The question: "Why are there so many churches?" is the "real" question we will consider for this week.
This is a very real question in the hearts of lots of people. This weekend I saw a vehicle with a bumper sticker that said, "Jesus Saves; Church Enslaves". I don't know what is behind that sentiment, but I imagine it involves a perception that church tries to control people by regulating beliefs and practices in line with personal preferences rather than in obedience to God's word. And I have to admit that is part of the reason why there are so many churches because churches are made up of sinful human beings.
(Read I Corinthians 1:10-13 and I Corinthians 3:1-23)
The key issue in my mind as relates to this question, is that Christ is not divided. Human beings make false distinctions within the one body of Jesus, which is made up of ALL those who have placed true faith in Jesus and have been united to His person through the work of the Holy Spirit by that same faith.
So as Paul says here and reiterates in I Corinthians 3, since Christ is not divided we must not overemphasize the divisions we make in the body of Christ. (see especially I Corinthians 3:21-23)
Yet I am aware of how this sounds coming from someone like me. I am an ordained minister of the Word in the Christian Reformed Church in North America; a denomination with roots in the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century in Europe. So if this is how I feel about church divisions, then why am I a minister in a particular denomination?
Good question. I chose to be a minister of the Word in the CRCNA because first of all it is the church fellowship in which I was raised. It is my spiritual "mother" and I want to serve the church as a way of saying "thank you" as to my mother. I also chose to be a minister of the Word in the CRCNA because I appreciate the theological heritage; a conversation passed down over several centuries into which I have been invited to join. The basic biblical truths confessed in the Ecumenical creeds and confessions of the CRCNA give me a good foundation from which to continue the conversation in light of God's word and the voice of the Holy Spirit.
Nevertheless, although I am thankful to be able to serve as a minister of the Word in the CRCNA, I do not believe everyone needs to think or even believe the same way as I do in order to be "in Christ". The body of Christ is richly diverse (culturally and theologically) and yet we find our common ground in the person of Jesus Christ; the eternal Word who became flesh so that we might gain the right to become children of God by faith. I appreciate the richness of the diversity of Jesus' one body and I enjoy the beautiful dialogue we can share as brothers and sisters in Christ about God and the wonderful gift of His Son and the relationship we can have with Him through the Holy Spirit.
So what about you? What do you like or dislike about the multiplicity of "churches" within the one body of Jesus Christ?