The End of Denominations?

Why we need to stop dividing the Church.

"What denomination are you?"

When we tell people we are Christians, we tend to get asked this question. A lot. It makes sense. With all the different denominations out there, saying you’re a “Christian” is pretty vague.

Our denominational affiliation tells people, at least in part, what type of Christian we are. Do we like to chant in a spiritual tongue or play with poisonous snakes? Do we sit, stand and kneel in an elaborate service while a man in a robe speaks in Latin? Do we sprinkle or dunk? How we feel about instruments, Mary, the structure of worship and numerous other religious activities can all be communicated by our denomination. There is even a non-denominational denomination. We, as Christians, have fragmented the Church so much that there is a division that says, “We are against divisions in the Church.”

We divide the Church like an OCD kid with a bag of skittles. Rather than enjoying all the different flavors, we compulsively sort them.


We have to admit these denominations are confusing. If you meet someone and they tell you they are third-Baptist-once-removed on their mother’s side, you have to ask: What does that even mean? But the real question that should be addressed is why. Why do so many different denominations exist? We divide the Church because we care more about our comfort than we do about the cause of Christ. We are more interested in what we want than what He wants.

We divide the Church like an OCD kid with a bag of skittles. Rather than enjoying all the different flavors, we compulsively sort them. The Church was created to unite followers in Christ under His mission and banner. We are supposed to be one body with many parts, but what we have become is a stockpile of different parts. We have churches instead of the Church. We have uniformity instead of unity. Apparently, we can’t have people who believe different things about Biblical issues come to the same building to worship the one, true God. That would just be chaos!

In the book of Acts, we see the Holy Spirit constantly working to create unity in the Church. At Jesus’ baptism, the Holy Spirit shows up, illustrating God’s approval. Then in Acts 2, after Jesus has ascended into heaven, the Holy Spirit shows up again. He arrives to show God’s support of this new Church. By Acts 8, the Jews were asking if Samaritans (half-Jews) could be a part of the new Church and the Holy Spirit appears to place God’s seal of approval on Samaritan Christians. Then the next time He shows up it is with a Gentile (completely non-Jew). All throughout Acts the Holy Spirit is working to create unity in the Church, to break down social, cultural and economic barriers.

Despite all this, we feel no qualms about dividing and subdividing the Church into more denominations than any reasonable person can keep track of. These divisions of the Church are offensive to God. We aren’t just creating separate institutions; we are defiling His bride.

The Bible tells us to be like-minded, but instead, we tend to become carbon-copy Christians. To a certain point, it makes sense. When everyone agrees, you will have less conflict. Perhaps it’s noteworthy that Jesus invited a tax collector and a religious zealot to be His disciples. That’s like trying putting members of the Ku Klux Klan in a small group with Black Panthers. Why would Jesus do something like that?

Jesus called different types of people to be His disciples because He intended for the Church to be diverse. God made us different. That’s the point. Without the tension of diversity we are not challenged to grow and to constantly dive into His Word. When everyone sees everything exactly the same, there is no healthy conflict. Instead of iron sharpening iron, we get complacent spiritual social clubs. God didn’t create the Church so we could all start acting like one another. He created it so we could all start acting like His Son.

Think of the Church like an army: We have cavalry, archers, swordsmen and various types of units and specialties. An effective army might organize different units in formations based on their strengths, but they still keep them all in the same army. An army consisting of entirely of one type of unit would easily be defeated because every type of unit has strengths and weaknesses. In the denomination divide we have lost one of the greatest strengths. Without diversity working together in harmony, we don’t have unity, we just have conformity.

Instead of fighting with each other over which denomination is best, we should be working together to advance the Gospel to the ends of the earth.


Jesus didn't give us many different churches. He gave us one Church. The more we divide it, the more our attention turns to what makes us different. We lose focus on the mission of Jesus because we are too busy looking inward. It's time to stop warring over state borders and start focusing on national ones. Instead of fighting with each other over which denomination is best, we should be working together to advance the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

There won’t be denominations in heaven, so why do we make a big deal out of them on earth? The Church is not about how we interpret the Bible—that’s not to say sound theology isn’t important, but our understanding is not the primary focus. The Church is about Jesus. It is ever, only, always about Jesus. Rather than distracting ourselves (and everyone else) with all the different types of churches, we should be showing people what the Church is about: the love of Jesus.

It's time for the Church to get back on mission. The final command Jesus gave was not “get every nuance of theology right,” it was “go, make disciples of all nations.” We serve the same God, are saved by the same Christ, and were given the same Commission. Instead of focusing on our differences, we should focus on the One who makes us the same. 

79 Comments

Georgia Peach

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Georgia Peach commented…

As an atheist who argues with Christians, I would much rather they all had to believe in the same doctrine. That's much easier to debunk than when people can disavow any inconvenient belief. "Oh, I'm not *that* kind of Christian" gets dropped daily. Even within Catholicism, people pick and choose in order to dodge criticism or to make themselves feel better. They're not *that* kind of Catholic. Diversity of beliefs is a feature, not a bug, as far as the belief system is concerned.

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Reformation of Unity

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Reformation of Unity replied to Georgia Peach's comment

It is interesting that you mention diversity of beliefs as a feature. If it is not a bug, why do you argue with Christians? This question is not to target you. I have always had a fascination with atheists that have a fascination with Christianity. Why is it then necessary for you to debunk Christianity unless you believe your beliefs allow you to have some better understanding about the world (an ironic premise Christians also hold). It that is true, then while you embrace diversity, you have also lent superiority to certain ways of believing over others.

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John P

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John P commented…

It appears to me that you advocate a one world religion, of sorts. Is that correct? Church prophesy indicates this will indeed come to pass, but the result will not be a pleasant one.

On a historical level, the Church indeed was split and the Traditional Catholic was the first Church. This diagram provides a good view of that:
http://aberthev.files.wordpress.com/2010/04/timeline-of-church-picture-1...

There cannot be unity when the same perverse sin that led to the split in the first place is realized and addressed in the hearts of men.

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james

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james commented…

Tyler, some good stuff that you are wrestling with here. Much of this resonates with my heart.

For those who posted comments, Tyler's comments are not just an 'in-house' issue, though it is central to our faith, unity is an evangelistic and missional issue. We render our own selves far less effective when we fail to partner in unity and mission.

For some of the best writing and leading on this subject, take a look at the links below.

http://www.act3network.com/
http://zondervan.com/9780310321149

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John Reid

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John Reid commented…

Tyler, I disagree with your content but I appreciate your heart for the Church and for the Lord. I wrote a response to your entry on my blog: http://johnreidblogs.com/2013/08/08/denominationsandcheeseburgers/

I hope this brings some insight to your view of denominations.

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Nate Nakao

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Nate Nakao replied to John Reid's comment

I agree with your assertions, John. (I also love that your first and middle names are "John Wesley.")

I like what you said in your post regarding the necessity of dividing into denominations for the sake of keeping away from disagreements.

I'm part of a church culture that values that which unites, and lowers that which divides. I'm one of a few Arminians on a team that's made up of people who either prefer to steer clear of that debate or lean heavily towards Calvinism, but we've all made the choice that these differences weren't going to pull us away from what we've decided is primary: Christ's mission for us.

That said, our decision there is a dividing line. There are many Arminians who would call me crazy for trying to serve alongside Calvinists, and I'm sure there are many Calvinists who would suggest that my TULIP-loving friends and coworkers treat me as a heretic.

There's absolutely no way that I could "unite" with a church that holds so tightly to Arminianism that it would advocate hatred of their Calvinist brothers and sisters, despite my agreement with their theology. I'm sure said church is doing amazing things for the sake of the Gospel, but it would be poisonous for them to try to work together with us, let alone a church that falls strictly within Calvinist circles.

In that sense, divisions are necessary in order for these unique churches to do their work. They could celebrate their victories from a distance, but advocating that they "put aside their differences" for the sake of "the big picture" (one they might not even agree is the bigger picture) is an insult to what makes them unique.

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John Reid

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John Reid replied to Nate Nakao's comment

Nate, thanks for your comment. Also, I'm a "black sheep" as well haha I'm an Arminian among mostly reformed colleagues. Though my current seminary (Liberty) is primarily Arminian my upbringing is more reformed. Thanks again for your response brother.

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Mel Adair

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Mel Adair commented…

As much as I would love to see denominations dissolve into one big puddle of Jesus-lovers, the reality is that people love choices. We don't all eat the same food, wear the same clothes, or drive the same cars. We're fearfully and wonderfully made to be different and diverse. Denominations are able to minister to people right where they are and offer them opportunities to serve with like-minded individuals in their own community. My beef with denominations is when they think themselves superior to other denominations and obstruct unity with those outside their denomination. Surely this grieves the heart of God. For those of us who God has called to serve in a particular denomination, we find ourselves blessed by living in the Digital Age as we have access to a plethora of diverse teachings and ministry opportunities outside our own.

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