Some churches get together in an attempt to “create unity.” Identifying people according to beliefs has served to create divisions, so the idea is to not focus on differences but what is held in common. This is an improvement from separating yourself from everyone, but it still misses the good news.
Whether people know it or not, believe it or not, or act like it or not, we are one because Jesus made us one at the cross. We are all united to the same man, and therefore to each other. Unity isn’t something we create but preserve (Ephesians 4:3). Human effort to achieve unity needs to be given up and replaced with the realization that we are all already one in Christ.
Kris Vallotton explains and exposes the nature of denominationalism:
Both the Protestant Reformation and the movements that have sprung up from it all emphasize doctrinal agreement above relationship. This priority has created a culture that constantly threatens to divide people at the very core of their bonding point. While many believers admit that damaged relationships and church splits are costly, the denominational mindset leads them to conclude that the way to avoid this is simply to find ways to enforce doctrinal conformity so disagreements can’t arise. Thus, denominationalism also creates a culture that is critical of anyone who thinks outside the box of tradition, and it desperately fears inspiration. Leaders under this spirit have more faith in the devil’s power to deceive believers than the Holy Spirit’s ability to lead them into all truth. Shepherds in denominationalism resist revelatory thinking because they understand that new ideas spawn disagreements and disagreement attacks the central nervous system of their churches…The lens of denominationalism is primarily defined by the priority of doctrinal agreement, which necessitates a negative view of disagreement in the Body of Christ. Therefore, when someone with a denominational lens approaches Scripture, it requires that biblical terms and concepts support the goal of eliminating disagreement and, ultimately, discouraging individualism. For example, we can see this in the denominational approach to terms like loyalty and unity. In denominationalism, loyalty is often redefined as “agreeing with the leader.” Disagreement is called “disloyal,” and often “disrespectful.” But the truth is that loyalty is actually only tested when we don’t agree. For example, David’s loyalty to King Saul was revealed, not when he lived in the king’s house as his favored son-in-law, but when he lived in the wilderness as the king’s hated and hunted rival. If we agree with our leader over an issue, then we are going to do what our leader wants us to do anyway, because we agree. It is only when we disagree that the fabric of our relationship is put to the test.
There was a time when there were no denominations. It’s not that people all had the exact same beliefs back then. They just thought that those differences were not a good enough reason for people to gather separately. Their reason for gathering was never having the same beliefs in the first place. Their emphasis was not doctrine but Jesus. The essence of denominationalism is identifying yourself with anything other than Jesus. Denominationalism happened when people began to place greater value on their beliefs than on their relationships with other people.
Some who have read up to this point may conclude that I am a non-denominational. I am not. The non-denominational group as a whole has itself become a denomination (unofficial though it may be), marked by the belief that there shouldn’t be any denominations. But in declaring themselves non-denominational, they implicitly validate the idea of denominationalism by creating their own denomination. Being non-denominational is insufficient. Choosing to not be a part of any denomination does not go far enough because it acknowledges denominations as legitimate; you just personally choose not to be part of one.
I will take a step further and claim that denominations do not exist. “What the heck do you mean, Ty? Of course they exist! Look at the world around you. There are denominations everywhere!” Just because people act like and think that something is real doesn’t mean it is. Consider, for example, any god of any religion. People have worshipped nonexistent gods for years, but it hasn’t made them any more real.
When I say denominations do not exist I am not talking about human acknowledgment but God’s acknowledgment. Denominations are a human invention, a tradition of man. They are an illusion, a myth, a figment of people’s imaginations. They do not exist in reality. They are artificial divisions within the undivided body of Christ. They were not God’s idea, and when he looks at the Church he does not see denominations. Thus, it would probably be a good idea to stop acting and talking as if they do exist.
I’m not worried about everyone agreeing with me that we shouldn’t accept denominations. Personally, it makes no difference whether we agree or not. I am committed to loving all people regardless of their beliefs. I won’t let someone’s claim to be of a certain denomination affect how I treat them. I just won’t acknowledge them as part of a denomination, or stated differently, separate from me. I have more faith in the unity Jesus has achieved than the false division that I might experience by sight.