His response: “No thanks. I don’t even believe in chicken-eating.”
I raised by eyebrows. “You don’t believe in it? I didn’t realize you were vegan.”
“I’m not,” he replied, “I just don’t see how chicken-eating can be a legitimate behavior. I mean, if it were, there would be only one method of eating it. The fact that there are so many different chicken restaurants is a major problem. If chicken-eating were legitimate, there wouldn’t be so many different styles and differences among the people who serve it.”
Ok, I’m going to ‘fess up now. This conversation didn’t really happen. I don’t have a friend who talks like this. In fact, that whole idea just doesn’t make much sense, and I can’t imagine anyone saying it.
…I’ve heard this argument used against Christianity countless times: “I don’t believe in organized religion. If Christianity were true, there would be one true church practicing it in the one true way. I read the other day that there are over 1,000 different denominations. If God were real, there wouldn’t be so much division, with so many people worshipping Him in different ways with different beliefs.”
Have you heard it, too? It’s a fairly common argument: The fact that denominations exist is used to prove either that Christianity isn’t true… or at the very least, it shows that Christianity is hopelessly divided in a very bad way.
Now I must say that at least one aspect of this kind of talk is correct. I will admit that there are divisions within the Christian church that are unhealthy (see 1 Corinthians 1:10-12 and 3:1-4), and to the extent that there are different denominations because of worldliness, selfishness, rivalry, judgmentalism, false doctrine, apostasy, and/or arrogance, I join in with the rebuke of the divisions.
However, I’m not sure that description should be used to characterize every instance of one group of Christians labelling themselves as different from another group of Christians.
Here's an example: There are at least two churches in Ocala that have a name that starts with the word “good.” Good News Church and Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church. These two churches exist on two different sides of town and have two different pastors. One of them belongs to a denomination (the Presbyterian Church in America) and the other isn’t affiliated with a denomination. So, are these two churches hopelessly divided in a harmful way? Are they enemies?
Not at all. I have only had good interactions with the pastor of that church; spiritually, he is my brother. And I assist one of their worship leaders with a musical every year (it’s connected to their church-sponsored school) and it is a joy to be a part of that. Additionally, I send my own kids to that school and am so thankful that they are assisting us in the education and discipleship of our children. Oh, and I just remembered that another one of their worship leaders shared a cabin with me at Royal Family Kids Camp a few years back, and we ministered to the kids there all week long together. Oh, yeah, and my niece even works there as an office manager.
Both of these congregations belong to the same spiritual family and even share the same purpose for existing. These churches are literally on the same team.
Sure, the two churches have different views and practices on a few things. Good Shepherd baptizes babies (because they believe it is a good and necessary consequence of Genesis 21:4 and Acts 2:38-39) and Good News does not (because they believe it is a good and necessary consequence of Matthew 28:19.) But that isn’t actually a big deal. I would imagine if the two churches were to write out every little thing they believe about every Bible passage, there would probably be about 97% agreement. And there would certainly be agreement on the things that matter most, like Jesus is Lord.
So, back to my opening illustration. Imagine if Zaxby’s and KFC were in the same city where there was also a large headquarters for PETA. And, for the sake of this illustration, imagine that the goal of Zaxby’s and KFC is not to make money, but rather to simply get people to eat more chicken. If that were the case, Zaxby’s and KFC would actually be partners on the same team, with PETA being their opposition.
That’s how I see it when a town has multiple churches committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s almost certainly better than if that town only had one congregation. These churches aren’t each other’s enemies. If Jesus is their Lord, they are partners in the same mission.