The answer to the question of why so many different churches exist is, “it’s complicated.” Shouldn’t all churches agree about how to worship God? Even though “it’s complicated” there is a reason. I wrote in “Which Church is the True Church” that:
- The true church teaches that Jesus is the Messiah, son of the Living God, who was crucified for the sins of humanity.
- The true church takes seriously the call to live for Christ and helps each other live it out.
- The true church teaches true doctrine from the scripture.
- The true church practices the ordinances biblically (baptism and the Lord’s supper).
So, this sets up what makes a church a “true church” and what takes them outside of what is biblical. The really neat part about this is that it does leave room for variety in church style.
In John 17:21 Jesus prays for future believers, that they would “be one.” Many have wrongly understood this to mean that Jesus wanted only one church and that by having many different types of churches we are somehow being disobedient to Jesus. In fact, this thought is a common objection non-believers have when talking to them about faith in Jesus. They say, “Even Christians can’t agree!”
When Jesus prayed that believers would be one, He was speaking relationally not institutionally. He finishes His thought by praying that the oneness would be like He and the Father are one–that’s relationship. Josh Moody points out that it is similar to a marriage relationship. The husband might like to watch action movies and the wife likes romantic movies, but they are still one–relationally.
The CHURCH is bigger than a single personality, a single style, a single institution, or a single denomination–the CHURCH is all believers everywhere. The really cool part about this is that even though the flavor might be different, the truths taught from scripture are still the same. It takes all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people.
Now that we have established that the CHURCH is all believers everywhere, let’s take a quick look at where the different denominations came from.
This chart helps us see how the church has branched out over the years. Notice that they all trace their existence back to Jesus. Why then, are there so many? You would have to read Church History in order find out all the reasons for all the different splits. Suffice it to say, each split comes from a rediscovery of biblical teaching or a slightly different view on a particular point of doctrine.
While I cannot speak for all the denominations, I would say that the CHURCH can be found in nearly all of the ones listed above–some people are part of the CHURCH in spite of their denomination’s theological errors because they have found the truth. Many of the denominations above hold to the teachings of the true church listed above. It is our responsibility to decide (discern) which churches hold to the correct and true teachings and which do not. After we decide, we must then remember Jesus’ teaching about unity in the CHURCH.