04 Feb Why Are There So Many Christian Denominations?
Understanding the Many Christian Denominations
As Christians in America, we have been given the incredible freedom to worship and meet as we choose. However, in many ways, this has caused great dissension amongst the many Christian denominations that exist! Many Christians wonder why so many Christian denominations exist if we all believe the same underlying doctrine.
So, why are there so many Christian denominations? The answer is simple. Denominations are formed because everyone does not worship or connect with God in the same way. Because of this, groups of Christians set out to form their own denomination that aligns with their personal preferences and the way they prefer to worship. There are currently more than 200 Christian denominations in the United States.
Are all Christian denominations Biblically sound? Do we all worship the same God? Are there certain Christian denominations that are “better” than others? These are all important questions that every Christian will find themselves wondering throughout their lifetime.
In this post, we hope to shed light on why so many Christian denominations exist and highlight some of the differences between them. We will also discuss the similarities that exist as we are all one body of Christ. Through this article, we hope to provide you with context through which to view other denominations that may differ from your personal beliefs and preferences.
Why Do So Many Christian Denominations Exist?
As we discuss the topic of Christian denominations, there is much room for dissension and disagreements. We are all naturally inclined to believe that our denomination is superior to others. We must keep the main thing the main thing, understanding that as long as someone is worshipping the God of the Bible with sound doctrine, they are entitled to their personal worship preferences.
St. Augustine once said, “In essentials, unity. In non–essentials, liberty. In all things, love.” This quote clearly states how we should seek to view the many Christian denominations that exist in our country, and our world, today. Let’s take a look at a few of the reasons there are so many Christian denominations.
Not Everyone Connects With God in The Same Way
We must remember that not everyone connects with God in the same way. While some people may connect with God and learn about Him better through extensive worship, others may prefer little singing with a long sermon. Too often, we are caught in the mindset that the way our church worships is the correct approach.
While we all believe in the God of the Bible, there are different ways that we learn about Him and grow in His word. Different Christian denominations allow people to find a congregation that connects with God similarly.
Varying Personal Preferences
In addition to the many unique ways that we connect with God, we also have our own personal preferences regarding how things are done within the church. Although it is good to have a diverse group of believers in a church challenging our personal beliefs, many things are not worth arguments or dissension.
For this reason, among many others, a variety of Christian denominations have been started. Some of the greatest areas in which personal preference play a role in the church include the following:
Now more than ever before, worshipping through music seems to cause great divides in the church. While many people love contemporary worship music with higher production quality, others value the hymns that have been sung throughout the centuries. There is value and merit to both of these types of worship! However, as with many other matters in the church, this is an area where personal preference comes into play.
Social Matters Within the Church
Social matters within the church are another area where Christian denominations vary. Should women serve in leadership roles? How often should the church meet? Are midweek meetings something that should be a priority for the congregation? There may not be a “right” or “wrong” answer to many of these issues, it boils down to personal preference in many ways.
By finding a Christian denomination with whom you align on these matters, you can eliminate the distraction and unrest you may otherwise experience.
Liturgical vs. Contemporary Service
Should historic liturgy be a part of the weekly worship service? Are contemporary services more effective in welcoming and reaching unbelievers? There are great differences in the way a service is held among the many Christian denominations. Once again, many of these matters are not issues that should divide a church. They are considered non-essential areas in which we should have the liberty to worship as we choose.
Finally, the world in which we live is becoming more politically aware by the day. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, it can cause great division. Politics should not be something that divides a church. While some believers may be more comfortable with free discussions of politics from the pulpit, others may believe this is not appropriate.
Differences in Doctrinal Beliefs
Finally, there are certain doctrinal beliefs that Christian denominations value. Although there are certain points of doctrine that you must believe to be a Christian, others leave room for personal interpretation.
Christians Denominations Are Guided By the Same Principles
At the end of the day, we must remember that Christian denominations are all guided by the same principles. We are working towards the common goal of witnessing to the world around us and sharing the truth of Scripture. Let’s take a look at a few of the similarities that exist among the many Christian denominations.
Our Focus is Worshipping the God of the Bible
As a Christian denomination, our focus should be worshipping the God of the Bible. We are working towards the same goal of bringing Christ to the world. Our weekly services may look different and we value different aspects of worship. However, with Christ as our center, we are all united.
We Are the Body of Christ
Even if we do not agree on every area of doctrine or how we practice our faith each week, we are all the body of Christ. This unites us in the common pursuit of glorifying Him.
Why is There Dissention Between Christian Denominations?
If we are all working towards a common goal of glorifying God and bringing others to Him, why is there so much dissension between Christian denominations? There are a number of explanations for this dissension.
Focus Has Shifted to Differences Rather Than Similarities
Unfortunately, we have allowed our focus to shift to our many differences rather than our similarities. In our sinful nature, we fail to see the areas in which other Christian denominations are similar to ours. We believe that the way we worship, or the doctrine in which we believe, is the only truth.
We Have Forgotten What Truly Matters
As we have allowed our focus to shift to our many differences, we have forgotten what truly matters. We must constantly remind ourselves to hold strong to things that are “essential” to our faith, allowing liberty in the “non-essentials”.
While it is important to be wary of unhealthy or unbiblical methods of worship, we must also work to maintain an open mind. In many areas of the Christian faith, there is no “right” way that something must be done.
How to Approach the Differences in Christian Denominations
So, how are we to approach the differences in the many Christian denominations that exist in America? First, we must remember the advice of St. Augustine, “In essentials, unity. In non–essentials, liberty. In all things, love.”
It is important to hold ourselves, and other religions, accountable for those things which are essential to our faith. We worship the God of the Bible, we believe the Bible is absolute truth, we believe in His death, burial, and resurrection.
However, there are many things that are non-essential. When we are approaching non-essential differences between Christian denominations, we must consider whether something is simply not our preference or if it is unbiblical.
It is certainly our responsibility to call our unbiblical practices. However, more often than not, we simply do not prefer the way something is done in another denomination.
Above all else, we must remember to love our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are blessed to live in a nation that prioritizes equality, liberty, and justice for all. One of the greatest ways this plays out is in our religious freedoms. This tremendous blessing should not be forgotten.
What’s the most accurate Bible translation? One of the ways in which Christian denominations differ is which Bible translation they use. While there are many versions of the Bible available in English, they are not all considered accurate. Many scholars and pastors agree that the New American Standard Bible (NASB) is the most accurate Bible translation.
The English Standard Version (ESV) and King James Version (KJV) are also highly accurate. Although it is important to study a Bible translation that is accurate, it is also important to find one that is easy to understand. This will provide you with a greater knowledge of the truths found in Scripture.