Since the beginning, the body of Christ found reason to split and divide. Even the words of Christ himself, which should have unified the people, lead to arguments, debates and divisions. Today we have more denominations than we can count. Yet, we can easily see, from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, that God’s plan did not include this.
Division Among the People
John 7.40 When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet.” 41 Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Is the Christ to come from Galilee? 42 Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” 43 So there was a division among the people over him. 44 Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.
A Church Divided Over Leaders
1Cor 1.10 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters,[a] in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers and sisters, 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[b]”; still another, “I follow Christ.”
13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
I did some research into denominationalism some time ago, Most of the sources I read accepted the system for one reason or another, at best, and praised it, at worst. Mainly, they extolled the benefits of having different ways to worship. Or, they downplayed the pain of the division stating that we divide over non-essential issues, however, we are still one happy family.
Has anyone been in a divided family that was completely happy? Coming from such a heritage, I can certainly tell you that such arrangements lack happiness!
Our fancy word for Christian division, Denominationalism, has no place in the body of Christ. The fact that many applaud it just makes me cranky. A large driving force behind it, traditionalism, flies in the face and power of God. Let me be clear, traditionalism, the systematic emphasis on the value of tradition in our church/worship, has no place in Christianity. Where you have strong traditionalism, you have hypocrisy, pride, and, yes, division.
Yet, if Christians attend a church, do they have a choice but to participate in both denominationalism and traditionalism? Any church, even the so-called ‘non-denominational’ ones, have overwhelmingly strong elements of both.
To be honest, I do not see an easy answer. For some, including best friends of mine, they work from within those systems, broken as they are. For me and my house, God calls us to work from the outside. More and more followers of Christ find themselves doing the same, even though that brings its own set of concerns.
Regardless, we can know the issue, understand what the Bible says, preach and live the right direction in our lives, and pray for our siblings in Christ. If Jesus can mend a broken heart, he can do the same to a broken church.