Staggered By Statistics

Jeff Church Life, Cultural Observations

So I spent some time this morning reading up on denominational divisions within the global Church: just sticking with Protestants, I found that research shows some 9,000 separate denominations. Nine thousand. Nine THOUSAND! My whole Christian life was lived out under the denominational banner of ‘Baptist’ for the first 22 years, but that word clearly means very little when we recognize that there are actually 322 different recognized “flavors” of Baptist churches. Frankly, that is embarrassing. I’m not even sure which of those 322 particular tribes I was a part for all those years. Friends, we not only have denominations in the church but sub-denominations and even sub-sub denominations. Does this make anyone else squirm?

This is staggering, given the reality that Jesus prayed to the Father that Christians would live in the same oneness that the Father and Son share (John 17:22-23). Nine thousand Protestant denominations, 322 Baptist splinter-denominations… how did it come to this?

The longer I walk with Jesus, the more I long for what Paul called “the simplicity in Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3).  I am going to be a New Testament follower of Jesus, and leave the human religious baggage for others to tote. I am not going to be asking for anyone’s permission either. Time is short, the Gospel is unchanged and still true. Grace is the atmosphere in the Kingdom and love is the crown jewel in all that we do. If prioritizing those things makes me a naive idealist, so be it. Personally, I think it simply reveals that the Holy Spirit is hungering in me (and many others) for us to return to an uncomplicated approach to faith and life. There are no theological camps in Heaven. Jesus is the theology of Heaven. The Word of God is our gift for guidance while we still travel here below the sun. More than once I have heard somebody dogmatically pontificate that denominations are “a necessary evil” for us in the 21st century. If that is true, it is only because we have exalted our generational policies above Kingdom purposes. We are addicted to splintering, redefining, relaunching and planting theological flags in the ground, declaring that we finally have a market on revelation and wisdom. As for me, I have opted out.  The nonsense that our fragmentation is a necessary evil the result of generations of people who have failed to press in to Jesus, humble ourselves, wait on Him to guide and then to honor Him in joyful submission. In the church where I serve, we come from different cultures, nations, denominations and philosophies.  In our big supply room, the one thing you will not find is a cookie-cutter.  We do not all agree, but we lay those differences at the foot of the cross and, in the blazing light of the One who once hung there, we are blinded to those differences.

Love trumps posturing. Humility defeats strutting. Wise silence overcomes the ignorant shouts of our youthful boasts. Father smiles on us here.

Jesus, help us as we endeavor to live as the answer to what You prayed to the Father: that we would truly be one with each other. 

Make it, Lord, more than a lofty ideal, a future hope or a sweet sentiment. Make it to become the blood in our veins.