Dr. Allen Domelle
One of the most dangerous enemies of the local church is religious denominations. Many young Christians don’t understand the dangers of a denomination and think that it would be a good idea for churches to come together for the sake of unity. Though on the surface this sounds good, you must realize that Satan is at the helm of every denominational movement so that he can destroy the local New Testament Baptist church.
The desire for a religious denomination normally starts out with sincerity. It is a group of preachers who believe they can accomplish more together than they can apart. However, one must realize that compromise is always at the heart and soul of every denomination. A denomination is only as strong as its weakest member. Therefore, in order for a denomination to successfully work, people must compromise their beliefs for the sake of the denomination.
Though the New Testament Baptist church was started in the Gospels, we can see the core of denominationalism goes back to the Tower of Babel. Genesis 11:4 shows us the purpose of why the Tower of Babel was built when it says, “And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.” Notice, they were interested in coming together so they could build a name for themselves. It had nothing to do with God, it was all about leaving a legacy for themselves. Their name was more important than truth. Their stature was more important than God’s commandments. The Tower of Babel was symbolically the starting of denominationalism in the Old Testament.
You can see the similarities between the purpose of the Tower of Babel and religious denominations. A denomination becomes the source to which people look for truth. A denomination is more interested in its name than it is with right and wrong. A denomination wants its members to answer to them and not to God. You can see the dangerous similarities between the two.
Sadly, I find there are so-called independent Baptist churches that are more denominational in practice than what they would like to admit. For instance, there are many churches more loyal to a college than they are to the local church. There are many who will defend their alma mater more than they will the Scriptures. Many independent Baptist churches will allow traditions to take precedence over the Word of God. Sadly, if you don’t attend the conference of the “in” college, then you are considered a liberal. All of these are symptoms of denominationalism.
You must always understand that at the core of every denomination is ecumenism. Ecumenism is the movement of promoting unity among Christian churches. It is the desire of Satan that every church locks arm in arm to supposedly influence the world in a greater fashion. Yet, we must understand that it is not the responsibility of the church to worry about their influence, it is the responsibility of the church to obey the Word of God and preach the Gospel. If obeying God’s Word lessens your influence, then so be it. Too many independent Baptist pastors are copying the evil emergent church philosophy for the sake of greater influence. They believe the end justifies the means. They don’t want to rock the boat and seem extreme. They don’t want to come out and say black is black and white is white. Too many Baptist preachers are trying to make gray areas for the sake of getting along with the brethren. In all reality, the dirty little secret is that many independent Baptist churches and pastors are practicing denominationalism even though they say they are against it. Their actions speak louder than their words. While they implement their denominational practices, they are destroying the local New Testament Baptist church. Let me show you some of the reasons why denominations are wrong.
1. Denominations are wrong because they make a man the head of the Baptist church and not God.
Christ is to be the head of every local church. Ephesians 5:23 says, “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.” You will notice that God wants the church to answer to Him and not to a man. It is interesting that many churches will go get their orders from a college, conference or large church more than they do the Scriptures. God’s Word is the manual for the local New Testament Baptist church.
2. Denominations are wrong because they focus their attention on man and not God.
I have watched the independent Baptist church fall in love with man worship. I know that this will make people upset, but it’s time we get our eyes off man and place them on Christ. 1 Peter 2:21 says, “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:” Notice that the Scriptures command us to follow the steps of Christ and not the steps of a man of God.
It is interesting that the only time in the Scriptures where we are told, follow to man is when Paul addressed the church of Corinth. He says in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” The church of Corinth was one of the most backslidden and fleshly churches in the Scriptures. This church was squabbling over personalities and who to follow. Finally, Paul told them that if they are going to follow man, then they should only follow a man through the prism of keeping their eyes upon Christ. If the man departs from what Christ commanded, they were to follow Christ. The principle being taught is that only fleshly churches will have to follow a man.
You can say what you want, but the independent Baptist churches of our day are much like the church of Corinth in that they need a personality to follow. This is nothing more than denominationalism. A denomination needs personalities to follow; whereas the Scriptures command us to follow Christ. It is very dangerous to be a person who must always follow a man.
3. Denominations are wrong because the church was built on Christ, not on a denominational board.
Matthew 16:18 says, “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Denominations were originally started so they could come together to start more churches. Hold on, why are we starting churches through our associations which are nothing more than a denomination? You may say, “We are not a denomination!” Then mind telling me why you vote to see who is the leader of your association every year. That is nothing more than denominationalism.
The church is to be built on Christ. Every church is to answer to Christ and not to a board. I have watched our missions programs take on denominational philosophies. For some reason we think churches overseas are of lesser importance than churches in the United States. I have watched churches send people to start churches overseas, but those churches must answer to their “mother” church back in the states. We must always realize that every church is to be autonomous and must only answer to Christ.
4. Christ died for the church, not a denomination.
Ephesians 5:25 says, “…even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;” Notice, Christ gave Himself for the church. Christ didn’t leave Heaven to come start a denomination that would answer to a man or college, but he left Heaven so He could die for the church. We must understand that the only thing Christ sanctions is the New Testament Baptist church.
5. God promised perpetuity to the church, not a denomination.
Matthew 16:18 says, “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The local church is the only thing God promises that the gates of Hell will not prevail against. God does not promise that the gates of Hell will not prevail against missions boards, conferences, colleges, Christian schools, religious organizations or para-church ministries. The only thing that is promised that Hell has no power over is the local New Testament Baptist church. This means that the only ministries that are promised perpetuity are those ministries that place themselves under the local New Testament Baptist church. Anything else is bound to die.
6. Denominations are wrong because they always destroy the church, they never improve the church.
Denominational philosophies will always weaken a church. The reason is because they look for the approval of man, and man at his best is fallible. When a church looks to get its strength from other churches and not Christ, then the strength of that church is only as strong as the man’s character who leads the church they follow. Churches that are denominational in practice will always be weak on standards and separation. How can they live a separated life if they are joined to an association or a denomination? Even those who are not in a denomination or association, but in practice are denominational, will find that their beliefs and practices will deteriorate.
7. Denominations are wrong because they show a lack faith in God.
Philippians 4:19 says, “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Notice, it does not say denominational board shall supply all my need. It does not say associations shall supply all my need. It does not say charitable organizations shall supply all my need. It says that God shall supply all your need.
The church is to depend on God to take care of its needs not on a denominational board. This is one of the greatest areas of weakness in our churches. Because many get themselves into such deep debt, they must find a way to pay their bills. Sadly, many have run to a religious denomination to pay their bills instead of Christ. Churches should live by faith just like individuals are to live by faith. When you start putting your trust in man to supply your needs and not God, you then become an idolator.
8. Denominations are wrong because a church is to receive orders from God, and not a denominational board.
Ephesians 5:23 says that Christ is the head of the church. In other words, a local church should not answer to anything or anyone else other than Christ. Christ gives the church its orders through His Word. When churches start taking their orders from a person, college, institution or denominational board, then its instructions are tainted by man’s opinions and philosophies. A church is bound for failure it it looks to a man, college or board to receive their directions.
We must always understand that every church should be independent and should only answer to God. We must be careful about lifting up an institution or personality higher than the New Testament Baptist church. When everyone stays inside the boundaries of the New Testament Baptist church, then you will find that there is safety for all. Be careful about the desire to be yoked up to an association, and instead only receive your strength and direction from God’s Word.
Allen Domelle is the editor of the Old Paths Journal which is more than just a Christian’s publication. It is an excellent place to learn how today’s headlines will forge tomorrow’s laws and statutes. Keep yourself in tune with what is happening around the world, as well as in your own backyard with our daily updates and devotionals.
“Give me 100 preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God; such alone will shake the gates of hell.” -John Wesley