Followers of Jesus may have less of an influence in culture because of the creation and presence of Denominations. In New Testament times one of course did not refer to themselves as a Baptist, Methodist, etc. But, Paul warned against the harm of divisions among followers: “I follow Paul; another, I follow Apollos; another, I follow Cephas; still another I follow Christ” (I Cor. 1:12). We already have enough disharmony in relationships, which Jesus came to change. The focus comes off the One who rose from the dead. If two pastors in the same church contradicted one another, we would run. Well, unbelievers see Christians as one group whether Presbyterians, Catholics, etc. The strife and disagreements are off-putting.
Jesus harshest message was for organized religious groups. Jesus hated how the Pharisees distorted His message (Luke 5:29-31). The Pharisees, who were in love with their power, made religion self-serving rather than self-sacrificing. We may hold on to certain beliefs, not because they are in the best interest of all, but because they keep us employed. Also, the Pharisees had a misguided emphasis on rules and obedience rather than God’s unconditional love. Attending church or being associated with a group or Denomination has nothing to do with spirituality. The Pharisees attended synagogue but they did not follow Jesus. Jesus followers trust in who Jesus claimed to be, which leads to living out Jesus’ teachings such as loving others as ourselves.
When associated with a Denomination we began referring to some Creed than the Bible for guidance. A singular focus though must lead to civil discussions about God and agreeing to disagree. We must recognize our biblical interpretations are fallible. The Bible is not a single text with a single author. The Bible was written in foreign languages thousands of years ago. Those who call themselves Christians must learn to share and consider one another’s opinion gracefully. We must encourage others to work out their own convictions with as much consistency as possible, unless you don’t believe God can guide people. Maybe then Christianity would have more of an impact in our culture.
It is best we not refer to ourselves as Baptists for example or even Christians. The term Christian has so many meanings to different people. The term Christian initially had a negative connotation as it was used by unbelievers as a reference to Jesus’ disciples (Acts 11:26). Jesus the Christ never referred to His followers as Christians. The apostles never called each other Christians. Jesus typically when encountering others simply encouraged them to follow Him. Those who were open to believing Jesus was who He claimed to be were simply followers. When we ask one if they are a Christian, they think we are asking if they are a Baptist, Presbyterian, etc. Like in the Apostle Paul’s era, Christians are associated with something rather than Someone.
What if we got rid of Denominations? People might seek more Who we follow than what we believe in. People would associate spirituality with a Person than a group. The mere presence of Denominations suggests we do not believe the same thing or even get alone. People already know how to not get alone. Followers have nothing to offer others if they are not clearly united by one common belief. Followers desperately want to give others desiring more in their life a reason to consider their beliefs. The presence of Denominations takes the focus off Jesus and the Bible as His words to us for guidance.