Recently I was asked this very important question. It is a question about which many people have pondered. It is a question that largely goes unanswered by many that choose rather to uphold the status quo of mainline religious bodies today. It is a question, however, that is begging to be answered by millions and answer it we must! Christ prayed for his disciples in John 17:20-23. He said,
Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
Jesus prayed for the unity and oneness of those who believe on Him. If this was His great concern and plea, then why do we have so many “churches?”
The first reason we have so many “churches” is because of something that John wrote. He said in 1 John 4:1 “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” Indeed there are many false prophets that have gone out into the world and some of these false prophets have created “churches” of their own. And this is part of Satan’s plan to divide the followers of Christ. The Bible teaches that if it is to his benefit that Satan can transform himself into an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). We go on to read in the next verse, “Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness.” In other words, there are people in the world today who appear to be ministers of righteousness but who are actually working for Satan. How do you know the difference between the two? John has the answer. “Try (test) the spirits whether they are of God.” Therein lies the only available avenue to know whether one is teaching truth or falsehood–to test the teaching of the false teacher. How does one do this? Compare what they are saying to what the Bible says and then ONLY believe what the Bible ACTUALLY teaches. If the Bible does not actually teach it, then reject it. Many false prophets mean many false “churches.” Herein is a reason why there are so many churches.
The second reason we have so many “churches” is because there are many who are not content to be just Christians. Many want to be “Christians” of a particular sort. This was the problem that those at the church at Corinth were having. Paul had to rebuke them because they were calling themselves after something other than Christ. We read in 1 Corinthians 1:11, 12 “For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.” Just like today many want to say that they are Baptist-Chrisitans, Methodist-Christians, Presbyterian-Christians, Pentecostal-Christians, Lutheran-Christians, etc. What was Paul’s response to this type of thinking? He said, “Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” Instead of being content to be followers of the one who was crucified for them, instead of being content to be followers of the one in whose name they were baptized, they wanted to be known as Paul-Christians or Peter-Christians, or Apollos-Christians. They were not content with just being mere Christians. They wanted their own personalized, monogrammed “Christian club.” This lack of wanting to be merely Christians causes many “churches” to come into existence today.
The third reason we have so many “churches” is because there are many who simply want their own way. And they want it enough that they are willing to allow a church to be divided over their own opinions. They confuse their opinion with what the scriptures teach. To avoid this requires that we study and know what the Bible teaches so that we do not pawn off our own opinions as Biblical teaching and so that we do not pawn off Biblical teaching as our own opinions. Either mistake is disastrous when it comes to the unity of the church. The Christians at Borea practiced this. We read in Acts 17:11 “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” They did not merely accept the preacher’s opinion regarding what the Bible taught. They checked things out; they made absolute sure that what Paul was saying was the truth. They were not content to accept Paul’s opinion. Accepting the opinions of men as “gospel truth” causes division and is a large part of the reason there are so many “churches” today.
What is your desire my friend? Do you long for the kind of unity for which Jesus prayed? Do you desire to test the things that you believe against what the scriptures say? Do you want more than anything to be “just a Christian?” Then I offer you this challenge this very day. Find a “church.” Question them regarding what they believe and practice. If the scriptures do not teach it, then reject it. If they are doing what the scriptures teach and ONLY what the scriptures teach, then accept it and become part of that church today. It is my personal conviction that the church of which I am a member, the church that belongs to Christ–the church of Christ–is doing exactly this, no more and no less. The church of Christ is not a denomination as many are lead to believe. It is merely a body of Christians who meet every week to worship together and who have banded together in God’s church to further the work of our Lord, Jesus Christ. We invite you to learn more about us and lead the simple life that is called “Christian.”