Do Denominations Matter? (1 of 6)

Our growing religious diversity

I happen to be a Mennonite. I teach at a Mennonite college, preach regularly in Mennonite congregations, direct a research center called the Mennonite Historical Library and I publish books and articles on Mennonite history.

Yet at Goshen College we have students from at least 38 different Christian denominations and five other religions. The local Yellow Pages directory lists no less than 69 different denominational options within easy driving distance of the campus. There are 15,000 denominations registered with the IRS, and as many as 34,000 discrete groups of Christians scattered around the world.

Each group claims in some way to be the Body of Christ. All of them look at the emergence of the early church in the book of Acts and say: “Yes, that’s us at our birth; we represent the outcome that Jesus was intending for the church all along.” And we scratch our heads and wonder how can that be right? How can we live together with such a range of convictions about Truth?

What image comes to mind when you think about all those denominations? Are they all just branches off a single tree? Do you envision the various denominations as individual trees making up a single forest or a diverse ecosystem of Christian communities? Or perhaps my denomination is a mighty oak tree surrounded by weeds? These are questions worth thinking about.