33,820 Christian Denominations

In 2001. The World Christian Encyclopedia stated that there were 33,820 different denominations.  There may be even more today.  So, why are there so many denominations and is it a good too have so many? 

About Karen Smith

Karen Brooks Smith is a guest blogger and passionate volunteer at Changing the Face of Christianity. Karen became a Christian in her early adulthood. She isn't religious, but has a relationship with Jesus Christ. Karen recognizes the differences between the church of this world and the church of the Bible and is motivated to reconcile those differences in our culture. Karen enjoys volunteering with her Church’s youth group, her children’s school and with the Girl Scouts. However, her most important blessing and ministry is her wonderful husband and three delightful daughters.


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Comments

  1. Scott Davidson says

    I believe the reason why there are so many denomination can be summed up with this verse. 1 Corinthians 1:10-13 I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose. For some members of Chloe’s household have told me about your quarrels, my dear brothers and sisters. Some of you are saying, “I am a follower of Paul.” Others are saying, “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Peter,” or “I follow only Christ.” Has Christ been divided into factions? Was I, Paul, crucified for you? Were any of you baptized in the name of Paul? Of course not! I would guess that many of the denominational splits have been because of disagreements over non-essential doctrines such as the rapture, baptism and the sabbath. Is it ok to have disagreements? yes because it should make each person go back to God’s word and study and discern what it being said. But to disagree to the point where you have so many splits makes the world look at us and scratch their heads and think if they can’t agree then why would I want to become a Christian. I do not think it is good but what could be done? Nothing. The problem is you have man with his prideful heart. The best hope for the non-believer is that they are reached by a church on behalf of God that is doctrinally firm when it comes to repentance, Christ’s death, shed blood and resurrection and other essential doctrines. Just my humble thoughts. Scott

  2. alan says

    “Is it a good to have so many?” Find it hard to see any good in having so many. Reading the number 33,820. the first thought isn’t that there’s good, but rather, look at the mess we’ve made of things. Is what we have today really what the Lord intended? All our self-proclaimed truth claims aside, the only thing that makes one a part of the body of the Lord is being alive in Christ and that in a genuine way He is present in His people. And to take truth that is living and formalize it into a creed and use that as the means to separate brothers and sisters seems to be the worst kind of blindness. When faith becomes only doctrines, then something of the Lord has been missed. . . faith is living too. Beyond the damage and confusion that is among the people of God from so much disunity, maybe the greater harm is to the testimony of the Lord to the world. In His final prayer, the Lord prayed that we would be one so that the world would know that Jesus was sent by the Father and that the Father loves us as He loves Jesus. How much damage is done to that testimony among unbelievers when they see 33,820 divisions? How much more powerful would the testimony of the church be in the world if there was just one body? Scott above asks what could be done. Stand on Christ. . . hold to Christ. Refuse to fall into division, and when you are asked to agree to a set of truth statements to show that you belong, say that Christ has made me alive in Him and I am a member of His body because of Him. He is enough.

    • Scott Davidson says

      Alan, You are absolutely right when you say Stand on Christ. To clarify my remark that nothing can be done, it is from the thinking of there are so many denominations now how could they be brought to only a few. Of course, with God, all things are possible, but is it God’s plan? Thanks for reminding me about standing in Christ alone.

      • alan says

        Scott, agree with you that the current situation of so many denominations can seem overwhelming but then remember that in God’s view, there is One Body. Not merely as some theological concept, but the living reality that in Christ there is only one body. That brothers and sisters find denominations as the answer to the question of how to stand for the truths of the faith in the face of disagreements, rather than bearing with one another, just goes to show the inadequacy of the answers we come up with. What a weakness to things. While not discounting God’s grace and blessing in all the good that has come from brothers and sisters in these various churches, the sense is that those blessings have come in spite of the divisions not because of them. Paul speaks of divisions in the body when coming to the Lord’s supper and says that there must be factions so that what is genuine may be recognized, but he also says that their coming together being divided is not for the better but for the worse. In the face of so much division in the church, the question isn’t how to get to only a few, but to embrace the reality that in Christ there is only one. Whenever I’m tempted to get discouraged that such oneness will never happen and never be seen among believers, I remember Ephesians 1, “. . . in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” I’m also encouraged that when we see Him face to face, that we will be there because we have been made alive in Christ, and not because we were Orthodox or Protestant or Catholic.

  3. Ian McKerracher says

    If I may be clear and succinct…It is my opinion that denominations are from the devil…thank you. If you want me to defend this opinion, I would be happy to when I have more time.

  4. Gary Lee Fennimore says

    The fact that there are 33,820 denominations in just the so-called Christian sector shows how utterly sinful and scripturally deceived that humans have become in just ~2000 years. The Words of GOD are simple to understand because GOD made the gospel simple. If christians were truly Christians (BornAgains) the scriptures that GOD “God-breathed”, which is all of them, must be simple and so should the various denominations. True Christianity is not ecumenical nor is it exclusive. It is the WORD of GOD lived out, period. Do we have various denominations of Lincoln or Washington or Abraham? NO; because we understand their historical lives and what they advocated, should not CHRISTianity be the same? The bible is a historical document that advocates what our CREATOR wants all of us to know about; HIS SON, JESUS CHRIST and the only sin-redemptive SAVIOR available to utterly sinful human beings. WHY all the confusion and consternation over a simple textbook that is eternally reliable?

  5. Robert W. says

    HIS SON, JESUS CHRIST and the only sin-redemptive SAVIOR available to utterly sinful human beings. This is the only absolute requirement to be saved as a Christian. Everything else we can ask God to settle when we get there. We are all distinct with different needs. The Bible and the Holy Spirit speak to us according to those needs. You and I can read the same passages and get entirely different messages. That’s OK, it doesn’t mean either of us are any less Christian. That’s all different denominations are, God speaking to us according to what we need to hear. The denominations are just window dressing. We are all Christian and together form The Church, the Body of Christ.

    • Scott Davidson says

      Robert, Can I challenge you on a couple of points. You said that You and I can read the same passages and get entirely different messages. One of the hot button topics now is gay marriage and I live in one of the states that passed it. There are several “churches” within my city that are episcipal and presbyterian that are very pro homosexual even to the point that their reader boards say that Jesus never spoke on homosexuality with the underlying meaning that it is not sin. Those are two separate denominations that very clearly got an entirely different message than what scripture means. I do not believe that that is God speaking to them but is of the enemy deceiving them. I understand what you are saying but Jehovah Witness could be considered a denomination of Christianity and yet they deny Jesus being God. This is the problem with so many denominations. Many have distorted the truth and have followed man and not Christ.

      • Robert W. says

        Scott, That is exactly what I mean. I am gay. I interpret those passages differently than you. I do not believe a same sex relationship is any different than a heterosexual one. This is not ignoring scripture, it is simply seeing a different message there. These passages are not listing specific sins so much as warning God’s people not to be as the pagans around us. At the same time, they assure the believer of salvation. I attend a church that accepts this view. I expect I would be made to feel very uncomfortable if I attended yours. My point is that this is a side issue and doesn’t really affect the core message of salvation through grace. There are certainly denominations that call themselves Christian that don’t meet the simple criteria of accepting Christ as savior and salvation through grace alone. They are not Christian.

        • Robert says

          Robert, You would most definately be welcome at our church as we stress the important commands given by God and Jesus to love God with all out heart, soul, mind and strength and then to love our neighbors. However, with that being said I believe that there are central truths to God’s word and I do not believe the mindset of there are different meanings for every person. For example, 1,000 different people could read the same passage of scripture and you could have 1,000 different thoughts as to what it is saying. At the core of this topic is not gay marriage, it is sin. That is what needs to be discovered. Now, I do not want to single out homosexuality, all sexual sin is sin as well as adultery and Paul includes theives, drunkards, greedy people, abusers and swindlers. Robert, I hope you can believe this, I am concerned over your soul as well as all men’s souls and not the comforts of this earth. I read Scripture such as 1 Corinthians 6:9-16 and Paul lists all sexual sin as those who will not inherit the Kingdom of God and he tells the Corinthian in verse 11 that some of you “were” just like that, but now your sins have been washed away, and you have been set apart for God. I believe there is only one way to view that scripture. Robert, my intention is not to offend, however God’s word can be difficult, but I do love you and part of love is truth. Please consider my thoughts on this and thank you for your response. Scott

          • Anonymous says

            Scott, I appreciate your concern and the spirit in which it is given. I am very familiar with these passages. I have consulted a number of sources on both sides of the issue and I’ve talked with pastors on both sides. I have prayed over it and I feel very strongly that I am on solid ground. I’m not alone in this. I would also ask you to consider what your more rigid interpretation has meant in the past. Men forced to live their lives in shadows or beaten and killed, teenagers driven from their families, and a community of people cut off from learning about God. This is just a start of the crimes of the Church against gays. While I appreciate that you think you are coming from love, I don’t see how your interpretation can lead to anything but hate, either in yourself or inspired in others. I can’t think of anything more Unchristian than that. Robert

    • Scott Davidson says

      Robert, I certainly understand your concern, and anyone who becomes violent over this issue or any other sin truly does not understand the good news and God’s command to love your neighbor. However, and I am sure you would agree, I cannot control how anyone takes matters into their own hands but I do condemn the actions of anyone who would turn violent in words or actions towards anyone. There is one problem with consulting “sources” over issues in the Bible and it is that these sources are mere men and yes I am one also as well as you. So we have to go to the word of God and take that for what it says. As you well know that man can take any passage of scripture and make it into what they want it to say and not what God really says. Spending time in prayer is important, agreed, but we must always be discerning regarding which spirit is speaking to us.

      • Robert W. says

        Scott, I did not accuse you personally of violence and I honestly don’t believe you would condone it. But you also have to look at the results of the doctrine, which is violence and misery to gays AND a diminishing of the church in the eyes of the public, and ask if THIS is what God intended? If the doctrine is not achieving Christlike results, is it correct? Then you need to go back to the Word and determine if you indeed have understood and applied it correctly. That is what the Churches (and I) you originally criticized have done. I agree with you that the Word is from God, but it is interpreted by men. I don’t know of anyone who has a direct pipeline to God to ask for clear interpretations. So when there are sticky passages I’ll consider multiple sources with their explanations and reasonings and try to listen to what God is telling me inside. This is particularly important where the exact meanings of the original Greek and Hebrew are vague as they are in these passages. How does it change your understanding of Paul if the correct translation is not Homosexual but male prostitute? I’m not saying male prostitute is correct, but I do think that given the context, the translation as homosexual is too broad a term.

        • Scott Davidson says

          Robert, No worries, I did not take your words in any way as accusatory toward me. Robert, I am doing some research into the word love in the scriptures. I truly want to love others as God instructs us to love our neighbor. In 1 Corinthians 13 it talks about if you do all these things yet without love what good is it. (God’s use of irony is amazing, as I was typing the previous sentence the song The Proof Of Your Love by For King and Country just came on). Believe me when I say I am trying to make sure that my words are loving and kind towards others and do I love you. Like my own flesh and blood? Not quite, but I do love you as we are instructed to love others. We are to work out our salvation in fear and trembling, so the challenge is to continue seeking out what God’s word says. God bless, Scott

    • Gary Fennimore says

      That is very true, salvation is very simple and that is the only message that the Holy Spirit will use to convict a person’s conscience (heart). However, apostates, those that did not believe what they have professed in the past are very prevalent and warned about in scripture. Christ said that those who love him will follow and do what He said. Therefore, progressive sanctification must be evident in the believers life, salvation involves believing in Christ’s redemption and progressively becoming like Christ, the spiritual fruit of salvation (on-going sanctification). Salvation is not just fire insurance (i.e. easy-believism), but a growing relationship in Christ that honors what HE did. Sincerely Gary F.

  6. Gary Lee Fennimore says

    Interpretations by various individuals is not biblical Christianity. GOD’s words are simple and they are to be applied in the same way. Did the co-inhabitants of earth in Noah’s day have a chance to interpret what a world-wide flood meant to them? NO, they all were drowned by the conditions that our same LORD allowed; a world-wide flood. Why were they all save 8 drowned? They did not take GOD simply at HIS word and GOD’S word indicates that all their thoughts were continually evil. This world and the inhabitants have not changed, we are all sinners that offend a Holy GOD. If my comments offend you, then good because Jesus Christ offended plenty of people while on earth. The list is very long; Jesus claimed the Pharisees were white-washed tombs, Christ’s disciples even rebuked Christ in Matt. 15 for offending one and yet Christ was not concerned about it, Christ in Matt. 7:20 and following claims that many people will call HIM LORD, they did not do what HE commands them to do and yet this same Jesus Christ tells them to depart into hell. “Not everyone who says to me LORD, LORD, will enter the kingdom of heaven; BUT he who DOES the will of my FATHER.” Opinions and interpretations will not matter before our LORD. That is true love, not some sinful self interpretation of our LORD’s simple words.

  7. Loran Yunevich says

    Some of the different denominations came about trying to turn people back to the bible described church. Jesus prayed for unity for the people He left behind. It is my belief that since the devil twisted God’s word in the garden of eden with Eve. He the devil has been at work deceiving men both out and inside the church. Jesus explained who His Father was and who was the father of those who did not believe His words, the devil. Since that time the world of men has been divided beteween two factions, those who had as their father, the same father as Jesus had or the devil. A fight has been ongoing for the souls of man since. I believe there is only one interpretion of the Bible and that is God’s. We are told by Jesus that when he leaves He would send the comfortor, Holy Spirit. He also told us the work of the Holy Spirit while it was present in this world and one of His jobs was to teach us all that Jesus taught. In 1Corth. 2: 6-16 we have the mind of Christ so we can understand what God the Father through Jesus and the Holy spirit is telling was to obey. Sin is sin: in either the Old or New Testements and it seperates us from the Holy God Almighty to a point that we could get up from the alter we are to be sacreficed upon and be lost out of God’ grace. The whole of the Bible is Gods word and needs to be read and under stood by the dicilples of Jesus the Christ. We will have no excuse when we face the judgement. The choice is ours accept the grace offered ny God the Father through HIs only son, Jesus and His teachings or not. May Gods riches blessings be upon his people as they become full of the Knowledge of Jesus Christ His son through the work of the Holy Spirit.

  8. JR says

    I like to follow the KISS principal: Keep It Simple, Silly! And the bottom line is that Christ should be the focus of our faith if we are to call ourselves Christians. And in fact, I consider myself a Christian FIRST and a Catholic third (I’m an American second….LOL). So, it kind of saddens me that we have so many denominations because we are ALL brothers and sisters in Christ…and I truly do love to participate with fellow Christians of all sorts in our walk with Jesus. But I also know that God meets us where we are at- and we’re not all at the same place in our walk and different denominations will meet different needs based on the persons. Also, we are the BODY of Christ…we all can’t be part of the arm or finger or right eyebrow of Christ, so these differences can account for that. But at the end of the day, it’s still Christ we are part of. Let’s not get too wrapped up in our pet denominations and instead KEEP IT SIMPLE, SILLY…we are Christians FIRST.

  9. Rob says

    PRIDE. Satan’s original sin. Simple as that. Pride says, “I WILL.” (Isaiah 14:13-15) Pride puts self in the place of God. “One who separates himself seeks his own desire . . .” (Proverbs 18:1)

  10. Pam Chand says

    Denomination means divided. As Christians we should not be divided but of one mind one heart. How wonderful that would be if we all could do that. Sadly, I believe there will always be divisions until the return of Christ because many supposed Christians can not handle the whole truth. I am not Catholic, Baptist, Nazarene or anything else. I am Christian plain and simple.

  11. Ian M. says

    Denominational ism came about in the Churches of Europe to stop the practice of killing other Christians who are not like you are. It is a rather recent addition to the excesses of Christendom. While it is, I suppose, a step up from the silly wars fought over doctrine, it is still clear evidence of a couple of errors. The first one would be to assume that one has the absolute only way of serving Christ. That one would think that they are”all that” doctrinally has a God who is too small. The second goes a little deeper but has a connection to the first. Where in scripture did these people get the idea that Christianity is supposed to be a political force with standing armies and all the rest of the trappings? That is not serving any generation by the will of God. I do not see our place to be of any part with the dominant culture of any era. The Church is supposed to be a counter-cultural movement and anything else is out of our mandate.

  12. Tom says

    “Denominations” are the result of men’s inability to live by God’s Will. Jesus Christ founded one Church, and intended it to be One Church, which it was for 1500 years. I pray for the unity of all the Body of Christ.

  13. Ian M. says

    With all due respect, Brother Tom, the issue of unity has been plaguing the Church since the start. That is why I am sure that the disunity expressed by denominationalism is resident in human nature and not some sort of underhanded ploy by God to do His purpose, whatever that may be. When Paul had something to say about it to the Corinthian Church, he included it in his first letter (chapter 1vs 10-15). Fifty years later, Clement 1, the bishop of Rome before Rome heady sway over the other churches, wrote a letter to the bishop of Corinth. If you guessed that the content of the letter was disunity, you would be correct.

    • Anonymous says

      This is a topic worth discussing. Someone above mentioned the historicity of the Church and scripture and someone else mentioned how happy he was that when we die and stand before Jesus as our Judge, if we are received into heaven to be with Him it will not be because one was orthodox, protestant, or catholic. Let us distinguish what this means. It is true that we will not go to heaven because of a particular ‘label’. However, Christ founded a Church (My Church, he said) and it is through obedience to him that he will bring us home (all because he died for our sins, of course, and rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven, and sent the Holy Spirit). If we find it frustrating that we now have to ‘weed through’ so many false teachers (keeping in mind that some are doing their best to be true to Jesus and he knows that) well, that is part of the suffering of this life – but it is hardly an insurmountable struggle. If you are an honest man and believe that you would like to find the flock that Jesus started, then take the advice of the commentators above who say that prayer is part of the answer. If we ask him every day to not leave us in the dark on this issue, he will show us the way. The answer might be very different from what we are expecting, but it will be everything we hope for and thensome. I think that part of our frustration is directed at God and it doesn’t have to be. For example, if God promised to protect his Church from “the gates of Hell” and if that Church is the Salvation Army, let’s say, then why on earth did he allow me to grow up in a Lutheran community and to learn some things about him and life and reality that are not true? The only response to this question and a dozen similar ones is to say, “Thank you Lord, that I even know your Name. I trust you. I want to go where you say and I want to belong and I want to learn what you want me to.”

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