“There are approximately 38,000 Christian denominations in the world.”
(Christianity Today – General Statistics and Facts of Christianity Today, 2001).
* (Update: As of 2009, eight years after the CT study, more than 43,000 denominations have been identified).
Does this statistic bother you?
We so easily miss truth by way of our assumptions, our faulty perceptions, our beloved traditions. “We’ve always done it this way” is no excuse for error in our behavioral patterns. “We’ve never done it that way” is no justification of wrong-minded “rut” living
Have you considered that the word “Church” as used by Jesus and “Church” (as a descriptive experience) may not be the same? Indeed, they may be completely unrelated!
Jesus said, “I will build My Church and the gates of hell will not prevail . . .” We routinely reveal our error in understanding when we make statements such as,
“Are you going to church on Sunday?”
“Where do you go to church?”
“How do you do church?”
Jesus said, “I will build My church.” He did not say “I will build a school or an entertainment center, a business enterprise, a social gathering place, a nesting place for ‘birds of a feather to flock together.’”
What did Jesus have to say about church attendance? What did He say about “orders of service” and times of service and frequency of services and pastoral personalities and preaching styles and music preferences and, for crying out loud, the acceptable color and pattern of the carpet?
What did Jesus say about doctrinal distinctions and denominational differences and modes of baptism and understandings of communion? Or should we refer to the Lord’s Supper as the Eucharist? Did Jesus introduce the liturgy that so many view as sacred, proper, essential? Was it Divine genius that gave us homiletics 101?
What about “church growth” schemes? What did Jesus say about these? Was the Lord of glory the Originator of the Church Conference? Did the Savior introduce the Convention, the Congress, the Summit or the Seminar? Did He initiate the Saturday night “Prayer Hour?”
Was it Jesus Who suggested taping a Denarius, or in a rich neighborhood, an Aureus on the underside of a seat, to be won by the lucky worshiper who chose that moneyed seat?
Where did the term “Do Church” originate?
What makes one building a “church” and another a manufacturing plant? What makes one structure a sanctuary and another a dispenser of latte’s and pastries?
Did Jesus intend our Sunday-go-to-meeting duds should be different than our Monday-go-to-work attire? What chapter and verse in the gospels delineates a shopping mall for religious trinkets, “Christian” music and “Christian” books and “Christian” refrigerator magnets? Or perhaps it is Pauline theology that bears responsibility for the “Christian” financial enterprise that converts merchandise for millions of dollars each and every year that we await the rapture of the church.
I think we may have, somewhere along a long line of “doing” confused our being with performance, achievement, a “holy” but not wholly godly routine. Somehow, I think the “exploits” of Hebrews 11 and of the Acts of the Apostles have been largely lost beneath the sheer weight of a good-mindedness that is not necessarily God-mindedness. Our faulty definitions have displaced original intention and the simplicity of our watching, our cooperating, as Jesus simply, straightforwardly and miraculously, builds “His church.”
Acts 28, beginning in verse number 30 gives us a wonderful portrayal of the intention of Jesus in building: “For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.”
And he did it all, away from the synagogue, away from the crowds, without benefit of the limelight or the fawning groupies or the wild and raucous cheering section, all the while being held prisoner of the government of Rome. No, Paul wouldn’t “fly” in today’s religio-centric church, he was far too unconventional, too controversial, too “small time potatoes” for modern churchmen.
Jesus said, “I will build My church.” Oh, hey, I just noticed: “My” church, indicating possession, custody, ownership, control, proprietorship; “My” church
One of the first words learned by every toddler, beyond, “mama” and “dada” is “Mine!” It seems that we come from our Manufacturer uniquely equipped to issue that explanation to all in our world – “Mine!” And we carry that sense of domination and control and ownership into our concepts of church: Far, too many expressions of “church” are “mine” in either the collective or the individual sense. We’ve all heard it, “Have you attended Smith’s church?” Or, “What do you think of the __________________ (you fill in the denominational label) church?” Or, “This is my church.”
The songwriter penned the words, “What’s love got to do with it, do with it, do with it?” It seems that modern “churchites” have their own version: “What’s HE got to do with it, do with it, do with it?”