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Why SOOOO Many Denominations?

by  Chris Surber

GomorrahWhy are there so many Christian denominations? It’s because people are really messed up. Divisions in the Body of Christ point us directly to our need for Christ.
Divisions among the brethren are the very best evidence of this. Even after a person is born again and grafted into the Body of Christ, he or she may remain in desperate need of the grace of God. And you can’t get that through religious traditions, maintaining an impressive building, or belonging to the right church or family of churches.
In my book Gomorrah Was Religious Too, I wrote, “The Church has become a stockroom for the crumbs which fall from the world’s table, rather than a storehouse for the bread of life. Division, greed, divorce, anger, violence, and brokenness are as rampant in most of the body of Christ as they are in the world.”
Look at how divided the Body of Christ is today. We call it diversity and pretend that God is pleased with the weird variety of church options available to would be church goers on Sunday mornings. “Diversity in the Body of Christ” is a phrase that means, “We don’t want to admit that we can’t even get along with ourselves!” God surely isn’t pleased with the division in the Body.
While it’s true that we can learn from every expression of the Church, those various “expressions” are all examples of people insisting on their way over unity among the brethren. I love to study Church History because we learn from wise sages and profound saints. But we also learn that our history is one of prideful assertion that we can figure this following Jesus thing out entirely on our own.
In this series of three blog posts my heart has been to provoke thought in the direction of seeking unity in the Body of Christ. There is a lot more than can be said on the subject, but I want to leave you with this one thought. These aren’t merely thoughts. I’m living it. I’m seeing it played out in my life and ministry.
A couple of years ago I founded a ministry for Haiti called “Supply and Multiply” (www.supplyandmultiply.com) that has allowed me to watch a network of churches, individuals, friends, and supporters from various denominations and church traditions come together to support our work bringing the love of Christ and the Gospel to Haiti. It’s been amazing to watch God at work. It is astonishing to see people from such varied traditions as Pentecostal to Southern Baptist partner in direct ways to see the unifying Gospel go forward in Haiti.
The Gospel is unifying. The truth of Christ can bring His people together. It will always be hard work. It will always involve sacrifice. But it brings with it the beauty of seeing God at work on a level far deeper than brand loyalty. Why are there so many denominations? Because we are imperfect and sinful. What can bring unity? Only the love of Christ lived out in simplicity in honest fellowship with other broken sinners honestly responding the call of Jesus to follow Him together.


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One Comment

  1. I’m wondering if the problem is the number of different denominations, or more the way people in different denominations think of and treat one another.
    I personally don’t think denominations, as they are now, are divinely appointed institutions. I’m appalled at the tribalism that results. One might think this didn’t happen in mainline churches, but I frequently hear, “We only want to have approved United Methodist material here.” And this is from people who probably don’t approve of much that the approved material contains. But it’s ours.
    Yet if denominations were simply groupings for accountability and to gather the resources to do greater things than a single congregation can do, it seems to me they could be part of fulfilling God’s plan.
    You say that “…. those various “expressions” are all examples of people insisting on their way over unity among the brethren.” But I suspect that most of the people who split felt that their way was more godly and that the other group was off on a wrong and possibly dangerous track.
    Consider the United Methodist Church right now on the issue of homosexuality. Words like “schismatic,” “heretic,” and “division” are thrown out by just about all parties, and yet each “schismatic,” whether left, right, center, or rejecting such labels, believes that he or she is pursuing right against wrong. Where does pursuit of unity stand in this discussion? When it’s a “carpet color” type argument, I can certainly join the unity chorus. When it’s a matter of principle, and it is to both sides, where does one stand?
    I hate engaging in an argument with one of my authors. Consider this “unofficial” discussion! But I’d like to hear your take on this.

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