Observations on the Denominational Jesus
One of the things you might remember in following the news is the lawsuits and fights of different groups over the presence of the different Ten Commandments monuments. While respecting and worshiping the God who wrote those words is the important thing, and as the article points out it clearly doesn’t happen in governments today, and I would go as far to claim that it doesn’t happen in Churchianity today.
Given this, we can look at the different churches. You could think that they would come together in the world and community and put resources out to spread the gospel in the name of Jesus, bring people to a saving faith in Christ, add them to His Church, and it would be indeed one of the most laudable things any group of believers could do. They can all agree on Christ, since they all proclaim the name of Jesus and the need for His salvation, right? But what do they do? I observed in my life that churches seem to agree and act together more over this Ten Commandments issue and the Christmas controversies over retailers using the phrase “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”. For the monument issue:
And there ye shall serve gods, the work of men’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell. But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul. (Deuteronomy 4:28-29)
The Christmas issue has its own questions, but to note that these churches have found more unity and concern over monuments of stone and observance of days than spreading the Gospel of Christ should be very disconcerting to most all involved.
Then we can look to the issue of missionaries. There are many examples that I’m sure one can draw upon, but I’ll use the Bob Tebow Evangelistic Association, simply because of the element of fame involved. They target the Philippines and claim that:
Of the 86 million Filipinos, we estimate that over 65 million have never once heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Now when I pull out my calculator and do the math, they claim that 75.6% of the Filipinos have never heard the Gospel of Christ, and therefore are not following Christ. If I go back to the Wikipedia article (which cites this), it says something different:
However, more than 90% of the population are Christians: about 80% belong to the Roman Catholic Church while 10% belong to other Christian denominations, such as the Iglesia ni Cristo, the Philippine Independent Church, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, United Church of Christ in the Philippines, and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Putting any controversies aside relating to how Christ-following certain denominations are, doesn’t it seem strange that there’s such a discrepancy of figures between Bob Tebow’s association and the census counts of the Philippines? Is it that there’s a prejudice to denomination involved in Mr. Tebow’s account? We go back to the bio on Bob Tebow and find out that he went to Western Seminary, was the associate pastor for Southside Baptist Church and senior minister for the Cornerstone Community Church and are attending First Baptist Church in Jacksonville.
Now to be sure, Mr. Bob Tebow would have to explain why there’s such a difference in the numbers between the Philippine Census and his own. There are issues possibly on what his statistics are counting as “Christian”, but could it be that his outlook is reflected by his Baptist persuasion? In other words, he is referring to the Baptist Jesus as opposed to the Jesus of the Bible? It could be seen as unfair that I single out Bob Tebow’s ministry, but it’s unfortunate in a way that I haven’t gotten to find out more about the number of missionaries per denomination that are sent and if they are claiming they’re the only ones bring Christ to the lost world abroad. Not sure if that data is out there.
Then I’ve observed in my own midst, and in other places I’ve researched the issue of inter-denominational competition. There might be something to having a softball game or a Bible Quiz Bowl against the church across town, but when the competition involves pulling evangelism duty against the other churches to get members to switch churches, there is a definite issue.
You can still have a vast majority in a community in “churched” areas that have never heard the gospel of Christ or have been engaged in conversation about their church experiences so they can be addressed. This competition for people in seats can cause a lot of expense and effort, and a lot of jealous and bitter feelings if certain denominations find success. While I don’t agree with the majority of the article, David S. Reynolds makes an interesting observation about the difference between how Mitt Romney’s Mormonism has been received as opposed to his fathers:
Interdenominational competition may also explain why the faith of Mr. Romney’s father, George Romney, went unchallenged when he ran for president in 1968. Back then Mormonism was a much smaller, and therefore less controversial, part of the religious landscape.
Then again, what seems to be the common driving force, the Lord? Is it Jesus Himself and alone or is it the denomination? amereservant writes (see also The Dislocated Body of Christ, which is more or less on the same point):
We’ve all seen it at some time or another, one church/denomination declaring the other one is wrong and their doctrine is right. And the thing is, usually the majority of the congregation will always stand on the side of whatever denomination is posted above the doorway of their church and in some cases, even separate themselves from others as if they were demons.
So what provoked this you might wonder? . . . I had never heard of it, but they believed in “closed communion”, which basically means if you’re not a member of that church, then you can’t participate. I knew this was in no way right and never had read in the Bible where it says “Judge one another to determine if they are worthy to for-take in the Lord’s Supper, and if they aren’t on the church roster, they are unworthy”.
Can man serve two masters? Can man follow both the genuine Christ and a denomination? Or will he favor one over the other? Usually when one becomes a member of a church, it becomes an oath of fealty to the organization and a pledge to follow their teachings and their group wholeheartedly.
No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. (Matthew 6:24)
So who stands rightfully in the Church that Christ created? The ones that follow Jesus and Jesus alone in faith, despite what the denomination says that opposes Him. Are there saved people in all denominations that are reasonably close to Christ? I have to believe there are (they’d be gone from the ones they are convicted are not). Should we hold that one particular denomination is always saved or not? No, it’s the faith of the individual and how consistently they hold to Jesus.
But the denominational Jesus does indeed exist in all of them.