Depending on the source, there are between 1,100 and 43,000 different denominations under the umbrella of Christianity. The best and most agreed-upon definition of what makes up a denomination puts the number somewhere between 9,000 and 30,000. It is important to consider those numbers in light of the last prayer Jesus prayed for His disciples before going to the cross to be crucified for our sins (John 17:20-22). He asked the Father that His disciples would be unified.
Jesus prayed His followers would be one, just as He and His Father were one. Reflecting on that, how would you say the Church is doing in living out His desire that we would be unified as one? Instead of a vibrant body moving in harmony with one another, we have allowed our petty differences and selfish opinions to divide the body not once, not twice, but over 10,000 times. That’s not unity, and it shows the Church is falling woefully short of what Christ intended it to be.
The early church was unified in spreading the gospel of Jesus, caring for one another, and sharing all their possessions so no one was in need (Acts 4:32-35). It’s a far cry from where we are today. I grew up in the Church, and as the son of a pastor I’ve had a front-row seat to the incessant squabbling between church members, board members, and denominational committees. I’m certain all of it breaks the heart of Jesus, who wanted us to be unified as closely as He was with His Father. While I have had the privilege of seeing churches from diverse backgrounds and denominations reach out and work together, it is sadly more the exception than the rule. But it is beautiful when it happens.
I wish I had a quick and easy solution to repair all the fractures in the Church over the past 2,000 years, but I don’t think anyone does. It’s too big of a problem to solve from the top down, so each of those who profess to be disciples of Jesus must start from where we are. If we are allowing divisions between our brothers and sisters in Christ, we must confess that to the Lord and ask Him to heal what is broken.
People will have differences of opinion about almost everything, so I suggest taking it back to the basics of early Christianity. All followers of Christ agree Jesus is the Son of God, died in our place, and rose to life again to provide a pathway to eternal life for all those who believe on His name and submit to Him as Lord. Let’s just start there in agreement. All this other stuff we’ve added over the years is little more than noise and distraction.
I often marvel at receiving yet another flyer in the mail announcing yet another new church. We have enough churches. What we don’t have is unity. We aren’t unified in Christ; we are unifying around personal and selfish preferences. Oh, to have Jesus be Lord of our lives and His body again! How much more broken must the church become before we recognize the horrific sin of all our divisions?
God help us be unified! Begin the process in me and help me slough off a lifetime of preference and bias when it comes to loving my brothers and sisters and help me live in unity with all who proclaim your name and call you Lord. Make us one as You and the Father are one. Forgive the devastation we have done to Your body. Cleanse us and help us, Jesus! Breathe a fresh Spirit of unity over your people and send us out together to declare Your name to those who have not heard. Lord, make us unified!