So let me just come right out and say it.
Christian denominations are a really, really bad idea.
In fact, they’re the worst!
I’m not talking about any specific denomination. I’m talking about the very existence of denominations within the Church.
Denominations are part of a system that is rendering the Western Church ineffective, both to its own members and society at large.
1. Denominations directly promote division
Are we the Body of Christ? The theoretical answer is “yes”, but for all practical purposes, we aren’t Christians.
We are Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Pentecostals, Charismatics, Catholics, etc.
And this isn’t just semantics. Most denominations want nothing to do with each other. You can spend a year at any given church and never meet someone from a different church right down the road.
It’s insanity. It’s the opposite of family.
And it’s NOWHERE in the Bible.
Paul didn’t address the believers at the First Apollos Church of Corinth.
No. He addressed the CHURCH at Corinth.
In other words, if you were in the same city, you were part of the same church.
As Christians, we should be working together to bring the world into a revelation of the Father, just as Jesus did.
Instead, we are finding new ways to avoid each other.
2. Denominations discourage family
Family is based on identity. You are my father/mother/uncle/grandmother. I am your son/daughter/nephew/granddaughter.
It’s an inherent part of our identity. There is nothing we can do to change it.
That’s what the Body of Christ is supposed to look like. Family.
But unlike family, Christian denominations do not congregate based on identity. They congregate based on agreement.
You believe the same thing as me, so we can spend time together and develop relationship. You think similarly to me, so everything is dandy and I want you in my life.
But what happens when we stop agreeing?
Church split. Or you just pack up and leave. Simple. I’m offended with your beliefs now, so I’m gone.
That’s not family. That’s not even meaningful friendship.
That’s just “church”.
3. Denominations prevent long-term spiritual growth
So we are getting together based on agreement, right?
Here’s the kicker. Not only does agreement-based church discourage family, but it also prevents long-term spiritual growth.
Just like a small child, brand new Christians often need direct feeding. It’s what Paul refers to as “milk” (1 Cor 3:2).
They don’t really need to be thinking for themselves just yet. They need to learn the essentials from their parents, and given that most Christian denominations agree on “the essentials,” a structured church environment can be a good place for a new believer.
But then they hit the “teenage” years, where it’s time to begin thinking for themselves and putting what they’ve been taught to the test. And just like so many over-controlling parents, many communities of Christians seek to control these believers into thinking as they do.
Denominations further exacerbate this problem, because the institutions themselves are dependent upon maintaining agreement. As a denominational pastor, I know that you aren’t in my church because I’m a spiritual father in your life.
You’re here because you agree with me, and the moment we stop agreeing, you are going to leave.
That means I can’t allow you to think for yourself. I need you to think how I think.
And if everyone is thinking alike, no one is growing.
If everyone is thinking alike, the Church, as a whole, isn’t growing…
4. Denominations prevent Church-wide revelation
Here’s the deal. No one on this Earth has a perfect revelation of God.
Jesus revealed the Father, kickstarting 2,000+ years of relationship. Relationship is never intended to be stagnant. It’s progressive.
God is infinite, and there is always more of Him to explore. His Presence in our life was never intended to be left to the pages of a Book.
He is here, NOW, doing new things and revealing Himself continuously to people all over the world in ways we’ve never imagined.
Denominations are predicated on an idea that we’ve already figured it out. We have all the answers, so it’s time to stop learning and start getting everyone to agree with us.
If we are actually getting to know God more and more each day, our theology should be continuously changing.
Yes, there are many, many things the Bible can tell us, and we should utilize it’s revelation. But our theology was never meant to be based on a book.
I know people who can give me all the stats and info on a celebrity they’ve never met. I know Christians who can give me all the scriptures on a God they’ve never met.
When we all get together and decided we have it all figured out, we are effectively disqualifying ourselves from learning anything new. Which means we aren’t getting to know God any better.
5. Denominations create unnecessary rules that mess people up
As a leader in a Christian denomination, I need my church members to think like I do and do as I do.
But how can I make that happen?
Because we aren’t teaching believers to think for themselves, there is no internal motivation within our churches. Everything must be externally motivated.
Do this. Don’t do that.
We have rules for everything – even for things the Bible never mentions – kind of like the Pharisees.
On the one hand, it makes life needlessly complicated. I had a reader email me about navigating dating laws within different denominations.
He wanted to date a girl from a different church, but her pastor had rules for dating that conflicted with his pastor’s rules for dating, and he was caught between a rock and hard place.
We’ve created quite a needless mess for ourselves, but that’s not nearly the worst of it.
The really tragedy is what we use to motivate adherence to these rules.
6. Denominations often motivate with fear
The real tragedy isn’t that we have a few inconvenient, necessary rules to follow.
The true tragedy is that Christian denominations often use fear to motivate behavioral change rather than love to facilitate heart transformation.
We equate standing before Christ with our behavior. Our theology may say otherwise, but if you look at the money trail, we are motivating through fear.
“If you don’t date according to these rules, you are going to fall into lust and ruin your life.”
“If you don’t tithe, God won’t let you be financially successful.”
“If you don’t agree with this interpretation of the Bible, you’re falling into heresy and can’t be a part of this community.”
If you don’t do _____, you’ll be punished. It’s all fear, and it really ***** people up.
I’m young, but I’ve already had the privilege of ministering to many people who have spent 50+ years in the church. It’s amazing how broken many of these people are. They’ve spent their whole life without a voice, without the power to choose, being sucked dry without anyone investing in the dreams of their heart.
Thank God that He is pouring out His Spirit on ALL flesh. Thank God that these precious children of the Most High are coming into an understanding of their identity as valued sons and daughters. Thank God that old men are beginning to dream again.
7. Denominations castrate the church’s influence in society
It’s no secret that influence is often measured in numbers, and bigger numbers tend to leave a bigger mark.
When we are constantly splitting into different groups, we effectively eliminate our influence. Instead of a unified Church bringing the world into a revelation of the Father, we are instead engaged in a ceaseless squabble over the pettiest of arguments.
Our influence, as a whole, is humorous, when it should be monumental.
The more we bicker the less influential we become. Nowadays, secular society doesn’t even need to denounce us. We are constantly degrading each other.
Reading the comments section on Relevant Magazine or Fox News is one of the most disappointing things I do in a given month.
We denominational Christians are so eager to attack each other – so eager to trash fellow believers because we don’t like something they said. So ready to get angry or offended.
Is any of this reminding you of Jesus?
The only reason anyone should pay attention to us is if we are living in wholeness, enjoying the abundant life Jesus offered and the world craves.
That’s our ticket to influence. We have something literally EVERYONE wants.
Well… we could have it. But most of us are too busy being angry and offended to live abundantly.
A Unified Church IS Our Future
I’m writing this because, if I have anything to do with it, my generation will shed the denominational system like a tattered snake skin. The seeds have been sown.
The future of the Church IS unity.
And a unified church looks like family. It looks like fathers and mothers. It looks like sons and daughters. It looks like a community of healthy, powerful people growing in understanding of their Heavenly Father and inviting the world into abundant life.
If you attend a denominational church, I’m not asking you to leave your church. I’m asking you to reform your thinking.
I’m asking you to invest in your fellow believers like family. I’m asking you to give yourself and others the freedom to think for yourselves.
I’m asking you to fight for relationship instead of bailing when it gets tough or inconvenient.
We are the Body of Christ.
Here’s to a body in one piece.