WHY SO MANY DENOMINATIONS?
It is very common for those who are outside the household of faith to comment negatively about all the Christian denominations that exist. Perhaps the feeling is that they appear to be splinter groups working against each other and that they should be working in unity. Even believers can be confused on all the differences in Christendom and wonder how did it all get this way to begin with?
We know from the beginning there was one church. Jesus had his twelve apostles and the early church was all one in the faith (see Acts). Then as time went on the apostles died and the catholic (universal) church began to develop differences. The big divide happened in the eleventh century when the church split along doctrinal, theological, linguistic, political, and geographical lines. This fundamental breach has never been healed between East and West . . . Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic. As time went on the church needed reforming and the Protestant Reformation began, headed by Martin Luther, John Calvin, and others. Later on the Protestants splintered into various groups according to doctrine and practice issues.
The bad part about all the various denominations is that too often there is a lack of unity and distrust of one another. Jesus prayed that His followers would always be one, which would impact the world. (John 17:21) that they all may be one . . . that the world may believe that You sent Me. It must grieve the Lord to see His church divided and struggling to maintain its witness in an ungodly world that needs redemption through Him.
On the upside of multi-denominationalism is the variety it provides for different people. Not everyone is the same in their make-up. People will be attracted to a certain church because it’s a “fit.” They identify with the constitution of the church body and the way they worship. Some are attracted to the liturgical church. Others like a more casual approach. Some want more emotion and some opt for the intellectual. Kind of like deciding at lunchtime what you are in the mood for. Down the street are many food choices. Instead of seeing all these offers as bad competition you actually see it as wonderful variety you can benefit from.
Yes, churches split over the dumbest reasons like the color choice of the sanctuary carpet, etc. But what if your church went liberal and threw out the Trinity and wouldn’t budge after they were challenged by you and a constituency of others? You would probably go across town and begin another church that is sound in doctrine. So it’s bad what happened but God can still use it for good. (See Acts 15 where Paul and Barnabas split over the John Mark issue)
Let us strive for unity, celebrate diversity, and remember the love that binds us together in Christ! (read 1 Corinthians 12-13). “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” (Attributed to Augustine of Hippo)