Our churches and their denominations Why do we have so many different denominations in the body of Christ? Are they each a part of God's ultimate plan for us, ordained by God? Is each one preparing their members for the reality of what it means to be a true Christian and teaching them how to be a true representative of God's power and purpose here in this world? Can each denomination in their unique individualism, ideals and beliefs each represent God in the fullness of God's truths and teach those truths in that each member will lack nothing in getting a good education of what it means to be a Christian? Let's talk about this.
One thing that is very clear and evident to me, (and to the outside observer), is that we in the body of Christ have differing thoughts and beliefs as to "what it means to be a Christian". Why do I say this? All one would need to do to verify this point is to go and visit several Christian churches of differing denominations and observe in what manner they conduct their services and what they emphasize in their teachings. In doing so you would get a good sense of what I mean.
you were to go and talk to a representative from each Christian based denomination
and ask them such questions as, "How does a person acquire salvation?",
"What is expected of us as a Christian?", "Are the
gifts of the Holy Spirit here today and can every child of God use them?",
"Is satan real and can he affect us?". By the responses to
these and whatever other questions you would have for them you would soon
realize just how obvious those differences are.
This revelation should be an eye opener and of great concern for every Christian who is committed to live their life for God and in the exact way that God wants and needs for us to live our life. But more especially this should be very concerning for those who are in need of God's power working in their life in that God's truth can generate that life altering power for them. Why should they be concerned? Because my question is, can each church in their diversities of truths generate enough truth and power (God's truth and power) in which for our lives to change for the better and in that we can represent God here on earth in a spiritually dynamic way?
All under the same roof we have several groups of Christian's representing Christianity. Each of these groups (denominations) hold Jesus Christ and His teachings central to their belief system but each who differ one from another on several points of doctrinal issues points and in several ways. They each whole - heartedly believe what the bible says, but it is what they believe the bible is saying is where we find contention one with each other.
Over the course of many years and through the process of many transitions each denomination has come to individualize for themselves (without collaborating advise or agreement from the others) a set of beliefs, truths and procedures by which to structure and conduct themselves by, a structure that has caused each denomination to become unique and uniquely different one from each other. A structure that each one has come to represent themselves by and where each one has concluded is the right way to represent God.
In doing so each group in essence has determined, again, without seeking any input from any of the other denominations, what they feel is every Christian's identity and how each Christian should govern them self. They have come to individualize for themselves what they feel should be taught, how it should be taught and by what methods. They have determined what God is wanting for His people, what His truths are (or should be) and how each Christian should live by those truths etc. No wonder each Christian denomination differs so much, one from another and why the body of Christ differs on what the truth is. God's truth!
Many a minister sees the importance for unity in the body of Christ and often teach on this subject, but this is something we as Christians still struggle with as a whole, how to have unity one with the other in body, soul, spirit and beliefs. Some denominations can be quick to come into agreement with another denomination on some points or issues, but be just as quick to come into contention and contradiction with them on another. Why do we have so many different denominations in the body of Christ anyways? That is a good question. This is where our churches have evolved to. Shouldn't we want to be identified as a Christian and not by the denomination we belong to? You would think.
When asked if they are Christian, I hear many respond by telling the enquirer what denomination they are. "Yes I am Anglican", or "Yes amen I am a born again, too blessed to be stressed, washed in the blood, armed and dangerous Pentecostal." The question was if they were a Christian. By identifying our Christianity with our denomination gives the person asking the question a sense that our denomination holds some sort of importance otherwise we wouldn't have included that extra information, which of course it doesn't.
1 Corinthians 1:10-14 I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas"; still another, "I follow Christ." 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?
In reference to this
scripture the same question can be asked, were you baptized unto the name
of your denomination or were you baptized unto the name of Jesus Christ and
by whose guidelines and agenda are you to live by and follow? So why are there
different denominations? In the history of our church as a problem would arise,
or when a new suggestion was made as to what direction that church should
go in, the lack of knowledge or lack of agreement to rectify the situation
or appease the answer opened the door for the process of separation to begin.
In the deadlock to know how to resolve a problem amiably, strife arose, sides
were taken, a breakaway occurred and a new church or denomination was born.
To me, the biggest problem we as Christians have for bringing the body of Christ into unity and into harmony with what God's truths are is the lack of cooperation between our denominations to sit down together and figure out exactly what Jesus Christ's purpose was, why God sent Jesus to us and why we had so desperately needed Him, what Jesus was trying to get us to understand for every teaching He taught, every word He spoke, every example He gave, etc. If a Christian, or church does not fully understand what God's Son was trying to teach us in the first place and get us to understand, then how are we going to be taught to know who we are in Christ, what our purpose is and how we can effectively get that message out to others?
The differences we see in how each denomination conducts their services, what they teach, how they teach it and how they live their lives confirms this. To come from a Pentecostal background and then to sit through a Episcopalian service can make that Pentecostal feel very awkward and out of place. It can make them feel as if they just entered into a library where they need to be quiet. In the same way I remember going to my first Pentecostal Wednesday night service. When I heard the Pastor say, "let us pray," I lowered my head and closed my eyes to pray (smiles) only to get the startle of my life by the noise of people praising the Lord, speaking in tongues, dancing in the aisles and praying out loud. It is true, I was actually startled because I wasn't used to this type of prayer service.
For the record I want to state that I consider myself non-denominational and that for whatever church I may find myself in (whether it be Baptist, Presbyterian, or Pentecostal) I am there because I have determined that the minister is giving a good representation of the Word of God and or that there are like minded Christians there in which to fellowship and sharpen iron with. Or, I am there to determine whether or not it is a good church to go to etc.
As was said, throughout the history of the church, as a problem would arise, such as in what direction the church should go, or how a problem should be resolved, if unity and resolve could not be found then disagreement and division was, but division continues even today. I know of one good example today in where several denominations are dividing again and that is over the issue of same sex marriages. Some denominations (at least here in Canada where I am from) have decided that it is now permissible within the guidelines of Christianity to marry members of the same sex in Holy matrimony, (to bless their union) and so therefore are saying that God now approves of this as well.
The other dilemma in this controversy is where some of these denominations are now also allowing gay men and lesbian women to become ordained ministers unto God's people and allowing them to hold a headship position over God's people. Again and by doing so sending out the message that God is no longer in contention with this sin and that He must have changed His mind, or had made a mistake. Or, we could look at this for what it is, that some of God's people have become deceived, have compromised themselves, or have come into contention with God's word.
We are in a period of time saints where we are witnessing a good representation of two extremes working within the body of Christ, (hot and cold) and with a lot of complacency, falseness and lukewarm in between. We are witnessing Christians who are obediently walking with a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, being of good witness unto others and with signs and wonders following them and we are witnessing many compromises, contradictions, bad teachers/teachings and lack of commitment being embraced and operating under the same roof.
How anyone can justify the performing of same sex marriages in a Christian church and justify themselves for ordaining gay men and lesbian women into headship positions over God's people is showing us the cloud of confusion and falseness that has come into the body of Christ. The Bible is quite clear where God stands on such issues in such scriptures as Leviticus 18:22. How can they be misinterpreted? We can see where satan would want to twist the word of God to pervert God's Truth to us, but for the heads of our churches to do this?
NIV "'Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that
This is a "contradiction" to the word and the work of God and God did not send Jesus Christ to die on the cross to promote sinful behaviour, but to correct it. Can you imagine that we have people who call themselves a Christian who would choose to defend what God calls an abomination and who would take a contentious stance against their fellow Christians to do it?
I remember the aggravation
and contention that had arose among the members of the Anglican Church of
Canada when they were going through their deliberations as to whether or not
they should accept the proposal of gay ordinations and same sex marriages/unions
in their church. They held many public meetings to debate the issues but in
the end the church decided in favour of these proposals and as a result caused
some major divisions. I remember this well because I was attending an Anglican
Church at that time and my Minister was attending the meetings in Ottawa that
were being held.
The controversy these proposals stirred up caused a lot of commotion in the church community and sparked an explosion of ruckus around the country. The media had given it a lot of coverage and caused a lot of people around the world to shake their heads in disbelief as to what they were witnessing in God's churches, and justifiably so. Part of our purpose as a Christian is to take a stance against the works of sin, not reward it with a job. What message are we sending to non- Christians about what Christianity is about and how will decisions such as these ones impact the future decisions some of our churches are going to make?
It was not my intention to hi-light these issues, (same sex marriage and the ordination of gay and lesbian men and women) for any other purpose except to show a new Christian that not all beliefs in our churches are God's beliefs. I wanted to show that not everything being taught, or done in the name of the Lord has God's approval. That our church is fallible in some areas of its operation and so why it is a good reason why we need to discern what church we attend.
John 8:31-32 NIV Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
When a person learns what God's truths are and what God is wanting for their lives and they live their life by that knowledge God can more easily meet their needs and empower their life. This is why He sent Jesus to us, to give us the knowledge to know how to overcome what satan has done in bringing darkness to this world, to prosper and to make our life more manageable in spite of satan being in this world and to protect us from the worst of what satan has in his plans for us. Sometimes satan does get the upper hand in some of the battles we have with him, but when we are grounded in God he isn't able to do to us the worst of what he was hoping to do, to destroy us.
John 10:10 NKJV The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
The question we need
to ask though is this, is every church in their varying beliefs going to give
us enough of what God needs for us to know in that God can benefit our lives;
empower us over the works of the devil, protect us from satan and have us
walking in G od's greater purpose for us, unhindered by satan's attempts to
derail us? On a daily basis satan is looking for a way to destroy our souls
and so on a daily basis we need to be looking for a way to put God's truths
to work for us, (not a portion or a variation of it), to keep us safe from
Matthew 7:24-25 NIV "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine (Jesus Christ) and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.
NIV Do not forsake wisdom, (God's truth) and she will protect you;
love her, and she will watch over you. 7 Wisdom is supreme; therefore get
wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. 8 Esteem her, and
she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you.9 She will set a garland
of grace on your head and present you with a crown of splendor."
Not every church, or Christian is walking in the greater measure of God's truths, or is trying to, (which we will talk more about later), and so will not be able to effectively teach another person God's truths or the freedom and power that comes along with those truths. Whoever sits in one of these churches in hopes of gaining a wealth of information for the things of God and in that they will receive the freedom and the power that God's truths can provide, will be greatly disappointed and even disillusioned when it doesn't manifest in their life.
God needs us to realize (especially the newer Christian) that not every person who calls themselves a Christian is, and not everyone who thinks they have God's truths does and upon entering Christianity God wants us to realize our need to test and discern what is of God and what isn't, even from within the confines of our own church.
2 Peter 2:1 NIV But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you.
This is a truth in itself and why our purpose as a Christian has been distorted so much in the body of Christ because there has not been enough emphasis given to us Christians to question what is being taught to us. It wasn't very long ago it was deemed blasphemous to even question a ministers teachings, or to contemplate leaving a church for another and many a person had got called out on the carpet when a minister found out that a member of his congregation had been visiting another church without their permission. This topic needs so much more awareness.
When Jesus said to test every spirit He meant it and every person and teaching has a spirit to them. It is our right as a Christian to test, discern and question everything that is being done in our churches and everything that is being taught to us and if a Minister makes you feel guilty or gets indignant for asking them a question, let that be your red flag.
1 John 4:1-2 NIV do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 NIV 21 Test everything. Hold on to the good. 22 Avoid every kind of evil.
When we are aware of what dangers are out there we can learn to protect our self from them. When we know what kind of traps satan sets (what they look like, where he sets them) we will know how to step around them. When we know what a wolf in sheep clothing looks like we can more easily avoid and expose them. When we know what God's truths are we won't be so easily fooled by deceptive teachings. The truth and knowledge of God benefits us and so in everything you do get knowledge.
We will not always agree with everything every Christian says to us and they won't always agree with everything we say and believe. Some Christians are young and still have some growing to do, infant ignorance. Some Christians have not evolved past their flesh yet and may still have some pride. Some Christians have been misled with false teachings and or like their own interpretation of what they believe better. Is it possible that we could find our self sitting in a false, or spiritually dangerous church? Absolutely!
When talking to another
Christian and we realize that they are still young in their knowledge of God
we can overlook some of their ignorance and encourage them in the truth. If
we see a Christian brother or sister has pride we will want to approach that
person in a loving manner to help make them aware of it so that they won't
hurt anyone with that pride and so that they can work at ejecting that pride
from their life, (that is if they accept what you are saying). But we sometimes
need to confront someone more head on if we see they are perverting God's
truths and are misleading or hurting others in that perverting.
Matthew 7:21 NIV "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
It is God's intention
that we be taught, but only by those who are anointed for that purpose and
those who are led by His Spirit to do so. God wants us prepared for works
of service. He wants the body of Christ built up. He wants that each member
should know His truths in that no deceptive worldly influence, or work of
the devil shall ever again be able to trick us. God wants us to grow up into
the fullness of Christ and that requires sound truths and committed discipleship.
Ephesians 4:11-15 NIV It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.
We shouldn't be overly surprised that contention could arise in our churches or that our churches would be dividing over the gospel of Jesus Christ for whenever the Truth of God is being spoken not everybody is going to be in agreement to that truth. Surprisingly not even Christians. Jesus Christ Himself recognized that His ministry and the truth of what He taught was going to cause conflict and division between people, friends, family and even His own followers, and He said so.
Matthew 10:34-39 "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn "'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter -in -law against her mother-in-law- 36 a man's enemies will be the members of his own house hold.' 37 "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
The body of Christ is no different than a household of people who are trying to live and grow by the rules that have been laid out for that house. When it comes to rules some people will more naturally want to kick against them than to want to embrace them, even Christians. Before I move on I want to clarify that some of the separations that one church has made with another, or one denomination has made to another was necessary because we do need to separate ourselves from that which is contentious to the will of God and which is not of sound doctrine.
As a special note: In regards to gay man and lesbian woman I want to affirm that we as a Christian should never hold any condemnation for them because of how they are living their lives right now, but we should be hopeful for what God will do for them in their future. I know some Christians seem to be more disgusted with them than wanting to reach out to them in love, but we need to treat them like we would treat any person who has become deceived. We should be hopeful that their eyes will get opened to how God would want them to live and hopeful that we in some way could be a part of that work to help open their eyes to what needs to change and why.
This is what God would want us to do, to help them to realize that they are living in a way that God had never intended they should and to help guide them into the way God had meant for them. Many people know that they have taken a wrong turn in life but what many of them don't know is how to get back to the main road, what first steps they need to take to get back to that road and that is where we come in. More challenging than this are those who don't even realize they have left the main road because this is how life has always been for them.
We need to be careful that we never find ourselves in a position in where we are speaking condemnation and curses against this type of person (or any person for that matter) just because they have left the main road. I wasn't always a Christian and wasn't always living in a manner that was pleasing to God and so I can't look down on another person now just because I finally made my decision for Christ and they haven't yet. Don't get me wrong we are not to be accepting or become complacent to that way of living but we need to be diplomatic in how we deal with it, not compromising but tactful.
Jesus did not come to
condemn these people (the world) but to help save them and so if we find ourselves
condemning any person in anyway then are we not in contention to Jesus Christ's
work of salvation and cursing ourselves in the process? There is a right way
and a wrong way to reach a person and pointing your finger at a person and
saying, "you're going to hell if you don't change" is not the right
way. That is only adding more to the problem than what it is encouraging that
person to want to listen to anything good you might have to say in reaching
John 3:17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
Matthew 7:1-2 "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
We as a Christian should realize that this type of lifestyle has come into existence more from satan's persuasions than by God's intent and so why we should be more sympathetic than disgusted with this person on how satan has been able to distort within them their sexual identity and to mislead them to live this way. These are people who need someone to show them that they have gone in a wrong direction and have embraced something that God had never intended they embrace. We need to reach out to them in a more loving way. Not enabling their lifestyle, or, pulling any punches with them, or, compromising ourselves to their way of living, but not shooting stones at them either because all that does is wound them and cause them to shrink back from you and God.
We should be more hopeful for them than disgusted in how they are living and more prayerful in how we can reach this person. This is the same with any person who has been led in a wrong direction and who are embracing things that God had never intended. We need to be more sympathetic to how satan has been able to take these people off of the path God had intended they walk and how he has influenced them to walk down roads God had never intended they walk (dead end roads and roads of destruction).
We need to be more sympathetic
than disgusted with the alcoholic who is living on skid row and who keeps
choosing the bottle over help each time help is offered to him, or with the
heroin addict who begs, borrows, steals and prostitutes themselves so they
can put another needle in their arm. What person chooses to live such a self-destructive
way of living in where their addictions are more in control of where that
person is going in life than what they are in control of that direction. Where
do those addictions want to take them? To skid row, or the morgue. These are
people who have been deceived out of a better way of living and in whom satan
has robbed them of everything good God has intended for them. (For now anyways
because there is always hope as long as they have breath in their bodies and
as long as there are caring people to reach out to them).
These are people who are living by the influence of what a dysfunctional past has caused them, or a past that had lacked good love, good mentors and good discipline. Something else we need to realize when evaluating this sort of person is that it wasn't just their past alone that had led them down this wrong road but wrong spirits as well (which we will talk about more in this writing and others). These are people who need spiritual help as well as the emotional and physical help they need, to tear down whatever strongholds satan and the spirits involved have set up over their life.
This is why street and prison ministries are so effective because they know how to reach the lost and the hurting. Why? Because most of the ministers in these ministries were once alcoholics and drug addicts themselves. They are reaching these people in their sin, in their suffering and with the right approach. They are going to where the sinner is at, on their level, and are reaching them with the right love and understanding by which to get their attention.
These ministers are
not enabling their sin or compromising them self to it. They are not candy
coating anything of what that person will need to do to get them self off
the street or coaxing that person to change for a person needs to be ready
to change, but they are opening their eyes to a better way of living and showing
them the first steps they can take if the person is willing to take them.
On top of this and commendable to most street and prison ministries these
ministers (because they were once where these people were) are committed to
following through in helping these individuals if they make the decision for
Christ and the decision to change.
The greatest problem for every person who is living outside of what God had intended for them is that it is hard for God to open their eyes to it or benefit their lives until they themself first see the need for their life to change, then make a conscious decision to change. Again this is where we come in as God's people and as representatives of Christ's teachings. How can one make a decision for Christ lest they have first heard of Him and how can they know they are in sin, fall short of what God had intended for them, lest they have read the Word of God or someone tells them?
Romans 10:14-15 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"
If you find yourself
in a church or hear a Christian who seems to be more about condemning a sinner
and cursing them to hell than what they are trying to save that person, or
helping them to realize in a wise and loving way that what they are doing
is wrong, (is hurting themselves or hurting others) and showing them how their
life could improve for the better let that be a red flag as to what measure
of Gods truth they hold and how much of Christ's character they possess.
In the same way let it be a red flag if you witness a Christian intimidate, threaten, or manipulate another person, or if you witness them act out of anger, jealousy and self-importance. To curse a person or to tell them to their face that they are going to hell is not the right way to reach them. There is a right way to plant a seed and a wrong way and the timing of when we plant it is paramount to the success we will have. When is the right time to plant our seed with the sinner and those who are falling short? When the right opportunity presents itself.
A good example of this is that you wouldn't want to try to talk to a drug user about their life needing to change just five minutes after they have just shot up, would you? You wait until they are in a down state and where they themselves are now questioning why they are doing the things they do. This is when they are searching themselves for answers and looking for the first steps to lead them out. It is a window of opportunity for they are at a place of seeking and are more apt to listen to a testimony and be inspired by it. Sometimes we have to wait until a person gets to that place, but that is the best time to talk to them.
We need to be tactful
when reaching the oppressed and the sinner for in many cases, not all, we
are not just dealing with a person who has wandered down a wrong road we are
dealing with a dark spirit as well that has learned how to influence that
person to take that road. We need to pray to bind that spirit that is over
them and hush it's mouth so that the person can truly hear what we are wanting
to say to them without that spirits interference. We don't want to preach
to them but to make them aware of their possibilities. We want to make them
aware of how far into a pit they have fallen (what they have been robbed of)
and inspire them with hope to want to climb out of it but it needs to be them
who makes the decision, not us. If they are willing we help to lead them out
in the same way that a shepherd will lead a lost sheep back to the flock.
As we speak there are other controversies going on in our denominations. Perhaps none more controversial than what same sex marriage and gay/ lesbian ordination has stirred up, but none the less enough to show us that some denominations and churches do not always make good sound decisions and do not do everything exactly according to what God's will is. Again I am not trying to make a case against our Churches but to make a case for each one of our churches to reevaluate themselves to see whether they are in the truth or not, God's truth, and to determine whether or not they are teaching those truths in the way Jesus would be pleased with.
Corinthians 13:5-7 Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you-unless, of course, you fail the test? 6 And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test.
This scripture is good
advice not just for the individual Christian but for ministries and churches
as well. It would be my humbled hope that every Christian, Minister/ Pastor
reading this writing or person wanting to be a teacher or minister for God
that they will realize the need to sometimes step outside of the box of what
their denomination is wanting to emphasize in teaching and that they would
focus ever more diligently to see what God wants taught.