It is written:
Amos 3:3-Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?
Many in our world have become disillusioned with denominational divisions. This is good, and to be expected. After all, Jesus taught that division among believers results in disbelief in Him as the Son of God:
John 17:20-21-I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 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.
As a result of this dissatisfaction with denominationalism, in the last several years there has been a movement towards “undenominational” churches. In this scenario, churches spring up without any (alleged) denominational allegiances, carrying interesting names and providing diverse programs for its’ members. Quite often, they are very popular and promise to give a portion of God’s Word and “worship” in a very entertaining fashion.
What should we make of these “undenominational”churches?
First, let’s notice that the desire of undenominational churches is in and of itself a good thing. It is good to want to seek unity! The Psalmist long ago declared:
Psalm 133:1-Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity!
I have witnessed in my lifetime many examples of how denominational divisions can drive people away from the Lord. Years ago, I heard a preacher declare, “Thank God for all the churches!”
How sad to hear such an unbiblical notion.
Second, we need to realize that very often “undenominational” churches are actually better described as “all-denominational.” In other words, far from removing people from denominationalism, undenominational churches actually encourage people to maintain their denominational divisions and practices and to simply “agree to disagree” with each other despite their diverse backgrounds.
This is, in many ways, a large concern that I have with the “undenominational” platform. If the Word of God clearly addresses a matter, and yet people are told that they can disagree with this because of their personal belief system which is already firmly in place, then can we expect this platform to be pleasing to God?
There was a time in Israel’s history when many of the people wanted to encourage people to join hands together with the other religions. They incorporated various beliefs and practices into the religion of Yahweh, claiming that such should be acceptable. Yet what did God say to these movements?
Jeremiah 6:16-Thus says the LORD: “Stand in the ways and see, And ask for the old paths, where the good way is, And walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.‘
The people of Israel’s attempts at forming an “undenominational” fellowship were rebuffed by God. He instead told the people that they needed to return to the Word that He had given them.
Sadly, they would not.
Will we choose to follow their example, or the Word of God?
Third, one factor in undenominational churches which should be considered is the authority of Scripture. The Holy Bible is God’s guide for the church (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:37; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Specifically, the New Testament Scriptures are exceedingly important in this matter.
The New Testament Scriptures provide:
Everything we need for certainty of faith (Luke 1:1-4);
All necessary information of what Jesus did and taught (Acts 1:1-3);
Everything we need to create saving faith in Who Jesus is (John 20:30-31);
Prophetic insight (Romans 16:26);
Apostolic warnings (1 Corinthians 4:14);
Counsel regarding church discipline (1 Corinthians 5);
The commands of the Lord especially regarding the worship assembly of the church (1 Corinthians 14:37);
Things which can be understood (2 Corinthians 1:13);
What is needed to produce godly sorrow and repentance (2 Corinthians 7:8-11);
Counsel for sinning Christians (2 Corinthians 13:2);
A perfect standard for unity (Philippians 3:16);
The Word of God (Colossians 3:16; 4:16);
The full authority of the Apostles of Christ (2 Thessalonians 2:15; 3:14);
A perfect guide for the worship service and organization of the church (1 Timothy 3:14-15);
Everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3);
What we need to stir up our minds and prepare us for the challenges during the Christian Age (2 Peter 3);
How to have fullness of joy with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (1 John 1:4);
How to find forgiveness when we sin as Christians (1 John 2:1-2);
A ready defense and means to both refute false teachers and bring them to repentance (Jude 3; Titus 1:13);
Assurance for our loved ones who die in the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 14:13);
Encouragement of Heaven (Revelation 21:5)
Often, in churches referred to as “undenominational,” written man-made creeds are placed alongside of and on equal grounds with the Scriptures. This is what, in essence, leads to the formation of denominational churches! Indeed, Christ rebukes all such efforts (Mark 7:7).
Fourth, it needs to be considered that in many undenominational churches, a corrupted plan of salvation is presented for sinners to be saved. In most of these churches that I have been familiar with, the erroneous “sinner’s prayer” salvation is taught (i.e., teaching sinners that all they need to do to be saved is say a prayer of faith in Jesus). However, the sinner’s prayer is not taught in the Word of God. On the Day of Pentecost, believers who were told that they needed to “call on the name of the Lord” to be saved (Acts 2:21) were then instructed to do this by repenting and being baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of their sins (Acts 2:38). Saul of Tarsus was a believer in Jesus who had repented of his sins and was praying for three days and nights (Acts 9:1-11). Yet he was told that he needed to arise and be baptized and wash away his sins, “calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).
When a corrupted plan of salvation is endorsed and taught in churches, then the door is opened for abuses of God’s Word in a number of ways (cf. Galatians 1:6-9).
Fifth, those involved in undenominational churches should consider the matter of worship. In the Word of God, the worship that God desires is that which is based on His Word and which is offered with the right attitudes (John 4:23-24). The New Testament church had five simple acts of worship: singing (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16), prayer (Acts 2:42), the Lord’s Supper (Acts 2:46; 20:7), giving (1 Corinthians 16:1-2), and preaching and teaching of God’s Word (2 Timothy 4:2-5).
Worship was simple in God’s church.
Today, worship has become nothing but stage play and entertainment in many places. One lady that I worked with locally told me about a “worship service” of an undenominational church that was actually more like an “AC/DC” concert than worship (her words, not mine).
God was no longer the audience: man was.
Beloved, there is a word for this:
Finally, we need to consider the names that are being endorsed by our friends in undenominational churches. It is true that the phrases “churches of Christ” (Romans 16:16) and “church of God” (1 Corinthians 1:2) were never designed to be denominational designations. If we are not careful, we can take a beautiful biblical description of who we are as God’s people and denominationalize such. We must not do this!
With that being said, the Bible is clear that we do not have the right to make up man-made designations for the church.
When people apply uninspired names to the people of God, they are following in the footsteps of the Christians that Paul rebuked when they gave themselves human names and denominated themselves (see 1 Corinthians 1:10-13). Paul went on to say that these Christians were being worldly and carnal by doing these things, and needed to repent (1 Corinthians 3:1-5).
Now, having said all these things, let me also be quick to point out that the churches of Christ do not have everything “down” perfectly. Far from it! Indeed, we have a lot of work to do. However, our goal is to follow God’s Word, allowing Him to guide us and correct us when necessary.
Let’s sit down and study these matters together and follow where HE leads.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.