Denominations: We Have Strayed From The Original Church
We Christians love our denominations. We are proud that we are Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian or whatever denomination we claim. Unfortunately, denominations have become a distraction for the body of Christ.
Denominations should serve as a secondary label, not as a primary identity.
First, a caveat: there are primary issues and secondary issues in the Bible. Any biblical church should divide itself from a false church incorrect on primary doctrine and preaching a false gospel, but the denominational split between biblical churches on secondary issues is the topic of this discussion.
These secondary issues have become a stumbling block for the church.
The very idea of a typical denominational church is that believers congregate first on specific theological points rather than simply their shared identity in Christ. Verse after verse, the Bible stresses the importance of unity among Christians. Denominations, by their very nature, divide the church.
In John 17:20-21, Jesus prays to the Father saying, “ … for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
The body of Christ should be unified first, then theological specifics can be discussed.
Of course, theological splits will arise. When churches get to the “meat” of Scripture, there will be debates, and rightly so, on details that tend to divide churches into denominations. Christians need to remember the actual importance of these secondary issues and not overblow them.
I am of the Calvinist sort, yet I attend a Free Will Baptist church that I deeply love. I don’t let secondary doctrine overcome the fact that this church strongly preaches the gospel and serves the surrounding community. Disagreement over a topic such as predestination is not a reason to leave a solid church.
Romans 14 tells us not to quarrel or be judgmental about secondary issues. Rather, everyone will give an account to God on what they did for the Lord. Church is about a community of believers focused on the Lord, not an isolation of specific doctrinal teaching.
Once we are in a denomination, we tend to find comfort in its style, specific theological teachings, rules and cultural norms. We start to find our identify in our denomination rather than in Christ.
There are a variety of teachings on Scripture as believers try to discern the deep theological aspects of the Bible. Believers are to first discern with the Holy Spirit what is scripturally true. 1 Corinthians 2 says the things of God are spiritually discerned and that we are to judge all things through the mind of Christ we have been given.
Churches should not be echo chambers of a theological catechism. Believers should offer their interpretations of secondary issues to further discern the things of God. Christians have the Holy Spirit and therefore should be able to have God-pleasing discussion on these topics.
Bias and echo chambers are negative toward debate, and believers can avoid both by congregating with other believers that may have differences on secondary issues but unite on the core tenets of Christianity.
This is not to say that nondenominational churches have or have not hit the nail on the head, but that a church should start with a congregation of believers united under their shared trust in Jesus Christ.
Browder is an opinion writer.