A denomination is simply an emphasis on certain biblical truths; often "colored" by a culture, a religious experience or a move of God.
The truth is there are lots of denominations. We have many expressions of Christianity in the US, and also some cults which seem Christian on the outside but reject the central truth that Jesus taught: Jesus is God. A cult is defined as any so-called Christian organization that denies the divinity of Christ - Jesus is/was/always has been God. I am not going to try to answer the age old question regarding theology: "Who's right?" (I am writing this blog because I think I am!)
Please keep an open mind and explore the links. In the end, you will be challenged in your own beliefs.
If we look at the major denominations, we'll find some interesting information in how they have arrived at their denominational traditions and bylaws. Each one emphasizes a certain portion of the truth. Be sure, I am not picking on anyone, I am just trying to bring some enlightenment to the Body of Christ for the sake of unity.
The largest denomination in the world is Roman Catholic and over 1/3 of Christians (little Christs or little anointed ones) belong to this group. They have been well established since the 3rd century and for over 1,200 years they were pretty much the only show on earth - we'll talk about them first.
One of the traditions that makes Roman Catholics different from any other denomination is Priests that do not marry. Why? 1 Corinthians 7:27 Are you married? Do not seek a divorce. Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife. 28 But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.
38 So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does even better.
It is not a sin to be married, nor a requirement not to be. Paul is simply stating that marriage requires focus that could be used on the Lord and serving Him.
The debate over divorce and marriage rages on in just about every denomination. We have a number of other catholic denominations including the Anglican Communion and the Eastern Orthodox churches who split from Rome over things like marriage and divorce. The Anglican church is considering splitting over gay marriage. There is nothing new under the sun.
Catholics also have services in which they "adore" Mary. This too; is not unbiblical. (Luke 1:46-55) See verse 48b From now on all generations will call me blessed.
I think Evangelicals adore Paul an awful lot from the pulpit. I'm just sayin'.
Catholics also have a liturgy to exercise or cast out demons. (Mark 16:17) I would have to say not too many Protestant churches even think about this as a possibility, never mind practicing it.
After the Protestant Reformation (Martin Luther) in 1517 we saw the rise of other Liturgical denominations, including Lutheran, Presbyterian and Congregational. In doctrine, they are pretty much agree on the Nicene Creed as a basis of their belief. Over the centuries their differences in worship style certainly begun to separate them.
John Wesley (1703-1791), who embraced Areminianism, was an Anglican that developed intensive, personal accountability, discipleship and religious instruction among members. His great contribution was to appoint itinerant, unordained preachers who traveled widely to evangelize and care for people in the societies.
There are many historical documents in church history. Some of the major ones you may read HERE.
With each nuance of change, reform, cultural differences and new ideas, our beloved church has changed a lot over 2 millennia.
Over the centuries there have been many notable men and woman of God. Here is a brief list of folks that changed the face of Christianity. Some names are controversial, but each in their own way has contributed something to the Kingdom of God.
St. Patrick - He lived in the 4th century and spread the Gospel to Ireland. From slave to missionary; he confronted the Druid darkness in Ireland. He operated in the supernatural stopping a snow storm and raising the King's children from the dead.
St. Francis - One of the most influential missionaries of the 13th century was known as a man of peace; one who traveled to Egypt and the Holy Land as he witnessed to Muslims. When he preached, Christ was known to appear among those listening.
Smith Wigglesworth - (1859-1947) Known as the Apostle of Faith. He claimed to have never read any book but the Bible, he was sought after for healing, carried an amazing presence (anointing) of God, and standing up to the Devil.
John G. Lake - (1870-1935) A businessman who became known for his ministry as a missionary and faith healer. He was influenced by the healing ministry of John Alexander Dowie, and he received the baptism of the Holy Spirit in 1907 in the wake of the Azusa Street Revival.
Kathryn Kuhlman - (1907-1976) A Methodist, sometimes called the Mother of Charismatics, she had a TV and radio show called, I Believe in Miracles. She was responsible for thousands of healings.
Oral Roberts - (1918-2009) A Televangelist that withstood the test of faith and the critics. He touched the lost and the saved for 6 decades.
Benny Hinn - One of the most charismatic and controversial faith-healers in the world. He is responsible for thousands of salvations and physical healings. As I write this, his wife has filed for divorce [Article].
There are a number of American denominations and their traditions differ based on their interpretation of the Bible. Here is a brief list.
Lutherans are of course followers of Martin Luther. The main theme is salvation by faith, through the grace of God. (Acts 2:21) The are the original evangelical movement.
Calvinist's used the Apostle's Creed. Those who follow the teaching of John Calvin are called Presbyterians in the US. The doctrine of being "predestine" (Romans 8:29) as opposed to act of the will, is predominately the major difference from other evangelical denominations.
Followers of John Wesley we called Methodists. They placed primary emphasis on Christian living, on putting faith and love into action (James 2:26), both in the local community, and abroad.
The Baptists were refugees from England as were the Puritans in New England. They first gathered in the backroom of an Amsterdam bakery in 1609 to read the Bible together. There most notable doctrinal difference is baptism by submersion. (Matthew 3:13-17)
Pentecostals are named after a revival that took place on Azusa Street in Los Angels in 1906 and lasted to about 1915. (Acts 2:1-13) The particular revival was characterized by speaking in tongues and resurgence of the 12 gifts of the spirit (1 Cor 12:7-11) The Pentecostals had another well known revival in Pensacola, FL at the Brownsville Assembly of God.
Four Square - A spirit-filled denomination following the 4 tenets of Christianity: prayer, fellowship, Bible study and communion, outlined in Acts 2:42.
The Vineyard Movement was a group that followed John Wimber and were the churches in which the Prophetic Reformation, the Apostolic Renewal and the Toronto Blessing grew out of. Their main differences from other Charismatic and Pentecostal denominations is the emphasis on spiritual gifts, the laying on of hands, small group community and "one man, one vision," church government.
For the past decade a new movement of churches are making their way onto the Christian Landscape. It is based on the 5-Fold ministry laid out in Ephesians 4:11.
As I type the last words of this blog, I want you to challenge you to think, to pray, and worship outside the box!
I have previously written more about some of the subjects I have only mentioned here. I have tried hard to recognize biblical differences not identify the tradition of man. Religion is the quencher of the Spirit of the Most High. For it is only in loving one another, agreeing on the basics of salvation and coming together for the work of the Kingdom, that we will ever be unified by the Holy Spirit.
What the Bible Says
How Much Do I Know About the Bible?
The Gifts of the Spirit:
How do All the Gifts Work Together?
Putting it Together:
The Gifts of the Spirit:
How do All the Gifts Work Together?
Putting it Together: