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Monday, December 15, 2014

Why Are We So Willing To Keep Dividing The Body Of Christ?

Last I checked there was reportedly about 41,000 Christian denominations.  That number is up from an estimated 21,000 in 1982.  (Wow! In thirty-two years the number of Christian denominations have almost doubled!) The names of these groups range from Amish to The Way, with thousands in between and perhaps there are even others before and after those names, which I'm unaware of.  This number includes churches that are Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox and whatever else.

Nearly one third of the population of Earth claim 'some form of Christianity'.  Yet it seems that just about every church sees things a little differently, and some a lot differently.  Personally, I'm not sure God recognizes denomination!  Jesus said He would build His Church upon the rock of truth that; He is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.  Most, if not all, denominations have been built by man and not so much upon that rock, but other bits of truth that we feel are important. Yet God does have a people who are His.  Perhaps that Church includes people who are members of each of these denominations. Certainly our denominations aren't what it takes to save anyone and there is a purpose in the world for the Church to fulfill, but I'm not sure denominationalism is  really helping.

I've asked myself, are these designations useful?  Perhaps denominations within the Church serve a purpose.  Because of denomination, we can go to a church in one location and then another and have a similar experience, even hearing similar doctrine. For example, you can go to a Southern Baptist Church in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and hear basically the same doctrine as if you attend a Southern Baptist Church in Seattle, Washington. Just as you could attend an Anglican Church anywhere in the world and find similar faith.  The worship styles may differ, the length of service may not be the same, the culture may impact the proceedings, yet the basic doctrines are usually standardized within each individual denomination.  From a human perspective, it may serve a purpose.

Why do we keep dividing ourselves though?  There is only one true church. What does 41,000 different sets of beliefs do for the one who is looking for Christ?  And how does this dividing benefit the Kingdom of God in the grand scheme of things?  These are all valid questions that seem to recirculate over and over in my mind.  I'm sure I'm not the only one who thinks on these things.

So what should we do?  Should we stop attending denominational churches? Should we stop attending church altogether? (Not necessarily, and No.)  Certainly Jesus foresaw this.  He even addressed it!  God's word forbids us to stop assembling ourselves together in Hebrews 10:25.  We need each other desperately... And divisions within the church were addressed in the Bible on several occasions, first by Jesus himself and then by the Apostle Paul.

In John 17:20-23 Jesus prayed for all believers.  He prayed that we be one, even as He and His Father are one.  That is amazing unity!  They are so united we cannot distinguish where Jesus ends and the Father begins, because they are one.  Jesus claimed that by unity within the Body of Christ, the world will see that He was truly sent by the Father.  Division in the Church then, hinders our advancement of the gospel and ultimately our presentation of Jesus Christ as God's Savior for a lost world.

In 1 Corinthians 1:10, the Apostle Paul said, "I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought."  He continued the thought in Chapter 12 when he told us there were many different parts of the body, with differing functions, but that all were important and there should be "no schism", or formal divisions within the Body of Christ.  Ephesians 4:3-6 also tells us to make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

So, again, what should we do? Why are we so willing to keep dividing the Body of Christ?  Most of our divisions are caused by human pride.  Yet, I think the answer to our division is simple.  It's a four letter word that we say easily, yet find more difficult to live out.  A word that can only be lived out if we are living a Christ-Centered life. I believe the answer is love.  Jesus said in John 13:34-35, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

What about that church that baptizes differently? "As I have loved you, so you must love one another."  What about the church who meets on a different day of the week? "As I have loved you, so you must love one another."  What about the church that seems to exploit or manipulate the goodness of God's grace? "As I have loved you, so you must love one another."  What about that church that speaks in tongues?  What about that church that doesn't? "As I have loved you, so you must love one another."

Let God deal with all that... Just love.  It's not your church anyway, it's His. We have a purpose in the world that must be completed... So love!  Instead of looking at how different we are, we should remember the admonition of Jesus to his disciples in Mark 9:40, "whoever is not against us is for us"...and we should love.

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