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Why Are There So Many Churches? in American Sign Language (ASL)

My wife and I have always
attended different churches, but now we have children and we are looking for a church
we can attend together. We have been told to choose
the one that feels right to us. But with there being
so many churches, how can we know what’s right? I’ve been a member of a number
of churches in my lifetime. Some big and some small.
You name it. They all believe in the same God,
but worship in a lot of different ways. Does it really matter? Growing up, my friends and I
did everything together except church. I have always wondered,
why not? If we believe in the same God… Why are there so
many different churches? With all the different religions
and churches represented in the military, a chaplain holding one service where we can all
come together for worship it makes it simple. I mean, isn’t that just
like the church we read about in the Bible? I heard a preacher say once, that all Christian churches are okay even if they do not all
teach the same things. How can that be? I have always been confused by that. Have you ever wondered why
there are so many different churches
and practices and beliefs? Is it possible that every denomination is right? Does God approve of this kind
of division and confusion? And does it even really matter? Why are there so many different churches? Does it matter to God? Is He pleased with the current
situation in the religious world? If I were to ask you exactly how many different churches
exist in the world today… What would you say? You would probably say, I don’t know…
A lot I guess. And that would be right. There are a lot! In fact I looked this up recently. I found that there are approximately
38,000 different churches. 38,000! Friends, that is amazing. And think about how
confusing this can be for a person who is seeking the truth. Because you have one church
over here that is teaching
this practice and another church that is teaching the opposite. One church says that item A is sinful and another church says that item A is mandatory. Who is right? Can they both be right? And of course, some people will tell you,
“That is good!” “It is good to have variety.” “Just attend the church
of your choice.” And they will say, “One church
is just as good as another.” “We are all going to the
same place anyway.” “There are just different paths
leading us to the same location.” Dear friend, may I
respectfully tell you that the Bible says “God is not the author of confusion”? When I read my New Testament, I read about only
one church. But when I look
around me today, and I see those who profess
Christianity, I see thousands. Now the question is How did we get from one
to thousands? And the answer is… Something went wrong. Something went
severely wrong. But you see,
It didn’t go wrong with God. It went wrong with man. Now, here is the first point
I want us to observe as we consider this subject
together; And that is, In the Bible we read about
only one church. I want you to use your imagination with me for a minute. I want you to imagine that there is such a thing as
a time machine, and I want you to imagine
that you can get in this time machine. and travel back to the first century to the day that the Lord
established His church. You get out and you see
all of these converts to Christianity, about 3,000 of them. You walk up to one of them
and you ask him, “Sir, I would like to know what denomination did you
just become a part of?” What would he say? He would probably say, “I don’t know what you are talking about.” “I mean what church did
you become a part of?” “Was it the Methodist, or Catholic, or the Baptist? Which one was it?” He’d say “Sir, I don’t know what
you are talking about.” “I have never heard of a
denomination.” “I have never heard of these
groups you’re discussing.” “All I know is that I became a part of the church
that belongs to Jesus Christ.” “The church of Christ” And that would be
exactly right. Because there was only one. Acts 2:47 says “The Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” And this fits perfectly with what Jesus promised in
Matthew 16:18 He promised “…upon this rock I
will build My church.” The apostle Paul, later echoes the sentiment of
the one church as he is speaking to the
elders in Ephesus He tells them to “Shepherd the church
of God which He purchased with His own blood.” Acts 20:28 In the book of Ephesians We are told that God has put
all things under Christ’s feet and gave Him to be the head
over all things to the church which is His body…” And so the church of Christ and the body of Christ are the same thing. And then the singularity of the church is nailed down in Ephesians 4:4 when He says
“There is one body.” Dear friend, when one reads the New Testament he is impressed by the fact that there existed only one church. Well, what if someone came along
and wanted to start some different divisions of that one church? Different denominations if you will. Would that be okay? And the answer to that
question is, no. That would not be okay. I want you to listen to the words
of the apostle Paul as he writes to the church in Corinth. He says “Now I plead with you brethren by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and the same judgment.”
I Corinthians 1:10 Now friends how does that mesh with what
we see in the religious world today? With all of the different denominations and divisions and sects that are all teaching
different things? And the answer is…
It does not mesh at all. It is completely foreign to
the New Testament concept of the church. Now, more specifically,
what was the problem with the church in Corinth? I want you to listen again. This is verse twelve. Paul says “Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,”
or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” You see, within the First Century Church, we see the seeds of denominationalism. Some were starting to hold to Paul, while others were holding to Apollos
others to Cephas, to Peter, and others to Christ. Divisions were starting to form and Paul, by the inspiration
of the Holy Spirit, condemns this. And he makes it clear
that this is not of God. Okay, as we seek to answer the question, Why are there so many churches? I want us to notice that God predicted that there would be a
departure from the New Testament pattern. You see, despite the clarity
of the New Testament with regard to the oneness of the church and despite the warnings against division God knew that divisions would come. In fact, the Bible foretells of it and warns
against it several times. One of these warnings comes from a
passage we mentioned a moment ago It’s the conversation between Paul
and the Ephesian elders He tells them to “shepherd the church…” which was purchased py the blood of Christ He says that “For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves
men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the
disciples after themselves. Now, it is interesting that
Paul tells the leaders of this church of this congregation that a departure would
come from them. And the reason that this is
so interesting is because one of the first departures
in the church was with regard to its leadership
and its organization. Now, another warning concerning departure is found in I Timothy
chapter four Let’s read this one together. It says, “Now the Spirit speaks expressly (That is the Holy Spirit is speaking very plainly here) that in the latter times
some will depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits
and doctrines of demons, speaking lies and hypocrisy, having their own conscience
seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods
which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those
who believe and know the truth.” We will see in history that two of the specific departures that will later take place relate
to forbidding marriage and not being allowed to eat certain foods. Now, thus far we see that according to
the New Testament pattern there was only one church, but we also see that God predicted that there
would be a departure from that New Testament pattern. Alright, let’s get to the key question. Why are there so many churches today? How did a basic Bible belief system with a unified group of people turn into literally thousands
of different denominations with different practices and
different beliefs? Well, history tells us that very early on there came along splinter groups who had ideas and doctrines contrary
to that of the first century church and contrary to the doctrine that
they had received and practiced. Some of these groups include; the Gnostics around A.D. 125, the Montanists around A.D. 156, the Manicheans around A.D. 244, and the Novations around A.D. 251. Now, one of the largest
and most significant divisions that relates to the early church relates to its leadership and involved the Roman Emperor
by the name of Constantine. Now, from the beginning of God’s plan it was to have elders
and deacons in the church. And you can read about this
in I Timothy and Titus. and these elders had authority only over the congregations
where they were members. That is the way God
established it. Each congregation was autonomous. But you see, over time elders began meeting together
to discuss problems relating to the various
congregations. When you get to the 300s A.D. the
Roman Emperor Constantine was starting to have interest in this
growing group of people known as the church of Christ. In A.D. 313 he passed the Edict of Milan which ended the persecution
against Christians. And you can imagine this gained
in favor with Christians in and around Rome. And so the Roman government
began gaining a lot of influence with elders in the
church of Christ and the end result was
a very adverse effect on a large portion of Christ’s church. You see this new relationship led to a meeting between elders in the church of Christ
and Roman officials. This meeting took place in A.D. 325 and history calls this event The Council of Nicea. This meeting gave rise to the first officially
recognized departure from the original
New Testament church Now, this newly created
denomination took a Latin word;
Catholic which is translated; Universal and established a hierarchy very similar to that
of the Roman government. they literally took the
example of the Roman government and built a church that was
based on that model And so in this new church there were men who
were over several churches or groups of churches which was a very clear departure
from the New Testament pattern. Now, Christians who were
faithful to the Bible, those who stood against this newly
created Catholic denomination, they were persecuted and ostracized. They had to meet in hiding. But the pure New Testament
church of Christ continued to exist. Now, historically speaking after the formation and establishment
of this Catholic church, it grew in strength and number
and political power They created new doctrines and
man-made traditions and they enjoyed growing political endorsements
from the Roman government. In time their doctrines were made mandates and required of all of
the members of the Catholic church. Notice the dates on the chart as the Catholic church implemented some of these doctrines long after the formation of
their denomination. There was; Latin Mass, Purgatory, The First Official Pope, they called
him “God on Earth”. Transubstantiation The mandate of the celibacy
of the priest in 1015 Now, if you will look at the timeline you will see that for the first thousand years there was really only two churches. You had the church of Christ that began on the day of
Pentecost in Jerusalem that still existed. And then there was Catholicism Now, history tells us that in 1054 The Catholic church split into
two denominations You had Roman Catholicism and the Greek Orthodox Church. Now, during this time the
Bible became more and more unavailable to the common man. And this period became known as
The Dark Ages And the Catholic church just continued
to add man-made doctrines. Examples include; Indulgences in 1192 The “Confessional Booth” in 1215 Sprinkling replaced immersion for Baptism
in 1311 and the Pope was declared infallible. Now, by the time you get to the 1500’s you will see a lot of activity
on the timeline. This is because there were men such as
Martin Luther who began to stand up and
say “This is not right!” Martin Luther was a
German monk and he hated the selling of indulgences. He challenged the Pope saying “The Bible is only source
of authority.” Martin Luther’s widespread opposition to the Catholic church ignited a
protest movement which is historically known as
The Protestant Reformation. In 1521, another denomination appeared
shortly before the Lutheran church
came on the scene, it was known as the
Anabaptists. They started as a protest against
the Catholic church and its practice of
infant baptism. “Ana” means again They baptized again those who had
been baptized as babies in the Catholic church. But what is really interesting, is that the Anabaptist movement spawned several other churches; to include the Baptist, the Amish,
the Mennonites, and brethren in Christ. And as religious freedom
expanded denominationalism continued
to grow and to multiply into dozens of factions and you can see that
on the timeline. and this laid the foundation
for a multitude of denominations that exist in our present day. Some of these churches began
with a noble desire to break free from some clearly
unscriptural practices. Others began with less than
noble reasoning. You will notice on the chart that the church of England started in 1534. This church began after Henry VIII’s desire to have his marriage to Katherine
of Aragon annulled. When the Roman Catholic church would
not grant his annulment, the result was the separation
from the Catholic church and the formation of
a new church; The Church of England. Well, what is the point of all of that? The point is, if you look at the chart, the timeline, it represents just a small fraction
of churches that exist today. some began with good motives
and others began with bad motives, but all of them were
started by men. Now, if you will go back to the
top of the chart you will see the green line
that represents the church started by Jesus Christ. This is the church that began
in A.D. 33 in Jerusalem. It is the church of Christ The one we read about in
the pages of the New Testament. And from history, we see
that all other churches were man-made denominations. Hopefully now, you can see why there
are so many churches. And here is the message that we really need to take to heart; Since Jesus condemns division, we need to be a part of that one church that Jesus established. The one that He bought with
His blood. Not one of the man-made churches that came along later in history. Now, what does all this
mean for us today? Does this mean that denominations
are wrong? Dear friend, we want to be kind
but we want to be clear. and the answer is… Yes, it would have to mean that. All churches other than the one
built by Jesus Christ exist without New Testament
authority or example. Now somebody says,
“Does that mean that good intentioned morally upright people in denominations will be lost?” Well, let’s let the Lord
answer this question, I want you to listent to the words
of Jesus in Mattew 7:21-23: “Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven but he who does the will
of My Father in heaven. Many will say unto me
in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied
in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders
in Your name?” And I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice
lawlessness!” Dear friend, observe with me
that Jesus says; that on the day of judgement there will be good people; people who are teachers, people who claim to hold
to the name of Jesus, people who will be lost because they haven’t done
the will of the Father. Now, the point is; Having good intentions is not enough. Having my heart right is not enough. I actually have to follow the
New Testament pattern. I want you to listen again to
the words of Acts 2:47 “…praising God and having favor
with all the people. the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” Friend, all of the saved people
are in the church. That one built by Jesus. The same one that existed in
Acts chapter two. The same one that we read
about throughout the New Testament. The one that existed prior to
all the denominations of man. Now, the question is; How do I become a part
of that church? The one wherein is
salvation. How do I become a part
of the one church of the New Testament? And the answer is… The same way they did it in
the New Testament. You’ve got to obey the Gospel. You know sometimes people in
the religious world will tell you that “There is
nothing you have to obey.” They will say that
“You only need to believe.” But I want you to listen
to the words of second Thessalonians
chapter one verses 7 and 8 The Bible says; “and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed
from heaven with his mighty angels,” Now listen to this He is
describing the day of judgement. He says that some people are
going to receive rest, some people are going to
receive punishment. He says “when the Lord comes
in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know
God,” Now listen. and on those who do not
obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Your see, we must obey the gospel Now, obeying the gospel can be summed up in five short words. Hear Believe Repent Confess and Baptism Now, somebody says “What does
that mean, explain that?” Well first, a man must hear the gospel. He hears that because of his sin he has transgressed the will of God and is destined to die eternally
in Hell.” Romans 6:23 “The wages of sin is death,” He also hears that Jesus Christ came
as God in the flesh to pay the penalty for his sin. so that he does not have to. He hears that, salvation is found in Christ. Romans 10:14 indicates If a person does not hear the message of the Gospel he has no hope. Now, upon hearing it he must also believe it. Now what does that entail? What must a man believe? He must believe. He must understand that Jesus is the Christ
the son of God. John 8:24 Jesus said; “If you believe not that I am He, you shall die in your sins.” He must understand that Jesus is deity. John 1:14 “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only
begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. He must of course believe in the death,
burial and resurrection of Christ. How it is that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
Romans 5:8 “Then he arose, defeating death.”
I Corinthians 15:54-55. Roman 10:9 says; “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus Christ and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Of course, it is crucial
it is crucial that a man believe and understand The body of Christ which
is the church of the New Testament. II Timothy 2:10 says; “salvation is in Christ.” Then a man must repent. Acts chapter 17 and verse 30 says; “Truly these times of ignorance God
overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent.” Repentance is a change of mind brought about by Godly sorrow that results in a reformation of life. That is important to understand. Sometimes peopl will say, “Repentance is merely changing your life.” That is not a good definition of repentance. Repentance is changing your mind. Of course, that is followed by a
change of life. But then, step number four; A person must confess
his faith in Christ. Romans 10 and verse 10 clearly tells us, “For with the heart one believes
unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” In Acts chapter 8 as Philip was teaching
the gospel to the Ethiopian, he said, “See here is water. What hinders me from
being baptized?” Philip responded to the
Ethiopian and said, “If you believe with all of your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” That is the confession we
are talking about. Not a confession of our sin. A confession of what we have
heard and what we believe. It is an acknowledgement. “Yes, we believe these things.” Now finally, involved in obeying the gospel One must be baptized. In Mark 16 and verse 16
Jesus said; “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” You know, baptism as practiced
by First Century Christians was total immersion. In fact that is the meaning of baptism. It is the point at which a person is immersed in water and the point at which he
contacts the saving blood of Jesus. It is the point at which he
has finally obeyed the gospel. Romans 6:3 and 4 says; “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death,
that just as Christ was raised from the dead
by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk
in newness of life.” And so, we are buried in the
watery grave of baptism Jesus shed his blood in his death. In baptism we are buried into his death. We contact that saving blood of Christ and our sins are washed away. That’s why we come out of that
watery grave of baptism to walk in newness of life. Once you have done those things. Acts 2:47 says The Lord will add you to the church. Friends, the church of Christ
still exists today just as it did in the First Century. You know some people misunderstand
the church of Christ. They think that it is
“Just another denomination” along side a string of denominations. But I can assure you that the church
of Christ has; no earthly head, no legal hierarchy, it wasn’t started by any man, and it follows no man-made
creeds or practices. The chruch of Christ just follows the
New Testament pattern found in the Bible. We meet on the first
day of the week to take communion. We sing a cappella. The way the church did in
the First Century. We pray, we study
the Bible together. We hear preaching together. We give financially according
to how God has blessed us. Christ is our only head. The church is composed of; elders and deacons and
evangelists and members just as it was 2000 years ago. We abide only in the
doctrine of Christ. We cast away all man made
doctrines and creeds. We are Christians only. We are not advocating that anyone
leave his denomination to join our denomination. We are advocating that
men leave all denominations and simply be a part of
the one church of Christ the one that existed hundreds
of years before the churches
of today. The one that we read
about in the Bible.

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