Hi, can someone please explain the difference between all the Christian denominations? If the gospel message is clear, why are there so many different denominations? And what about non-denominational churches, how different are the messages preached by them compared to other churches?
There are certain things to be a Christian that are essential. This would include believing that Jesus Christ is the only begotten son of God. you also need to believe that he died on the cross and rose again. in doing this he provided the atonement for the sins of the entire world. These are some of the essentials.
What has created denominations is disagreements in secondary issues. This would include once saved always saved versus can you lose your salvation. Unfortunately some denominations have started to question things that are clear in scripture. This would include homosexuality. I realize this is a touchy subject in the culture we live in today. There is no question that we are to love every person no matter what sin they have committed. This does not mean that we are to condone sin. Some denominations also do not stress the break in relationship with God that sin causes.
I hope I have answered your question without going into another topic too much.
Hello, Shanti! Thank you for your questions on denominations! And, wow, explaining the difference between all the Christian denominations is a tall order! There are many, and it would take a book to explain them all. To start, here is an article from a great source giving a bit of an abridged version of how denominationalism rose and the naming of a couple of the main lines of disagreements among them: https://www.gotquestions.org/denominations-Christian.html.
The gospel message is clear and yet how the faith is lived out in worship and governance of the church and in the lives of believers can sometimes be not so clear, as every detail of how we are to live and worship is not outlined in the Bible, though we can be guided by biblical principles. Sometimes matters of practice become the subject of debate in the Church, and if disagreeing sides hold their convictions strongly enough, sometimes they cannot come to a compromise and so end up parting ways. We see the struggle with these things in the epistles, as Paul and others work to give instruction to address different situations in the days of the early church.
If you have ever read Acts 15, Paul and Barnabas had a sharp disagreement over opinion–not even a doctrinal issue! The two could not resolve the disagreement and so decided to go their separate ways. However, it was the way the disagreement was handled that we should look to. Both men were united in their focus on their purpose in spreading the gospel and doing the work of Christ. They just were not uniform in how they went about it, and that was okay. Their focus, their decisions to “set their minds on things above” (Colossians 3:2) enabled them to keep peace and not allow the disagreement to be a distraction.
Keep in mind that unity does not require and is not the same thing as uniformity. Look at the diversity in the roles of the distinct persons of the Trinity. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit all have different, distinctive, and unique roles, and yet they are not divided! Though many see denominationalism as bad, it is the attitude one takes towards other denominations that is bad, not necessarily the denominations themselves. If we think about it, different modes of worship and different ways of delivering the gospel or a message from the Scriptures speak to different people. I believe that the different denominations speak to different people and affect them in ways that bring them closer to God as only those denominations could for them.
As far as non-denominational churches go, though their intentions and goal to unit are admirable there are things they still have to take a stand on (for example, infant or adult baptism). They each have a list of what they believe on their sites, and even if there is not an extensive list, the way they do church and govern the church will reveal that they, too, go by a set of principles, even if unstated in their doctrinal confessions. So, in my opinion, they simply become a nameless denomination, although I have seen more of a diversity of belief in the congregations of the ones I have attended in the past (only a couple).
As far as your last question in regard to how different the messages of the non-denominational churches are, because they all have their differing beliefs and principles (as many as the named denominations have), there are not just a few main differences to name. The main thing is to line their messages up with Scripture, making sure they are preaching the gospel as we find it in the Scriptures. We also need to make sure their messages line up with what is clear in Scripture in other matters such as homosexuality, like David pointed out.
What is important to look at in the case of any denomination or “non-denomination” is the attitude and outlook of one denomination towards the others. Is there a “we’re better” or “we’ve got it all right, and ‘they’ have it all wrong” attitude? If so, that is not a healthy attitude, and that is what is divisive, because it doesn’t recognize and honor the uniting message of the gospel of Christ among all Christian denominations.
Thanks for your questions, Shanti, and I hope this helps!
Is there a particular purpose behind your question? Are you seeking a church and trying to decide between a denominational and non-denominational church? Or between denominations?
Or just curiosity as to how so many developed @Shanti?
@psalm151ls is correct that your question is a tall order. Maybe we can provide a more finely tuned answer directed to your real need.
@Shanti Great question!
- Explaining the differences between denominations would take many books. I found one book (link below) that appears reputable, but could not attest to its veracity. Prob worth a read if you are interested.
- There are lots of denominations because people are very good at disagreeing The Gospel is clear in Scripture, but not all denominations affirm the Scriptures or even the deity of Christ. Within those who believe in the risen Christ, denominations form because people disagree on secondary issues - like baptism or Church structure.
- Each non-denominational Church would need to be evaluated individually since they are so different and the leader has a massive impact on the culture and beliefs of the Church.
Difference Between Denominations
This book is not exhaustive, but it may serve as a starting point.
Why so many denominations?
“Some people may disagree with me, but I think when God looks at all the Christ–honoring, Bible–following churches in your city he sees the body of Christ— not specific denominations. Here is a quote that’s guided a lot of churches over the ages: “ In essentials, unity. In non–essentials, liberty. In all things, love. ” Think about what that quote means. Let’s be sure we are united on the stuff that’s really important (like Christ), that we allow freedom for those things that aren’t “essential,” and always practice love when we disagree.”
Thank you @ oleo_ljc @psalm151ls @SeanO for your explanation and resources. I didn’t realize answering this question in detail would take books. Everything you have said is very helpful for my understanding.
To answer @Jennifer_Judson, I am fairly new to the faith and I am still learning. These questions come up often, and I have not been exposed to resources that could help. I have attended a non denominational church, and there were incidents when members comment about the problems in different denominations, and that made me feel like there is a division within the body of Christ. I am just looking for the reason behind this division.
Don’t be alarmed at the amount of denominations. In fact it is a testament to how great the Christian movement is, it is not necessarily a negative. In fact it is natural for any organization that gets bigger and bigger.
It is not exclusive to the Christians. Every major worldviews naturally diverge out. Buddhism and Hinduism branched out so much that it is hard for us to point to a singular point of reference and assumes all takes the same position. Islam has so many sects out there and they are even killing each other for it. Even the non-theists have a plethora of different school of thoughts and have a lot to disagree among themselves.
In fact it happens in the corporate world as well, some partnership broke up and a competing company is setup that is more or less the same kind of business.
Lead any group that is growing, and soon you will find many little sub-groups with mutual interest forming, and those who don’t fit in into any of the cliques will start up a new clique themselves. LOL
Hope it has been helpful. Blessings in Christ.
I totally agree that none of us should think that “we are better” than anyone else. I would like to express on that a little. Each of us are flawed and have sinned. Not one person is excluded. It is only through the work is Jesus that can change our status with God. So every one of us have had the status of fallen. The big question is if they have accepted Jesus and changed their status to saved. Any true church will do it’s best through the power of the Holy Spirit to reach and disciple as many people as possible.
I am so glad to hear that as a new Christian you are seeking truth.I think that there is no denomination or non-denominational church that has gotten it 100% correct. As a follower of Christ I do believe that we should be constantly on the word so that when we are presented with falsehood we can expose it as such. I also believe that a person truly seeking God will be able to change their mind when a biblical argument is presented to them.
Keep selling the truth of God’s word.