When someone asks me what I believe I don’t answer that I’m a Lutheran, a Catholic, a Presbyterian or a Brethren.
I say I’m a Christian.
Faith in Christ, desire for a closer relationship with God, and the desire to do God’s will, these are pretty fundamental concepts of Christianity, and yet we Christians seem to have a lot of different ideas about how we’re supposed to do God’s will and live our lives.
I think any faith or religion has instances where you want to say “I’m not with those guys”, the Westboro Baptist Church for example, but we divide ourselves in so many other ways. We call them denominations, like denominator, the bottom part of a fraction. We take the whole and make it smaller, fractured, and separate. There’s one Bible, but there are dozens, hundreds of ways to interpret it, to live its principles out, and only one of them is right, or at least best.
I understand the desire to gather together as Christians. It’s one of the things God calls us to do, to sharpen our own faith and to hold others accountable. There’s also a joy in being in a community of people who care about the things you do (even outside of church it’s great to find other writers, programmers, etc).
But strong denominational doctrines send the wrong message both to Christians and to people outside the faith. Most people who look at Christians don’t see those divisions and will lump them all into one pot, just like we do with Muslims or other religions. But the thing is, we should be acting more like a unified whole.
I grew up in a denominational church, but my faith was really born through non-denominational groups like Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship, both before and while I was a student. Staff and students in IVCF run the gambit in terms of denominations, but they choose to worship, and to study the Bible deeply and together.
Christ is the right path, and denominational churches for the most part seem to be headed in that direction. I’m just not always a fan of the detours.