Since Christianity has so many different denominations and churches, how do you know which one is the right one?

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Since Christianity has so many different denominations and churches, how do you know which one is the right one?
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#1

During Jesus’ ministry, he prayed that his future followers would exhibit a special kind of unity that would be a testimony to the world. So what happened? Rather than unity, harmony, and cooperation, Christians are often known for their squabbles and divisions.


#2

There are several reasons. For starters, let’s not forget that denominations are made up of churches and churches are made of people; and sometimes people just don’t get along. After all, just because people are Christians doesn’t mean they always agree. Moreover, Christians still struggle with pride, selfishness, and stubbornness, and this means they sometimes respond to relational conflict poorly. This has often led to debates and divisions within churches and denominations, which in turn leads to the creation of new churches and denominations. It’s an unfortunate situation, but a reality given human nature. Maybe this is why Jesus focused so much on unconditional love and forgiveness as an expression of the kind of people he wants us to be.


#3

Christians are sometimes divided is legitimate disagreements about secondary areas of belief or practice. What does baptism mean and who should get baptized? How should local churches be structured? Who should fill leadership roles? How often should communion be practiced? How should certain passages in the Bible be interpreted? These are good questions and the answers aren’t always clear in the Bible. Perhaps this is the reason the Bible exhorts us to exercise wisdom and humility when it comes to secondary issues where genuine differences exist (Romans 14-15).


#4

so many different groups of Christians exist is differences in personality, passions, and talents. Some people are more inclined to worship God through the exercise of their minds. They therefore focus on analytical thinking and biblical knowledge. Others are more artistically or creatively wired and the way they express their faith is quite different. Still others are more engaged in their relationship with God when they serve others. They find the greatest fulfillment when they can work with their hands or actively serve people with special needs in their communities. While all of these things are important, it’s no surprise that different churches and even whole denominations would emerge in light of the unique personalities of their adherents.


#5

people from different cultures will express their faith and worship God in their own distinctive ways. It shouldn’t surprise us if churches in a middle-class Midwest American city are extremely different from those in a war-torn, poverty-stricken village in Africa. Consequently, various churches and whole denominations will vary greatly depending upon the geographical location and cultural values of the people themselves.
Despite these differences, there are a few central tenets that bind all Christians together, regardless of their particular church, denomination, culture, or geographical location. Christians believe in God (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), that all humans are sinful and in need of grace, and that only Jesus Christ makes it possible for us to have a relationship with God through his death and resurrection. Christians also believe that the Bible most clearly reveals who God is, how we can have a relationship with him, and how we can extend God’s love to other people. While other beliefs and practices are important, and often the cause of disagreements, they are secondary. God’s story is bigger than our differences, and if we continue to seek him according to the longing and desires that he has given us, we can all begin to find our places in his grand story.


#6

There are certain teachings within the Christian faith that make it distinct from other religions in this world. Those basic teachings have been set forth in the early creeds of the Church, such as the Apostle’s Creed, and the Nicene Creed. The issues dealt with in these creeds are the essentials and bedrock truth of the Christian faith. If a church does not hold to these truths, it is not Christianity.
However, within the Christian Church worldwide, there is still great variety. Churches (and people within churches) may differ on a number of theological issues such as the sacraments (ordinances), prophecy, predestination, church government, etc. I would encourage you to make the Bible your authority, and start studying for yourself. In doing that, decide what you believe the Word of God teaches concerning these various topics. Most people would probably agree that it’s not wise to do something, believe something, or go somewhere, simply because “that’s how we’ve always done it”! Check out the Word of God for yourself.


#7

The word for “day” in Genesis 1 is the Hebrew word yom. It can mean either a day (in the ordinary 24-hour day), the daylight portion of an ordinary 24-hour day (i.e., day as distinct from the night), or occasionally it is used in the sense of an indefinite period of time (e.g., “in the time of the Judges” or “In the day of the Lord”). Without exception, in the Hebrew Old Testament the word yom never means “period” (i.e., it is never used to refer to a definite long period of time with specific beginning and end points). The word which means a long period of time in Hebrew is olam. Furthermore, it is important to note that even when the word yom is used in the indefinite sense, it is clearly indicated by the context that the literal meaning of the word “day” is not intended.
Some people say the word “day” in Genesis may have been used symbolically and is thus not meant to be taken literally. However, an important point that many fail to consider is that a word can never be symbolic the first time it is used! In fact, a word can only be used symbolically when it has first had a literal meaning. In the New Testament we are told that Jesus is the “door.” We know what this means because we know the word “door” means an entrance. Because we understand its literal meaning, it is able to be applied in a symbolic sense to Jesus Christ, so we understand that “He” is not literally a door. The word “door” could not be used in this manner unless it first had the literal meaning we understand it to have. Thus, the word “day” cannot be used symbolically the first time it is used in the Book of Genesis, as this is where God not only introduced the word “day” into the narrative, but also defined it as He invented it. Indeed, this is why the author of Genesis has gone to great lengths to carefully define the word “day” the first time it appears. In Genesis 1:4 we read, “And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness” called “night.” Genesis 1:5 then finishes with: “And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.” This is the same phrase used for each of the other five days and shows there was a clearly established cycle of days and nights (i.e., periods of light and periods of darkness).