, marriages, passion, justice, goodness, truth, and education involved in the whole picture. If you saw the big picture you would see it was not a pretty black and white painting. It was muddled with grey, and faded with blurred lines at times. However if we look at it closely there are generally more things to agree on between Christian denominations than to disagree on.
- Why Denominations should disappear
Holy unified, catholic, and apostolic church
What are we as believers called to be? A group of unattached body parts that do not associate with each other? One giant eye? Or maybe only the left hand? I think it is pretty clear that we were called to love one another as believers and that is how the world would know we are something different. (John 13:34-35). If we are called to be one body why are there so many variations and fractions that cannot get along? Perhaps it isn’t about denominations. Perhaps we are united by something completely other that transcends our denominations, preferences, ideals, and supposed “Christian Essentials”. We are to be unified, catholic [adjective (especially of a person’s tastes) including a wide variety of things; all-embracing], and an apostolic (handed down the faith from our predecessors who were given the authority and responsibility of teaching and directing the church).
When will the denominations take up the challenge reach across the aisle and instead of bickering about our differences focus on the things we do have in common? When will the trumpets resound and we find ourselves with people from every tribe, nation, and tongue standing amongst us as believers? Will we not be shocked and humbled for our pride in thinking we were the only way? The only “true” expression of the Christian faith because we are this-or-that denomination. Brothers and sisters… there are uses for denominations but one day Christians will not be separated by denominations. It will be believers and non-believers. Pure contrast, no grey, no shading, no weird denomination that had it all right, and another that had it all wrong. Your KJV only man will be standing right next to the faithful Message Bible reader. Both of them will be shamed by the love of the persecuted believer who never saw the whole Bible but cherished every part they acquired. In the end, denominations… are pointless.
In the end as long as we hold to the essential dogmatics of the Christian faith then we can be considered orthodox in our beliefs. This being said then, we can then proclaim to assuredly be on the right track doctrinally in the Christian faith. Acknowledging where our ancestors have studied and built upon, and even died protecting the core essentials. We can then agree with all other denominations on the dogmatics and hold to our unity in the most important aspects.
Slight diverse doctrines
However due to human opinions and perspectives many different interpretations have come about with the faith. Not everyone can agree on certain issues. Some people find themselves in a path that if they should stay within a church they feel uneasy or disturbed (physically, emotionally, spiritually, or mentally) and are called to worship in peace somewhere else because they acknowledge that they are incapable of properly worshiping in and with whatever practice they have a disagreeance with.
For example if you cannot serve or properly worship under a pastor/priest/father/or elder that allows infant baptism, then instead of causing problems you should either learn to not fight that battle and get over it or move along and find another local body of believers to recharge with. Do not be the person to cause conflict and undermine the authority God has given them.
Difference of opinions
Similar to doctrines, opinions can wrestle against the world of those who try to seek peace between denominations. How old is the earth? Is it odd that there is so much that is going that we will split a church based on the music played with it it? What about dancing? Can Christians watch movies? Does the Bible need to be a particular translation? Is it right to have one man govern an entire denomination? How should church government be done? Can pastors/priests get married? Can a pastor be divorced? Can a pastor be a woman?
Truth be told I think denominations, though they come with their own set of problems, are currently for the better. Why? Because if a local branch of the church holds to a particular denomination, then (but not always) can you have a grasp at the situation you are walking into. It is designed to help you see the multiple expression of the Body of Christ. It is the many body parts that make up the whole. If we did not have denominations it would be every church for themselves or an agreed upon one expression that could never change. Either way people would find it tiring to go to every church in their town just to decide which one would be a good fit for them to serve and worship with. On the other hand if it was only one expression of faith for all, no variety, no diversity, then we would be one giant body part or a very sick church repainting a masterpiece into one consistent grey splotch.