Why Go to Church?, Pt. 3

Scripture: 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2, Acts 20:28-29
Why are there so many Christian denominations out there? There are thousands of churches. There was originally only one Christian church but it began to stray from truth. Following church leaders only brings us so far. We need to follow only the Bible.
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Announcer: It's time now for Bible Talk. Join Gary Gibbs and John Bradshaw as they open the Bible to deepen our understanding of God's Word.

John Bradshaw: Hi and welcome to Bible Talk where we talk about the Bible and how the bible affects us today. I'm John Bradshaw.

Gary Gibbs: And I'm Gary Gibbs.

John: Gary, I have a question for you to begin today. Why are there so many Christian denominations out there? We've been talking a little bit lately about church, the importance of going to church, how to choose a church. You got to feel for the seeker looking for a church, there's hundreds of different Christian churches out there. Why are there so many?

Gary: There are thousands of churches, John. There are thousands of them and with the growth of the independent church movement. Before, years ago, it had the denominations, right?

John: Sure.

Gary: You go back a hundred years. You had denominations, you had the Catholics, you had the Baptist, the Presbyterians, Episcopalians but now, we moved into in the latter part of the 20th century. If you didn't like what was going on in the denomination, you went off and start your own church. In fact, it was bigger than that was. Denominations are bad. We're just going to start our own independent church.

John: Well, there's a lot of that today. The whole denominations are bad idea, lots of that. And let me play the cynic here for a moment. I'll try very hard to be cynical. There is I think one of the major reasons there's so many non-denominational churches today is financial. You see, usually when you're part of denominational structure, you don't get to keep all the money. You send some of your money on. When you're a non-denominational church, every last buck stops here.

And then you've got all this money to do ministry. Hire your minister of music, pay a great band, get your children's minister and whatever minister, you can afford to have any normal staff and with a machinery like that, it begets more intense growth.

Some of the reasons for issuing denominations I think are far less or far more cynical. Let me put it that way than often meets the eye. It's not just that denomination is bad but money, that's good.

Gary: And the pastor no longer is a lowly pastor working for a denomination. If he's independent, he's a tough dog. He's at the top of the food chain and not at the bottom of it.

John: He's the man so he gets to be the king of his own little castle. Hey, I'm not saying that a non-denominational church is necessarily a bad thing. If it's teaching the Bible and I mean, all the Bible and it's got the truth and it's keeping the commandments and doing the other things that you ought to do, well, OK. But, you know, they're not all doing that. Let's be honest.

Gary: When you want to answer the question, "Why are there so many churches?" You have to go back in history really because you go back to Jesus' day, the Apostolic Church. There was only one church. It all began with one church and it was the church of Christ. It was the church of the apostles.

John: I got to say one of the things that non-Christians throw at Christians so often is that Christianity is to fractured to so many different, truthfully, that's true of Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism and any other "ism" that there is out there but still it does give a negative perception when we don't believe in the one God and the one Savior but man, we kind of agree in this gazillion different churches.

Gary: It does but if you go back, it wasn't always that way.

John: No. Sure, it wasn't.

Gary: The church was unified. It was cohesive. They were teaching the same thing. Bible says in Acts 2, they were adding thousands, 3,000 people converts in one day to the church. So the church was this dynamic growing body of believers. But the Bible says that if there was going to come a day when the church wouldn't be this cohesive unit. It would fragment. In fact the apostle Paul mentions this in the 2 Thessalonians 2:2. He says, "Before that day of Christ comes as the second coming of Jesus." We're in the verse 1. He says, "There's going to come a falling away."

That falling away, the word there is "apostasy" where we get the word "apostasy" from. He said, "The church is going to fall away from truth. It's going to fall away from a time holy calling." We saw that happen during the Middle Ages. Actually before that, it started before that. But the church began straying from biblical truth and began compromising with the non-believers around them.

John: The church fell into a great darkness. We talked about the dark ages. One thing to keep in mind is that during the Protestant Reformation, a number of people stood up and stepped forward. It didn't strictly begin with Luther but let's say it did. Luther stands up and he starts teaching that the truth is being neglected about justification by faith so he moves forward and his followers move forward with him. But then somebody else comes along with maybe another little piece of the puzzle and he got this together a bit of following.

Someone else steps out of the darkness and takes a couple more steps into the light. People aren't always moving together forward together. They're moving and standing behind their leader. Luther's followers became Lutherans and Calvin's followers became Calvinists and Wesley's followers became Wesleyans.

There was a tendency to camp around the leader rather than keep on pushing on as far as the Bible light would go. People love to protect their little traditions. They circle the wagons and say, "Hey, this is what I am and don't you come around here trying to dissuade me because this is what I am."

Rather than Jesus who says you continue in my word and that's what makes you a disciple. You just keep on growing.

Gary: I want to come back to that but also to remind our listeners that we have a bible resource for them John. We're going to give away a bible guide called A-Colossal-City-In-Space. It talks about the Christian's hope, heaven. You'll want to write or call us we'll give you the address and phone number at the end of the program so you can get this fantastic bible study guide. John, coming back to this idea that these devout followers of God like Calvin and Wesley and these people, Luther, they began pursuing truth but they pursued it because the church had fallen so far away from truth.

John: Long way.

Gary: And now they were coming back, are we back yet? Have we gotten back to what the Apostolic Church was, and if so where would you even find that church?

John: Again, if you're looking for the church that would mirror the Apostolic Church, go to the Bible and find what they believe back then and then say to yourself, and pray about this, who is teaching that today. Otherwise, you're just going to be bumping from church to church and bouncing from sanctuary to sanctuary looking maybe vainly for this place that's where it is you ought to be. You'd go to the bible, find the truth, by the truth, sell it not, you've heard it said and then pray and ask God to direct you to where that place is teaching these things you see.

Gary: I don't think we can really understand what the Bible is trying to teach us until we understand this whole issue of the falling away from truth. This whole idea of thousands of different Christian denominations teaching contradictory things, all claiming to get their inspiration from the bible is probably one of the things that weakens the church and our mission more than anything else. It's a conundrum. People don't know what to do about it. Christians don't know what to do about it and that's why I think it's essential for us to come back to what the scripture says about this falling away. If you don't understand church history, you can't understand why we have thousands of denominations today.

But scripture tells us in numerous places, Daniel 7, our Bible study on the anti-Christ is powerful. Daniel seven deals with the little horn and if our listeners will write or call for this Colossal-City-In-Space, they can also get enrolled for entire bible study course and get this one on the anti-Christ because the anti-Christ was predicted according to Daniel 7 and also Acts 20.

I want to read that in a moment, that he would infiltrate the church not just in the last days but back earlier a long time ago. Listen to this, in Acts 20:28 here's the apostle Paul. He's talking to the believers in the church. He says, "Take heed therefore to yourselves to all the flock over which the Holy Ghost has made you overseer."

He's going down to verse 29. He says, "I know this." He said, "After my departing, grievous wolves will enter in among you not sparing the flock." He defines that by saying, "Of your own self men will rise speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them." So he says, "Within the church these people are going to come up teaching perverse false doctrines to draw away disciples after them."

John: You think we've seen that already? I think we have.

Gary: We've definitely seen it.

John: No question about that.

Gary: We saw it in the church in the early ages as the disciples died off, the church started to having these heresies. The disciples, you read the Epistles of Paul, the Letters of Paul. He's having to fight off these heretics. He's having to address the heresies that they are teaching when he was alive.

John: I'll run the risk of being cynical again. No, I'll be honest again. Another reason why there are so many denominations is because of the approach to marketing Christianity to day. Church often is market-driven and people who are starting and planting churches, not all but many of these people understand that and they plant their churches to appeal to certain segments of society rather than just going forward boldly proclaiming the truth.

Gary: It wasn't always that way. That's actually a new phenomenon.

John: It sure is.

Gary: Within the last 25 years.

John: Yes, it is.

Gary: Where we became the consumer-driven, market-driven Christianity.

John: And people, ministers have discovered that to spread their doctrine takes a lot of money and hello, if you get on the right TV channel and appeal on the right way, you can make a lot of money. No, I'm not against churches raising money or ministries raising money. Hey, that's OK but I am against these preachers who drive luxury cars into an opulent - I'm not against rich preachers. But I am against somebody deciding that preaching the gospel is a way to becoming filthy rich.

There's just something about that that doesn't sit quite right with many people. The "name it and claim it" gospel, the "God wants everybody to be rich" gospel.

Gary: A "health and wealth" gospel.

John: Which is not a gospel, you don't read about it in the Bible. No way does God say we want everybody to be filthy rich. Wealth is fine. The last thing you want is the pastor getting to be the senior pastor of the church so that he can fleece the flock for filthy lucre and become a very wealthy man. And the pulpit becoming a spring board to wealth, it just isn't right. Honesty will lead you to admit that there's plenty of that going on in the United States and around the world, too.

That's another reason why there's so many churches today, people smell the money and they say if I make this thing work and play the right music and get the right song leader and jazz it up just enough, you see, this is people getting away from the purpose of the church, to preach the gospel.

Man, if you're going to five or 5,000 you just preach the word and connect people to Jesus Christ. These other things ought not be a consideration. I met a guy one day and I don't know exactly what his motivation was.

Walking down the street of the little town in a southern state and there's this guy working on a building on his front yard, he's got a big building shaped a lot like a church. I said, "What are you doing there?" He said, "I'm building a church."

I said, "What do you want a church for? There are churches all over this town?" He said, "Well, you know, for this community, we want our own church." Well, who's going to be the pastor of this church?" "Well, I will."

It's pretty easy today to start up a church and raise up a church and be the leader of a church. Church are split over the color of their carpet and over someone getting offended and don't like the way the pastor's wife plays the piano, these are very real reasons why sometimes churches split. God didn't want anyone's unity based on the word. Unity based on truth.

Gary: We're going to have to come back to cover this topic more thoroughly but there is hope for the church.

John: Yes, there is.

Gary: There are a lot of good things about the church but one thing that the church definitely needs to resolve is that this is fracture. It's this multiplicity of denominations and independence. We have to come back to the word of God and in our closing moments here, I want to point our listeners to attest that we need to come back and talk about in our next program and that the Bible promises in Acts three that there's going to be a restitution of all things which God has spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophet since the world began.

Then Jesus said in the Book of John that his people will one day be one and they'll unite again around his word. We want to talk about that in our next program and see what God's doing in these last days to unite his church.


John: I don't want to leave you feeling negative about any of this. There is, as Gary said, great hope. God is doing great things and there are many marvelous churches preaching the word of God. You pray, you study, you find one of those churches and grow in Jesus. Thank you for being with us today. We will look for you again next time here at Bible Talk. [music]

Announcer: If you'd like more information on what we've been studying today, we have a comprehensive Bible study guide we'd love to share with you that's absolutely free. This study includes many of the texts we've just discussed and expands on the subject including information you'll want to know. To receive this free informative Bible study guide, simply call, write or email and ask for Colossal-City-In-Space. The toll free number is 866-BIBLE-SAYS. That's 866-242-5372. You can write to us at Bible Talk, PO Box 1058, Roseville, CA, 95678, that's PO Box 1058 Roseville, California, 95678 or email us at bibletalk@amazingfacts.org, bibletalk@amazingfacts.org.

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