This is the part where I usually make up a story related to the post. But today I’m going to share a true story from my own life.
I was raised happily by parents who love God. Throughout my life, as we moved from town to town and country to country, we found and joined baptist and brethren churches.
One fateful day, we moved a move that made all previous moves seem insignificant. We came to Cambodia.
Finding a church here was difficult, to say the least. We spent months at one particular church, before finally leaving it on account of underlying issues that we felt were dishonoring to God. Then we found a second church and tried to settle there. But again, there were major issues beneath the surface.
One Sunday morning, our family gathered in our living room. Mom and dad chose a sermon from Youtube. It was just the five of us.
Unbeknownst to us, a Mennonite friend was running some errands on our side of town. Before he returned to his house, he felt a small voice in his heart, prompting him to visit his friends and invite them to his home church gathering.
Partway through our “Youtube church”, we heard a knock at our door.
Since that day, we’ve been worshipping with our Mennonite friends each Sunday.
The Church is one body
Here is google’s definition of “denomination”:
a recognized autonomous branch of the Christian Church.
Denominations differ from one another by slightly different sets of beliefs. However, all little-c church denominations share these foundational beliefs:
- There is One sovereign, creator God who is three persons in one: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
- All humans are born sinners since the “fall” of mankind, and our punishment is hell.
- Jesus is the God the Son, fully God and fully man. He lived a sinless life on earth, died a real death, and rose to life three days later.
- Salvation from sin and hell comes through Jesus alone and is freely given to all who surrender to the lordship of Jesus.
- An eternal heaven awaits those who surrender to Jesus, and an eternal hell awaits those who do not.
These foundational, common truths bring all little-c churches together as the capital-C Church. God wants the Church to be united:
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
We can’t deny that denominations believe differently about issues of secondary importance (baptism, head covering, gifts of the Spirit, etc). However, they should be united by something much more important: all members of the Church serve One God.
Denominations: good or bad?
I believe that denominations are one of those things that can be helpful or harmful depending on the attitude that a person fosters towards them and the approach that they take.
On the one hand, they may cause tension and division among the capital-C church. They may cause people to fight over issues of secondary importance, when God wants us to “be completely humble and gentle” and to “be patient, bearing with one another in love”.
But on the other hand, they help believers to surround themselves with people who share their convictions.
Which denomination has it right?
The thing is, each denomination believes they have it right based on the Bible. But there is an ultimate truth and not everyone can be right at same time. We need to all recognize this. Those of us who have identified ourselves with a particular denomination need to consider our own beliefs with humility and others’ beliefs with grace.
It all comes back to Ephesians 4:2-6.
- Do you see denominations as bad or good?
- Do you identify yourself with a particular denomination?
- How can Christians get along when they believe different things?
- How can we foster gracious attitudes towards people of other denominations?
Resources for deeper digging
Psst! For more on:
- What a denomination is: see this article from GotQuestions.org
- Whether it’s okay for there to be different denominations: see these two articles from DesiringGod.com (here and here)