My dear, Southern as sweet tea, Protestant Women of the Chapel (PWOC) friend, Chandee, is joining us for this week’s Word Nerd Wednesday to discuss the word denomination.
Are Denominations Biblical?
I grew-up in the south. North Carolina to be exact, also known as the Bible belt of America. Now with a nick-name like that you can imagine the amount of churches available to a person. Plus, the amount of differing denominations available, which always made me wonder why there were so many churches and denominations within Christianity? What does the Bible say about denominations? Was there denominations in scripture? Merriam-Webster’s definition of “denomination” is a religious organization whose congregations are united in their adherence to its beliefs and practices.
Looking for the word denomination is scripture is futile because it is nowhere to be found. However, we see hints of it throughout scripture with the Sadducees and Pharisees, two different religious groups in the nation of Israel at the time of Jesus’ day. Throughout the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John it’s evident that Jesus opposed these groups, as He often opposed religious structures and ideologies of man. (Mark 11:27-12:17, Luke 11:37-54)
What Does Jesus Say About Your Denomination?
If Jesus opposed religious structures and ideologies of man does He oppose denominations? Yes and No! Jesus’ words are strong and pretty straightforward when it comes to the division of His people:
“If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end.”
“I . . . pray for . . . those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one . . .”
John 17: 20-21
However, Jesus was just as strong with His words when it came to His followers being divided from the world (and worldly ways).
“They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.”
“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;”
We also see that at different moments Jesus communicates that in Him there’s to be no division because He came to gather the children of God into one and we are all to be baptized into Christ Jesus (Mat. 12:25, John 11:52, Mark 16:16). The apostle Paul not only followed, he expounded on these teachings in 1 Corinthians 1:10, 12-13, and 17-18.
“Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. … Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? … For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
Reconciling Denominational Differences
So, how do we reconcile Jesus opposing religious structures and ideologies of man, Jesus wanting us to separate us (believing followers) from the world, and all believing followers of Jesus to be in Him, with denominations?
Growing-up I heard little on different denominations. We went to a Baptist church and the only thing I ever heard at home was Scripture based. It wasn’t until my late teens early 20’s when I decided to stretch my wings and begin to fly on my own, that the discussion really came up. I wanted to become a member of another denomination (not baptist). My dad asked me why that church. I candidly answered with, “I like the music and there’s a lot being offered at the church.” I could tell with the look on his face that he was hoping my answers would be different. “Chandee, what do they believe?” was his response to my inconsequential answers.
What Does Your Denomination Believe?
My dad’s question question has remained with me throughout my life. I realized then I needed some absolute nonnegotiable beliefs for any and all churches and denominations in life. I decided then every church a went to had to:
1: Believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and as part of the Trinity.
2: Teach that salvation comes through believing in Christ Jesus as our Savior and that He died on the cross for our sins and was risen three days later.
3: Believe that once you accept Christ with ALL of your heart, mind and soul that you are saved and that salvation cannot be taken from you.
4: Believe in speaking truth according to scriptural context, discipling and maturing believers and sharing the Word of God throughout the world (missions).
These four things would be my personal nonnegotiable(s) regardless of the church environment or denomination. Little did I know, at that time, I would one day be a military wife and travel the world (and lots of churches).
Are You in the Room or the Hallway?
Looking back on scripture and the question my father asked me that day I realize denominations aren’t inherently bad nor good. C. S. Lewis in “Mere Christianity” addresses denominationalism through the metaphor of a building. He suggests that denominations are the rooms and the halls are common ground and that Christians should spend more time in the halls. Because it is in the hallway that we all will reach the throne room of our Father.
The issues comes when we allow our denominationalism to divide us. As obeying believing followers of Christ Jesus we are united under His loving authority. This is where we are to stand connected (Eph. 4:3-6, 1 Cor 14:33, Phil 1:27). Let’s be honest the world is not for us and stands united in the destruction of anything or anyone that is of the Kingdom of God. Our Enemy is not each other with denominational differences but the one who stand against our Lord. And although this world is against us, we are still called to love those in it, to share the kindness of Christ with respectful boldness and gentle compassion. We are to allow God to use our uniqueness to show the uniqueness of Him.
Chandee is a teacher and photographer who loves public speaking and shares her skills with the Moving With the Military program. She is an Army Wife and mom to two great kids. Her passion is sharing the Bible with women.
Linking Up With
For more encouragement please join the discussions on these fabulous blog link ups – Suzanne Eller, Thought Provoking Thursday, Susan B. Mead, Faith Filled Friday, Grace and Truth, Faith and Fellowship Friday, Grace and Truth Friday, Good Morning Monday, Soul Survival, Monday Musings, Rah Rah Link Up, Tell His Story, Woman to Woman Wednesday, Women With Intention Wednesday, Sitting Among Friends, Testimony Tuesday, Planting Roots, and Fresh Market Friday.