I was reading a report published by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity indicating, there are over 45,000 denominations worldwide. This is a rather shocking statistic to me, considering the prayer of Jesus just before he was crucified: "I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word, that they may all be one... The glory that You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one even as We are one, I in them and You in Me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent Me and love them even as you love Me." John 17:20, 22, 23
Knowing how crucial this prayer was, and sensing that the church was losing ground, the apostle Paul strongly urged the church in Corinth: "I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment." 1 Corinthians 1:10
In reality we have 45,000 denominations pleading: "Choose me!" They seem to be saying: "You can't get to Heaven unless you do it our way!" Their logos and egos are on center stage, rather than the building up of the individual into Christ.
Just after moving to Colorado four years ago, Sally and I decided to visit and attend many of the different churches in our area. Among them were not only our own denomination but seven other denominations as well. Without being critical, I can honestly say that we found the same imbalance in each and every church, including our own. If I were to use one word to describe our experience, that word would have to be, "Ichabod." It means the glory has departed. All of these churches were missing this glory. What is this glory?
Jesus' Father was the source of His glory, His inner power. So it is to be with us! Christianity is Christ. It is Christ living in the believer and flowing through the believer and empowering the believer to love and serve as Jesus did. This inner glory, this power, this inner strength was greatly lacking in the believers and in the churches themselves. Their religion, although varied in different forms and doctrines lacked this inner glory that the Father gave to His Son. Their religion seemed more based on their activity, their performance, their mental assent to certain ideologies and theologies, as well as their alignment to their church logos, rather than the inward glory and power of Christ living in and through them.
We have not been able to find a church or denomination that exhibits this glory, although we do find select individuals who have His presence revealed in their lives. It is scary to me to think that 45,000 denominations all believe that they are the one visible church of God on earth and yet they can't even get along with their own brethren, much less the brethren down the road with a different logo on their church. The power that is lacking in these churches is the absolute heart of Christianity. It is the indwelling and overflowing of the Holy Spirit manifested within the believers' daily lives.
The acid test found in John 13:35 reads this way, "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." It is this selfless, servant love that Christians display toward one another that witnesses to the world that they are true disciples, that they are truly His church.
Is this evident in your life? Honestly now, laying aside your logo and ego, what would your spouse and children say? Do they see God's glory and power in what you say and how you say it? Do those in your church that are of a different mindset than you, or are of a different social clique than you, see God's glory and power in what you do and how you do it? How do you treat those of an entirely different faith than you? Is your love for them the same as the love that Jesus showed towards the Samaritan woman? Is your love for them the same as Jesus exhibited toward Judas? If not, then you probably only possess the "Idol," of religion versus Christ possessing you.
Those who are truly baptized into Him and not merely into an organization have this power, this glory. It is a gift and this gift must be opened daily. It is what truly makes you a living Christian and not merely a religionist. Jesus said it so very well when He exclaimed, "You shall know them by their fruit." Matt 7:16
Religion, if it doesn't bring you into this daily experience is dangerous. Just ask Jesus. His own church slew Him on a cross. They had the rulebook but not the power; they lacked the glory, the spirit of Christ. The power residing in them had no demonstration of Christ, it was their own power. Their so-called orthodoxy led them to crucify the Lord of glory.
Let us go beyond religion; let us allow His glory to unite us in One.
United in Him,
Jim & Sally