Church Denominations

Religious denominations existed in biblical days. Sadducees and Pharisees were essentially different Judaism denominations in existence during the time of Jesus.

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Those who call themselves nondenominational are essentially a denomination of one. Moreover, over time they tend to regularly fellowship and otherwise align with those of similar persuasions which is a characteristic of denominationalism.

God gives humans righteous flexibility and righteous choices regarding matters of human preferences. It is not sinful to engage in such righteous preferences nor is it sinful to not engage in them. Examples of such righteous matters of preference include time/day of worship, to have or not to have music, to marry or not marry if one can contain himself or herself, frequency of Communion (Lord’s Supper), clothing to wear so long as the principles of inward focus and modesty are upheld, etc.

Let us consider a few definitions for our purpose here:

1. Faith. Here the word faith refers to a particular foundational basis for one’s set or system of beliefs. Due to differences in the foundational basis we distinguish faiths of interest as: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Other. We will largely limit our discussion to the named three: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam as the other ones are too numerous on which to focus. The words faith and religion are interchangeable in our discussion unless otherwise noted.

2. Denomination. Denomination is a formally recognized named collection of distinct regional named churches who largely share certain elements of Christian faith and practices as distinguished from other Christian denominations. There are overlapping elements among denominations but certain differences are largely obvious and regularly projected. Such differences may be matters of sound doctrine or matters of human preference. Matters of human preferences are not biblically problematic although human arrogance sometimes make them problematic. Matters of sound doctrine are problematic and largely arise out of a combination of human pride and spiritual immaturity; correction is to be pursued with humility at the right time and place but not all times and places is right except perhaps for severe matters of concern.

3. Nondenomination. The word nondenomination refers to a regional church that does not formally associate itself with a
named denomination. But in essence such churches either form a denomination of one or largely assume the faith and practice of the present leader.

4. Interdenomination. The word interdenomination refers to a collection of multiple denominations referenced for some particular purpose. It may refer to a gathering or to a cooperative effort on the part of multiple denominations. In such cases, the denominations maintain their distinctions and autonomy while emphasizing common features and goals while all humbly promote and pursue greater individual and denominational spiritual maturity for God’s kingdom and glory. Some churches use the interdenominational label when they integrate various denominational practices. However, for our purposes, we will consider such churches as falling under the nondenominational category.

5. Interfaith. Some use the words interfaith and interdenominational interchangeably; this is okay when only speaking within the Christian faith. However, the word interfaith may also be used to refer to a collection of multiple faiths (i.e., Christianity, Judaism, Islam) referenced for some particular purpose. It may refer to a gathering or to a cooperative effort on the part of members/elements of multiple faiths such as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. In such cases, the faiths maintain their distinctions and autonomy while emphasizing common features and goals while all humbly promote and pursue greater individual and faith’s spiritual maturity for God’s kingdom and glory.

Different denominations may exist due to human preferences such as those mentioned above. However, there should be no difference among denominations regarding commandments and doctrines of God. Denominations and congregations should be careful about imposing more or less on individuals than God imposes on them. The commandments of God are not grievous and we should not make traditions and preferences grievous.

All churches or communities of faith who recognize Jesus Christ of Nazareth, conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, as the Son of God and Lamb of God who actually physically died on the cross for the sins of humankind and who was resurrected unto life has the same one true God as their God and are brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus.

We recognize that not all believers are at the same level of spiritual maturity. Therefore we will not allow differences of understanding concerning titles of address, positions, functions, doctrines, etc. keep us from fellowshipping with other believers, denominations, etc. Instead, we will be fully persuaded in our own minds and secure in our callings and beliefs yet be open to receiving a deeper understanding ourselves. We will interact in a loving respectful manner while maintaining spiritual integrity. For example, if a person is a known preacher, male or female, the position and/or title designator Minister is universally applicable as is Brother/Sister; these may be used to maintain spiritual integrity when a particular designator is of concern; in such cases the referenced party should be humble and secure enough not to be irritated at use of such a generic designator. Let each church organization be responsible for its leadership, doctrines, and corrections thereof.
Yet, in keeping with Jesus example and commandment to teach others what he taught/teaches directly or through his faithful biblical apostles, we will appropriately leverage opportunities to exhort, rebuke, and reprove.
We invite others to exercise love and do the same that we all may humbly grow unto greater spiritual maturity.

Some estimate there is hundreds if not thousands of Christian denominations in the world. Probably new ones rise every year. Some persists and I suppose some die out. Not only that but within major denominational groups you have minor denominational groups. For example, within the Baptist you have Missionary Baptist, and Seventh Day Baptist, etc.; some of these Baptist further divide into Southern Baptist (predominantly White congregations) and National Baptist (predominantly Black congregations), etc. For example statistics on Christianity see  Status of Global Mission also available from  Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. Here the author says in 2014 there were 45,000 Christian denominations; that seems like a lot but in any case it gives one an idea about at least the perception of the large number of denominations that exist in Christianity. Moreover, the report says the number is expected to rise to 55,000 by 2025. For information on a number of religious groups including but not limited to Christian groups see  The Association of Religious Data Archives.

Some want to pridefully say their particular major or minor denominational group is the real church, the first church that existed from the beginning of Christianity, etc. But the truth is all they can base their assertion on is historical writings outside the Bible. Such historical writings may or may not be true, may or may not be biased by the writer.

Each Saturday the Texarkana Gazette publishes a church directory. In the January 2, 2016 issue I counted 21 listed denominational categories. There were four additional categories named (1) Interdenominational, (2) Non-denominational, (3) Cross-denominational, and (4) Others.

I am certain the last four are sincere and have good intentions. But my experience is that they tend to mostly align with the denominational background of the then current leadership. As is generally in a lot of churches, he or she may make some measure of modification to that background to create and/or emphasize different worship elements. I am certain that is not always the case but most likely is naturally mostly the case. For we are what we know.

I remember when I was in the Army in Heidelberg, Germany in 1976-1978. On base we had what was called a Gospel Service in the afternoon. I remember part of the time I was there the pastor was a Baptist minister and the other part of the time the pastor was a Church of God in Christ (GOCIC) minister. When we had the Baptist minister the worship service had a Baptist worship style which is what I was familiar with since I grew up in a Baptist church. However, when the COGIC minister was the pastor, the worship style was that of a COGIC flavor with which I was not all that familiar. In both cases the pastor understood there were members from a variety of denominations so he was humble enough to accommodate the differences.

Moreover, I learned a very important lesson during that time. I learned that as long as the congregation has Jesus Christ
as its foundation, center, and focus, then we are all Christians just with different worship style preferences.

I also learned to appreciate differences in denominations and human preferences including preferences and styles of different races. I have learned not to be so self-righteous and arrogant so as to think my preferred way is the only right way to worship and serve God in spirit and in truth. That is why I can worship and fellowship with the quiet and the loud, the black and the white, the young and the old, the educated and the uneducated, as long as Jesus Christ is the foundation, center, and focus. Yet, I do not say all have or should have this ability; it is my calling and I do not impose my calling on all.

To God Be the Glory!



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