Why Are There So Many Churches?
The religious landscape is filled with many different churches all professing to believe and follow the Bible and be followers of Jesus. Examining the religious division resulting in the establishment of these many different churches could discourage some individuals making them think finding the right church is next to impossible. Others who have a love for the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12; Proverbs 23:23) may begin a quest to find out about the church Jesus established and which you can read about in the New Testament and seek to be a member of that church. A question many people have is, “Why are there so many churches?”. Let’s examine some things the Bible would have to say in response to such a question.
The existence of many churches is clearly not God’s plan. Jesus plainly stated, “I will build My church” (Matthew 16:18, NKJV), not, “I will build My churches.” Ephesians 4:4-6 lists seven things there are just one of. It says, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (NKJV). If there is one God and Father of all, then obviously a person would be wrong to argue it is okay for people to worship the god of their choice. There is only one God and Father an no more! In a similar manner, when the text says, “there is one body,” and that body is identified as the church (Ephesians 1:22-23; Colossians 1:18, 24), one would be wrong to argue it is okay for people to worship at the church of their choice. There is only one body or church and no more! God’s plan was not for His people to be divided as we see within the denominational world but rather for His people to be united. Jesus prayed, “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved me” (John 17:20-23, NKJV). God’s plan for His people is expressed in the following words, “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10, NKJV). God should not be blamed for the religious division around us (1 Corinthians 14:33). The religious division around us is not God’s fault but man’s fault.
How did things change from one church to multiple different churches? The Bible predicts a time would come when men would depart from the Bible’s teaching. 1 Timothy 4:1-3 says, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth” (NKJV). When people began to depart from the faith by teaching and practicing things not in harmony with God’s word, then religious division was the result as some remained loyal to God’s word and others did not. Paul warns Timothy later, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Timothy 4:3-4, NKJV). The elders at Ephesus were warned, “For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves” (Acts 20:29-30, NKJV). As one reads about the history of the church in the days following the first century, one will notice how departures from the faith in the organizational structure of the church and its beliefs and practices began to develop. Sadly, many still hold onto these manmade traditions rather than discarding them and returning back to the commandments of the Lord (Matthew 15:1-9). It should be our desire to discard all departures from the faith, go back to what the Bible says, and allow it to dictate what we are going to believe, teach, and practice (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 1 Peter 4:11; Jude 3). When men are committed to allowing the word of God to be their sole standard of authority, there will be the sort of unity among such individuals that God intended to be among His people.