Why Are There Many Different Christian Churches?
Michael Lane, Executive Director, Delve Christian Ministries
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The complete answer is rather complex and deals with psychology and sociology more than anything else. However, at the heart of it lies two factors - that the Bible requires interpretation and that we are fallen creatures.
Let's start with the interpretation issue. I don't want to give the impression that this is a bad thing - it is how God has chosen to give us revelation - but there is no escaping the fact that we are far removed from the Bible's writing in terms of culture, language and time. Two intelligent, honest and sincere people can read certain passages and come up with two different, opposing interpretations. For this reason, there will always be people who disagree on how we should worship. Now, I'm talking about little things, not big things. No one could honestly and sincerely read the New Testament and believe that Jesus was not the Messiah, did not die for our sins, was not raised from the dead, etc. I do think someone could come away with different impressions about whether women should serve in the church, men should always have short hair or whether we must baptize babies. Again, these are small issues, not central to the core of Christian belief, but they do affect how we worship. All it takes is someone to strongly disagree with someone else about how to worship and they will eventually leave and start a new church with like-minded believers. If you examine the differences between all the protestant churches in North America, I think this is what you will find - differences in agreement on the less important doctrines in Scripture.
Sometimes, due to our fallen nature, church leaders become corrupt or lose touch with reality. (It is also certainly true that spiritual leaders are at greater risk for spiritual attacks). Whatever the reason, sometimes a church falls off the rails and the congregation must leave and start a new church. Some other members of the congregation may not see or acknowledge the problem and will stick around. The most extreme example of this would have to be the reformation, but this happens all the time on smaller scales.
All of this must grieve Christ to some extent. He called us to be His church, not his 1,356 different churches. But at the same time, we can look at the bright side. Sometimes churches differ in nothing more than the kind of music they play or how they dress in the service. This variety can allow people to find a home where they feel comfortable and welcome. If you want a very conservative church where they wear suits and play only hymns, you can find that. If you prefer to dress down and hear some contemporary music, that is also available to you.
My advice to anyone would be this: Discover your beliefs and your interpretation. Do this with much prayer and mediation, and ask the Lord to guide you. Be as honest and open minded as you can. Once you feel comfortable with what the Lord is asking you to know about Him and how He wants to be worshiped, find the church that is most closely aligned with what you believe.
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