There are way too many denominations. Between Catholicism’s reign for nearly a millennium to the ever increasing sects of protestant denominations, you can call yourself practically anything and still claim to be a Christian. And with each of those sects and denominations comes different interpretations of scripture. SEVERAL different interpretations. And while some sects of the faith will tell you that it is wrong to “interpret” the scripture and that it should be taken literal in its entirety, interpretation of the scriptures is not wrong. By the way, ask those people why they still have eyes and hands and then send them to Matthew 29 and 30, see how literal they take it now.
Interpretation of scripture isn’t wrong, but if it is not approached with the correct attitude it can cause argument and division (thus the whole denomination thing). Interpretation that is approached correctly by wise individuals will spark discussion and debate, and those who participate will find they grow and learn from the discussions and debates. But one of the glorious attributes of the wise is that they are willing to question whether or not they are right, and are quick to admit it when they aren’t. There is a depressing shortage of wise people in our churches today.
And so, as I stated previously, people do not approach the subjects with the right spirit and attitude. And the people are divided out of arguments (and most of them about issues that have very little to do with our faith and our Salvation through Christ). And often each side not only believes they are right, but attempt to enforce their interpretation – and works based on that interpretation – as Holy edicts which are required to be adhered to in order to claim to be a Christian. These new “doctrines” – which come from the minds of humans and not of God – are often the wedges that divide us into our seven and a half billion denominations. (OK, slight exaggeration.)
Again, there is no problem with interpreting scripture and acting on it. It is not until one starts enforcing them as keystones of the faith that problems arise.
So to my point: Enforcement of man-made doctrine is one of the largest causes of the Millennial exodus from churches. Why? Because we aren’t mindless sheep! We do our homework! We apply critical theory! We invest time and thought into what we study!
And because of that, the things that people say are all-important which in reality matter hardly at all stick out like a sore thumb. Especially when we see those who disagree become ostracized by the larger herd. When we see some member questioned because he doesn’t subscribe to an oddly specific edict of the denomination. When we see a member denied a position in ministry or a minor decision has to wait to be made while the “Board” or the “Elders” check their ever precious “charter bylaws.” There aren’t any “charters” or “bylaws” in scripture! A majority of the doctrines that separate our denominations have nothing to do with the pillars of the faith! They are trivial, yet we treat them as essentials!
And Millennials leave, and do so without saying a word. We can only roll our eyes and ignore it so many times. We come to a fork in the road that requires us to make a decision: leave silently, speak and be slowly ostracized and forced out, or speak and leave (mic drop!).
So what should we do? So many Millennials have already left, surely they won’t notice another. If I speak, it won’t change anything except how they treat me. If anything, I’ll be the radical Millennial who should keep his mouth shut and blend in with the herd! Is it worth rocking the boat? (It’s ALWAYS worth it to rock the boat!)
This isn’t a new issue! In fact, the church wasn’t even a century old before enforced interpretations and teachings started to divide the early Church. And guess what!
Paul to the rescue!!!!!
He spoke to Timothy and Titus about this issue abundantly! Several times he warns them of “false teachers” and “false doctrines” that “promote controversies.” They have “shipwrecked their faith” instead of “keep(ing) hold of the deep truths of the faith.” Both letters to Timothy and the letter to Titus are very clear. False doctrine, or enforcement of interpretation, should be called out! Why? Not only does it divide, but is MISLEADS! Don’t take my word for it, READ THEM!!
Millennials may be young, but we know how to think! We know how to speak! And we are less afflicted with the shyness previous generations may have had. We need to be bold and speak up! We need to remember that we will have to take the mantle next, and with that we can shape the next chapter of the Church. We cannot correct the ship without first identifying that we are heading in the wrong direction!
So to the churches: Be careful how you present the attributes of your denomination that set you aside from the others. Remember that none of us can know the answers to the many mysteries God has left for us, and to claim to is folly! We need more humility in our judgments and knowledge, and need to admit we may not be right about everything. If we bash these minor doctrines into the minds of the congregations, we leave no room for study and growth. Just more sheep-like adherence.
And to the Millennials: Be the Timothies and the Tituses of our age! Be willing to call out wrongs, and to question what is enforced without Holy mandate! But do not be too quick to do so. Think! Study! Pray! When we immerse ourselves in what is Holy, pure, and true all else presents itself even more clearly. Be wise, but also be bold! Know beyond a doubt when you are in the right, and when you are do not fear the consequences.
Good post. I used to feel kind of sad churches couldn’t agree on what Scripture meant. But I read somewhere that it is a good thing because we can each find a church we agree with.
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I like that thought too, Belle – sometimes the “diversity” bugs me, that there are so many different “versions” of Christianity. But then if I look at it as “variety” that creates opportunity for very diverse people and people groups to still feel welcome in the family of God, it can definitely be a positive thing.
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I feel ya. This is an incidental, but still major, source of my Christian angst. In my town, a very “Christian” town, we have Catholics, First Baptists, Second Baptists, Primitive Baptists, Southern Baptists, First United Methodists, Free Methodists, AME, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Disciples of Christ, Christian Church, Church of Christ, Church of God in Christ, Church of God, Bible Church, Victory Life Church, Harvest Church, Church On The Rock, Cowboy Church, Biker Church, Trucker Church, Gay Church, Chinese Church, White Churches, Black Churches, Brown Churches, Indian Church, Nondenominational Church, Transdenominational Church, United Church of Christ, Trinity Church, Community Church, Calvary Chapel Church, numerous home churches, tons of individuals who claim to be Christian with out church, and I am only beginning to scratch the surface actually.
The church has been so deeply divided for centuries and is now shattered and pulverized. No wonder marriages come apart so frequently, not even the Body of Christ has a leg to stand on!
In the what-its-worth Dept. … We have an organization here in Lubbock called Pray Lubbock that has spent decades drawing pastors together from various groups to pray together and to enlist their churches to pray for each other. I have been involved in a church that regularly prayed for various churches as they came across the rotation from various backgrounds all over town. This organization has said that despite all our differences that we seem unlikely to get over anytime soon, we all pray similar prayers to the same God, and we should be able to do that both together and for each other.
It turns out that later this month, for the first time ever, this organization is set to host a prayer gathering in the Texas Tech football stadium and has invited the whole city to come. They expect to pack the stadium with 50000.
I have often noted that here in West Texas Nothing gets the Christians together quite like a football game. Even Jesus can’t seem to do that.
Well, he just might do it for once. I for one plan to be there. I hope to take all my family to it. It is one tiny little step, but I think it is in the right direction. And I would love to see Jesus take over that football stadium for his own glory for once!
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I hope the prayer gathering goes well! Knoxville has had various similar efforts – church cooperatives and prayer and worship gatherings at the college stadium. Sometimes the many divisions can be good, as they express the variety of Creation – anyone regardless of background can find a place to fit in and the Church doesn’t exist to make everyone conform to some set type. Yet I think it speaks wonderfully to unity when diverse churches will band together to serve together.
Oh… one more thought…
Not sure I should bother with this, but…
I tried to write a novel once. A murder mystery kind of thing set in a fictitious West Texas town called Subreption (means “lie”) where the pastors are the ones solving the crime. But it winds up that they start a church in a bar, And the name of the church???
Drum roll please….
LAST CHURCH of Subreption Texas. Last, not first, because they figure it will be the last church Subreption will ever need.
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The man stranded on the desert island was found. He had built three shelters during his long stay. When asked what they were he said, “This first one is my house”. Then he pointed to the second & he said, “This one is my church.” Finally, he was asked what the third building was: “Oh… that’s the church I used to go to.”
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There’s good reasons to leave your church, bad reasons to leave your church – but when you feel a need to leave a church you built, yikes! We should just keep our focus on the Church God built instead, right?!