photo credit:Steve McSwain
If there is One Spirit leading us, why are there so many different denominations and beliefs among the Church?
What a great question! Thanks so much for asking. This is something I'm not quite sure about, and wonder (often in frustration) about too. It does seem that if we believe in the same God and read the same Bible that we should be more unified in our beliefs, practices, and treatment of one another, doesn't it? Oh how I wish it were so.
So, why the digressions and divisions, then?
Here are a few theories:
1. Variety reaches more variety. God makes people very different. And this is to His glory - who would want an un-creative Creator?! People are so diverse in their personalities, so it is actually beneficial to have a variety of styles in churches in order to appeal to and reach more souls for Christ. I believe this is a modern manifestation of the Apostle Paul's words,
So, the different styles and worship methods (for example liturgy vs. charismatic) are able to reach different preferences and styles. When a person moves into a new area, I recommend they check out all the churches in their town before they decide on one, and choose based on which matches their beliefs, stylistic preferences, personal mission, and ministry. As far as doctrine, you want a church that believes and preaches [all of] the Scripture. Clearly there will be differences in interpretation even there, however, and that is partially because people aren't Jesus and no one will ever preach the Truth like He did. I say look for a place where you feel God's presence and where you believe you will grow closer to Him. Then stay there, through thick and thin because once you've shopped, you don't want to have to hop.Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ. When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law. When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings. -1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (NLT)
2. We can tend to make the big things small, and the small things big. My husband has a joke about Pre-Trib. vs. Post-Trib. Rapture theory being the basis of relational division between Christians. Now that's just sad on our part, if it is true (and sometimes it really is). Then there's the matter of entire church divisions on the matter of where to place the annual Christmas Tree. Seriously, people? Now we're just making everyone look bad. Again, I quote Paul:
For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. - 1 Corinthians 2:2 (NIV)Does that mean Paul was ignorant of the rest of Truth? Of course not. He realized there would be different interpretations of Jesus's Words, preaching, teaching, and references to the prophets. But His focus was on the big thing that mattered most: Jesus actually died to bring us peace with God, actually was raised to life, and actually instructed His witnesses to tell everyone He would be back to get those who believe it. Much of our present-day division and denominational arguing stems from us focusing our time and attention on matters we don't agree on, rather on this HUGE thing which we do. And that's a shame. Because people who don't yet know Him see that in us, and we put a bad [or worse] taste in their mouths about Jesus. So, it's our bad as His Church when this is the case. Yes, Christians do sin. [Shocker.] May we grow more in our obedience to His Prayer:
I am not asking solely for their benefit; this prayer is also for all the believers who will follow them and hear them speak. Father, may they all be one as You are in Me and I am in You; may they be in Us, for by this unity the world will believe that You sent Me. All the glory You have given to Me, I pass on to them. May that glory unify them and make them one as We are one, I in them and You in Me, that they may be refined so that all will know that You sent Me, and You love them in the same way You love Me. -John 17:20-23 (Voice)
3. God is in the process of revealing His glory. Really, I believe this. I have an experiment for you: Put on a pair of imaginary glasses and never take them off. These lenses are the lenses of God's sovereignty in all things. When you see trials, pain, difficulty, goodness, blessing, strength, weakness, shame, ... ANYTHING - be sure you're wearing these glasses. God is in control and He is at work for His glory and our good. Church division doesn't surprise Him. He knew we would get to this, and maybe even in part He has allowed or brought us to some of this on purpose. Though we have free will, He still has sovereign power over His Church and our universe, and we don't have to doubt that He can and will redeem even all of this mess. He has a plan to use all of this for our good and for bringing more people to Him. Once again, I quote Paul:
Nothing can separate us from Him. Not even each other. He will win our hearts, and we will each choose or reject Him. Those who choose Him will be rescued. And we'll be unified with Him and one another someday. Maybe that someday will be today. Are you ready?We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan. From the distant past, His eternal love reached into the future. You see, He knew those who would be His one day, and He chose them beforehand to be conformed to the image of His Son so that Jesus would be the firstborn of a new family of believers, all brothers and sisters. As for those He chose beforehand, He called them to a different destiny so that they would experience what it means to be made right with God and share in His glory. So what should we say about all of this? If God is on our side, then tell me: whom should we fear? If He did not spare His own Son, but handed Him over on our account, then don’t you think that He will graciously give us all things with Him? Can anyone be so bold as to level a charge against God’s chosen? Especially since God’s “not guilty”verdict is already declared. Who has the authority to condemn? Jesus the Anointed who died, but more importantly, conquered death when He was raised to sit at the right hand of God where He pleads on our behalf. So who can separate us? What can come between us and the love of God’s Anointed? Can troubles, hardships, persecution, hunger, poverty, danger, or even death? The answer is, absolutely nothing. - Romans 8:28-35 (Voice)
Thank you for asking, My Precious Friend. I hope this helps!
Do you have a question too, Dear Heart? Please - don't be shy. I'll bet others are wondering too. All you have to do is reply in the comments section below, ask your question, and sign a creative signature. Anonymity is encouraged. You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org - just put "a little bird told me" in the subject line and I'll keep you anonymous. Ask me about God, the Bible, how people tick, anything really (okay, that last one is a little scary, but I'm trusting God for answers so I'll leave it). I hope to hear from you soon, Dear Reader! And when it comes up in your conversation, you can always say, "Well, a little bird told me ..." *wink*