I have long believed that denominationalism is one of Satan’s most effective tools, even though when I say that, the denominationalists gasp in disbelief. They seem to think that “the more churches, the merrier.” It never seems to occur to them that the multiplying number of churches, with their various position statements, creeds, terms of membership and conflicting doctrines, is more of a hindrance than a help to mankind.
I will admit that many of the denominational leaders talk a good talk. Like the soothsaying maiden in Acts 16, what they say is really, really good. But do you know what the apostle Paul did after listening to that maiden for “many days?” He put a stop to it by casting the demon out of her, (see Acts 16:16-18). Why? Why would Paul oppose someone who was loudly proclaiming the truth? Because even the truth can suffer in the wrong hands.
Denominational doctrines usually contain just enough truth to be dangerous. Like the siren lies of the subtle serpent in Eden, they are attractive on the surface, until someone gets deeply enough into them to discover they have a hook in them, and then it’s too late to get out. Like rat poison, which, I am told, is 99% edible. It’s not the 99% that is the problem.
The same apostle Paul who cast out the demon from the soothsaying maiden, had something to say about denominationalism. To the church at Corinth, he said, “Now I beseech you, brethren, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfected together in the same mind and in the same judgment,” (1 Cor. 1:10).
What? I thought we were all on different roads to heaven. I thought it doesn’t matter what we believe, so long as we are sincere. I thought we should attend “the church of our choice.” I thought – I thought. I better start thinking more clearly about division, and how the Lord views it. God does not like denominationalism, because he wants his people to be united. He does not like division, because it causes people to turn away from Christianity. If people get the idea that it really doesn’t matter what they believe, why should they value the truth anyway? What difference does it make?
The best tool of Satan is something which diminishes the value of Christianity itself. Something which suggests that one opinion is as good as another. Something that encourages apathy and indifference. Something which makes all of us wonder whether it is really worth being a Christian after all—whether it is worth the trouble. That something is denominational-ism. That’s why Jesus prayed so fervently that all of his disciples might be one, “that the world may believe” that God had sent him, (Jn. 17:21).
The word “denominationalism” means division. It refers to some part of a larger hole. Without devision, there can be no denominations. Without differences in doctrine, we would all be one. Without the peculiar denominational vocabularies, we would all be “speaking the same thing.” And without the petty competitions of man-made churches, Christians would all be “perfected together in the same mind and in the same judgment.”
I remember when I used to hear preachers say that there are over 300 denominations in this country, and then they would go on to explain why such was so contrary to God’s word. But I understand now that that number has multiplied to over 3,000! The sincere seeker of truth is now more bewildered than ever. And on the Internet, he is distracted by voices all over the spectrum clamoring for his attention in spiritual matters. No wonder it is so difficult to navigate through this dizzying torrent of denominationalism. Were it not for divine love and assistance, none of us would have a chance. Denominations come in various sizes, and varying levels of supposed respectability. Some of them are quite old, others are newcomers on the scene. All of them want your money. All of them want your time and your participation and your support. But the best thing we can do for our denominational friends is to point them back to the pure and simple gospel of Jesus Christ. The best thing is to lovingly encourage them to go back to Christ, and his church. Like the apostle Paul, beseech them to speak the same thing, and abandon all denominations.
-by Robert C. Veil, Jr.