Though my wife and I attend a denominational, church, which we enjoy, recent polling suggests a cultural shift is taking place as people seem to be moving away from denominational churches, to independent or nondenominational churches.
In a survey of over 1,000 preselected people, Lifeway Research found that when denominational names were part of a church’s name, significant percentages of people were no longer interested in attending that particular church.
The survey found:
- 51% said they would not be interested in a particular church if Pentecostal was part of its name;
- 48% were not interested if Catholic was part of the church name;
- 47% did not feel the church was for them if its name included Lutheran or Methodist;
- 46% said they were uninterested if Southern Baptist, Assemblies of God or Presbyterian were part of the name; and
- 43% felt they would not be interested if the church name included Baptist.
According to the Christian Post, this seems to be part of a growing trend of people preferring nondenominational churches. A study conducted in 2015 by Pew Research found that since 2007, the percentage of Evangelicals who identify with nondenominational churches grew from 13% to 19%.
Many of the denominations that we see today formed under the work of an individual or due to a particular theological emphasis.
The Lutheran church finds its roots in Martin Luther, the great protestant reformer, and the Methodist church through the revival preaching of John and Charles Wesley.
The Baptist church originated around its emphasis on believer’s baptism and a rejection of infant baptism, which was still accepted by the Lutheran church.
Pentecostal churches, of course, embraced the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the spiritual gifts.
And oddly, the Apostle Paul seemed to be addressing a similar tendency in the early church where people were identifying more with certain church leaders to the point they were quarreling amongst themselves over who was better:
11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, (1 Corinthians 1:11-14 ESV)
Though these divisions were based on early church personalities, some have suggested theological and cultural issues may have played a role in the divisions as well.
But Paul criticized all four groups who identified with either himself, Apollos, Cephas (Peter), and even Christ because they were dividing the body of Christ.
The early Jewish Christians may have identified with Peter, who held to Jewish traditions and who Paul referred to as the Apostle of the circumcision (Galatians 2:7). We also know there was contention between Peter and Paul (Galatians 2:11-12) as Peter withdrew from fellowship with gentiles when certain Jews showed up.
The gentiles, meanwhile, may have favored Paul, who called himself the apostle to the gentiles (Galatians 2:7).
Apollos, on the other hand, may have gained a following because of his exceptional oratory skills (Acts 18:24). Having been a follower of John the Baptist (Acts 18:25), he may have been a fire and brimstone preacher calling people to repentance
And oddly, Paul even threw the group that identified with Christ into this mix. Though it could be argued that all of us should be part of this latter group, Paul may have criticized it, because it was priding itself as superior to the other groups who were identifying with mere mortals.
Ultimately, it was this attitude of superiority, that was manifesting in all four groups, and led to the quarreling, that was wrong, so the Christ group deserved equal criticism.
There is nothing wrong with attending a denominational church, which may have a unique theological perspective, but we need to guard our hearts against feelings of superiority over other Bible-believing churches.
Even nondenominational churches can have this sense of superiority, which is ultimately the root of the division in the church.