Season: 6 Episode: 078
Have you ever wondered why Christians are split between so many denominations? Shanda explains the reason and the differences between denominations and cults. She also talks about the power of the church and why it will never be stopped.
“The church was never meant to be segregated into denominations.”
“The true church is determined by who we say Jesus.”
“Corporate worship is necessary for the church because it was never meant to be a solo event.”
“Our allegiance isn’t to a denomination but to Christ.”
“Jesus never said go and make church members of all nations. He said, “Go and make disciples of all nations.”
Instagram and Facebook: @shandafulbright
Join my Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2584147064952378/?ref=group_browse
Free Resources: https://shandafulbright.com/lihks
YouTube: Shanda Fulbright
Hey guys! Welcome back to another episode of Her Faith Inspires. I hope you all are enjoying the amazing guests and the content we’ve been putting out. I will be back at the Refinery Church in Fresno, Ca on June 5th to speak to moms about how to teach our kids to defend the faith. I’m really excited about that because I get to be with actual people and teach them apologetics.
Speaking of teaching, I am going to be referring to the 7 churches in Revelation in this episode, and I want to let you know about a printable inductive bible study on the first three chapters of the book of Revelation. I take you through some questions, vocabulary and commentary on all 7 churches, and I highly recommend it.
Also, for those of you who have been asking about the next apologetics class, it will begin in Sept, but I will drop the registration for it in July. If you want to make sure you don’t miss it, go to my website: shandafulbright.com and subscribe. I only send out 2 emails a month, so I won’t bombard you.
Ok, without further ado, let’s get into today’s episode.
The inspiration for this episode is because I do get a little hard on the church at times. I believe that many of the issues we face today as a nation and in our culture is because the church is too wishy-washy. We mingle with culture and sound like the world.
But … the true church is powerful. The true church will prevail and never stop moving forward. Nothing can stop it. And today, my goal is to shed light on the true church, what God expects from the church, and why we should be excited that we belong to a body of believers, brothers and sisters, who are the salt of the earth, a city on a hill, and the light of the world.
There is a lot to cover today and we are going to get into theology and lots of bible verses, but I think more than anything, you are going to be fired up to speak truth, make disciples and stand your ground in this culture war we are in by the end of this episode.
We’re going answer the following questions today:
- Why do we have so many Christian denominations?
- Which of the 7 churches in Revelation are you?
- Why is the church the most powerful entity on earth?
A lot of people outside of the church find it to be a little contradictory that a united church would have so many denominations. I don’t blame them. I’m sure that can be confusing because it’s confusing to many inside the church.
Why do we have different denominations? Is that OK? Better yet, is God OK with it?
Usually, the statement of faith for each church shows the difference in what they believe, and if they’re a Christian church they’re usually subtle differences. First, let’s look at the difference between denominations, religions and cults.
For example, Lutheran, presbyterian, baptists, pentecostals (just to name a few) are denominations. Mormon (or Latter Day Saints) and Jehovahs Witness are cults. A cult is group that claims to be Christian but denies one or more of the essentials of the Christian faith. Buddhism and Islam are entirely different religions.
The Lutherans got their name from Martin Luther’s teachings. The baptists got their name because they emphasized the importance of baptism. The methodists got their name from the methods of John Wesley. And then we have denominations that came out of these main denominations.
The differences are slight variations in doctrine, but they are honest differences in the sense that godly men who are completely flawed, wanted to make sure they stay true to the word of God.
So, what does that mean?
It comes down to interpretation of scripture. All of these denominations believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the only way to heaven. The differences between the denominations will not send anyone to hell. We have to understand that because some people who belong to one Christian denomination won’t even step foot into another Christian denominations church. Why not? Well, that’s why we’re talking about this today.
Now, if those denominations add anything to the salvation message, such as Jesus and baptism saves you, they have changed a fundamental belief of the christian faith and have become a cult.
If a denomination says you aren’t saved unless you _______ (speak in tongues, do good works, wear a dress, I don’t know … there can be some crazy stuff out there), again, that isn’t the gospel message and that is false teaching.
What we need to remember when it comes to denominations is that Christians of other denominations (not religions or cults) are our brothers and sisters in Christ.
If you’re a baptist and you go to a friend’s church who happens to be a methodist, you’re not committing heresy. You may not necessarily agree with all of their doctrine, but if you believe Jesus the only way, truth and life … you are brothers and sisters in Christ.
The church created these manmade borders and boundaries that segregates the church based on a small doctrinal belief and we tell ourselves that we’re better, more holy, or that we’re the ones who have the whole truth.
I’ve been there and I’ve attended church with people who say this very thing. But it is right? That’s what we have to ask ourselves? Is it right according to Scripture?
It’s good and healthy to have discussions with baptists who believe in once saved, always saved.
Is that true based on the word?
Well, they have scriptures they feel back up this belief. But those who oppose the belief have scriptures to back up why they say a person can walk away from the faith.
When we have these discussions with other believers, we get each other to think and search the scriptures. But we must be careful how and when we do this. One of the issues that bothers me is when I see Christians with slightly different doctrinal beliefs (again, not salvation issues) argue on social media. They split hairs over which version of the bible is more holy, or why other churches are wrong for what they wear, etc. Unbelievers are reading those comments. There is a time and place and we are the body of Christ if we are a Christian denomination.
Just to be clear, I can’t list all of the denominations because there are more than 100. Once again, that means that Christians had disagreements over how Scripture was interpreted. So again, we separated because we couldn’t agree on some things, but not the fundamental, foundational doctrines of faith.
What we need to realize is there are no denominations in the word of God.
God never intended for the church to be divided like we are.
Paul spoke to this division to the Corinthian church in 1:11.
To give you a little bit of context, the church was disputing over who baptized them or to whom they were a disciple of. And Paul said, “For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is rquarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that seach one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow tApollos,” or “I follow uCephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 vIs Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you wbaptized in the name of Paul?”
The people in Corinth were divided because they were giving their allegiance to the one whom they followed … Paul, Cephas, or Apollos. But Paul said their allegiance is to Christ.
And that’s the way we should look at denominations. Our allegiance is not to a denomination but to Christ. This is scandalous to say, but there shouldn’t be any denominations. I’ve mentioned this before, but Jesus didn’t say go and make Christians. He didn’t say go and make baptists or pentecostals or methodists.
He said go and make disciples.
We have to be careful if our allegiance is to our denomination because we can box ourselves in with that denominations core values instead of what the Bible actually says. Now, let me make clear: I’ve done this before. I see it all the time in our churches. My allegiance is to Christ and His word. I am a part of the body of Christ … and so are you.
Now, I also mentioned that Jehovahs Witnesses and Mormons are not Christians and that’s going to surprise some listeners, but I learned this in my world religions class in apologetics and they don’t believe Jesus is the Son of God. I don’t have time to go into all that they believe today, but Mormons claim Joseph Smith wrote the book of Mormon after an angel of light came to him in a vision. It’s wild and worth finding out more about. You know where to find me if you have questions.
I received a letter from a Jehovas Witness the other day and they sound convincingly accurate in their interoperation of Scripture, but once you get to a few core beliefs about Jesus and specifically John 1, you will see where they veer off of sound doctrine. Again, I don’t have time to go into all of this, but if you have questions about it, please let me know and maybe we will have to do a podcast episode on this.
The best advice I can give to you when it comes to church and denominations is this: make sure they preach Jesus.
Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father but by the Son. If they preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified and you grow there, stay there. But don’t be afraid to visit a church of a different denomination with a friend or family member. We are the body of Christ and we need each other.
I don’t limit my speaking events to my church denomination. Because I know my denomination isn’t the only denomination that speaks truth and has the Holy Spirit working in the hearts of the people.
Do you see yourself in the 7 churches of Revelation?
So, fun story about why I composed an inductive Bible study on the 7 Churches in Revelation is because last year I really became distraught with why the false teachers started coming out of the woodwork, discussing CRT and the progressive movement. It was disheartening.
And I asked God, “How can they be Christians and believe the way they do?”
The 7 Churches in Revelation kept coming to my mind so I pulled out my bible and began to read.
What I noticed is a few things:
- All 7 churches were different in what they held to. Some were on fire and held fast to truth. Some were bringing in false teachers, some were committing adultery with Jezebel (metaphor). But all of them were called the church.
Now what does that mean? It means God was striving with them for a time. God warned them to fix the issue at hand … OR (because there were 2 Smyrna and Philadelphia who had no admonishment or correction) … to hold fast to His name. God still gave them a chance to right their wrongs.
It made me realize to speak the truth all the more. To remember that some in the church are embracing a false doctrine, but we need to remind them of the true gospel and pray they right their wrongs before it’s too late.
2) I also learned that the condition of my heart is in line with one or more of these churches. And because I don’t mind being transparent with you, I saw myself in the Ephesian church.
Jesus said, “I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to test those who call themselves apostles and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary.”
Doesn’t that all sound great??
I could be so proud of myself because I can’t tolerate evil men (or women), and I test those who call themselves teachers, and I hold fast to the name of Christ.
BUT … don’t toot your horn just yet, Shanda.
Because Jesus said, “You have left your first love.”
What did that mean? This church wasn’t doing all their good deeds and toil for the love of God. It was for the love of self. They didn’t hate the wrong because it was wrong, they hated it because they wanted to be right.
And Jesus said, “I will come and remove your lamp stand.” What was the lamp stand? The church is a city on a hill and meant to illuminate the light of Christ. If they didn’t go back to their first love, they would lose the right to be called the church.
The warning to me is to stay close to the cross.
To love God with all of my heart, soul, mind and strength so that I do not become legalistic and a bible basher to those around me.
3) Everyone in the global church fits somewhere in the description of the 7 churches. So the question to ask yourself is:
1) Where do I fall within these churches?
2) Where does my church fall within these churches?
Some of them were losing their lives and their livelihoods. We see that in churches across the globe. According to FRDC, 3 million Christians were adversely persecuted in China, as they are increasingly targeted by the government.
On April 16th the Washington Post reported tens of thousands of Nigerian Christians fled deadly attacks by armed groups. The assailants drove out 80% of the population and burned down private homes, police stations and humanitarian agencies.
The FRDC also reported that Turkeys Christians face increasingly dangerous persecution.
We see the persecuted church in chapter 2:8-11.
Jesus described them as poor but rich. Why rich? Because they had Christ. The persecuted church is often more aware of God’s presence and is closely intimate with Him because He is all they have. Jesus told them some of them would go to prison and to death.
And then we have the churches who allow false teachers and uphold false doctrine. Sardis is told to wake up! They are told they have a name (meaning a reputation that they are alive and on fire). But the bad news is they didn’t even know it because Jesus said they are dead.
To Laodicea, he said they were neither hot nor cold. That is actually a geographical reference to water springs in their area and that church knew exactly what Jesus was saying. They weren’t good for anything. A church without salt. A city without a lamp. He told them to open the door of their hearts He was knocking on before it was too late.
My point in saying all of this is that Jesus is at work in the church.
He strives with us and we in turn, should strive with each other. We need to be willing to have hard conversations, call each other out when we’re wrong, learn from each other at all times, and pray for one another always.
Again, this study is online in my store, and it’s super inexpensive because my goal is to help equip women to truly understand and love the word of God. I will also teach this some time in the fall.
Why is the church the most powerful entity on earth?
Moving on to my final and favorite point of this episode … the power of the church.
One of the best passages of Scripture is when Jesus talks to His disciples and asks two questions:
1) Who do men say that I am?
2) Who do you say that I am?
This verse is found in Matthew 16 and Mark 8. But Jesus first says, “Who do men say that I am?” In other words, what does culture say about me? Jesus knew His disciples heard the rumors and the murmurs.
And then Jesus said, “But who do you say that I am?” In essence, does what others say of Jesus impair your own belief about Him? Does what culture say about Jesus affect what you say about Him?
You see, our culture says that Jesus cannot be the only way.
That’s bigotry, intolerance and exclusive. Does that affect your belief that He is the only way?
Our culture says that He was not God and man. Don Lemon said on CNN in 2020 that He wasn’t sinless or perfect. That is a core belief. Does that affect your belief that He was a sinless and perfect sacrifice, able to take our place and die on the cross for the sins of the world?
And I love what Peter says. It’s simple, yet so powerful, that Jesus had something to say about it. And Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
And Jesus’ response reveals the power of the church.
He said, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”
Now we’re in verse 18 and this is what I want you to take note of. Jesus goes on and says this, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
I want you to first note that Jesus is the theme of this conversation.
It all centers around who He is and who we confess Him to be that determines the true church.
When Peter confessed Jesus, Jesus confessed Peter. Peters said, “You are the Christ.” And Jesus responded, “And I tell you, you are Peter.”
That is one of my favorite lines in the Bible because it shows exactly what Jesus said He would do when we confess Him before men: He will confess us before the Father in heaven. It’s all about our own relationship with Christ and who we say He is.
Secondly, Jesus told Peter on that confession of faith, He would build the church. Contrary to what some Catholics believe: that Peter is the first pope because of this verse … this does not elevate Peter. It shows that Peter’s confession of who Christ is is what the church is built on, but Christ alone is the cornerstone. Read more about Christ as the cornerstone in Ephesians 2.
Thirdly, Peter is given the authority by the profession of Christ’s name to admit entrance into the kingdom of heaven by preaching the word of God. This authority is granted to all members of Christ’s church.
“Whatever you bind and whatever you loose” is the authority granted to Him by the Lord to exercise discipline over right and wrong conduct for those in the kingdom. There are church leaders called to govern the church on earth.
The church is the bride of Christ.
This is not determined by denomination but by intimacy and relationship with the Son of God.
Paul mentions the church in two different ways: We have the local body of believers, or community of believers that gather together in fellowship.
But the true church, or global church as I like to call it, is a spiritual entity not segregated by denominations, countries, or people groups. The Greek word of church is ekklesia, which means “called out assembly”. The word is used to describe a people set apart from the world.
It’s easy for us to begin to think that our denomination is the “true church” but again, as I laid out in point 1, that is an incorrect way of thinking when it comes to the church. The true church centers its doctrine around Jesus Christ, the chief cornerstone of the church and every community of believers within the church.
Now some will say that it’s OK if we don’t attend church because church isn’t a building.
However, Paul explicitly says that we are not to forsake the assembling of ourselves with like believers as is the manner of some. The Greek word used for assembling is “episynogoge which suggests some form of official assembly.
This is why the author of Hebrews finishes this verse in 10:25 with, “Encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” What Day is he referring to? In the OT, we see the Day is a day of reckoning or judgment day. How can we encourage one another to stay the course, speak truth and pray for one another by laying hands on each other unless we assemble?
The church, the Bride of Christ, is not meant to be a solo experience.
How can it be? It denies the very purpose and function of the body.
The habit or custom of assembling means we don’t only visit other Christians on occasion, but we are consistent with corporate worship and gathering together. I want to mention that corporate worship has been highly debated over the last year because of COVID and I’ve seen Christians tell others to stop complaining because church is wherever you are. Is it? If you are able bodied, go to church.
Right now in Canada, our neighbors, their pastors are being thrown in jail for having church. This is something we cannot take for granted. We need each other as the body of Christ and so much more now because the Day is approaching.
I want to wind this up by explaining just how powerful the church is.
We see believers added to the church in Acts. The apostles turned Rome and the surrounding areas upside down. The persecution of the church caused the believers to scatter, but that was God’s way of moving the gospel to the surrounding areas so that more people would be saved. You can read more about that in Acts 8.
All throughout history, the church has impacted the world. What separated the church from all other entities and organizations? The name of Jesus. Acts 4:12 tells us the apostles preached that there is no other name under heaven by which men must be saved.
Christians continued to suffer persecution through the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th centuries up to today in different areas, all over the world, under multiple leaders and emperors.
For centuries, Christians have fought the good fight.
Martin Luther is responsible for putting the word of God into the hands of ordinary people so they could read it for themselves.
In the 20th century, with communism in Russia, the church was persecuted for multiple reasons. A few were because Christianity was thought of as a mystery religion, their refusal to denounce Christ, their outspokenness, and lack of cultural sensitivities just to name a few.
Our concerns for the church today come at a time when religious liberties are being threatened in one of the freest countries in the world: the USA. With the current administration endorsing trans activism, abortion, and many other antithetical values and beliefs that go against the word of God, we have a reason to be concerned. But not a reason to worry.
Nothing, no power, no man, no government, no authority on the earth or under the earth will ever stop the church of God.
As Jesus said to Peter, “The gates of hell will not prevail against the church.”
The Ephesian church lived amongst spiritual warfare.
We see a part of this in Acts 19 where Paul was casting out demons and afterwards, when people saw the power in the name of Jesus, brought their books on magic and sorcery and threw them into the fire.
But if you look in Ephesians, Paul tells the church the immeasurable power give by God to those who believe.
And in chapter 1:16-23.
It’s a bit long, but please bear with me as this explains the power of the church.
It says,“16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”
If you hold fast to the name of Christ, believe in His word, and uphold His word, you are the church and because you are saved by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ, all things are under your feet and the immeasurable greatness of His power is toward you who believe.
The global church will go on.
Some will be imprisoned for the name of Christ. Some will lay down their lives for the name of Christ. But all who desire to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Tim 3:12). But no matter what, as the church, we will leave our mark on this earth. It’s impossible not to.
I want to close this out today by reading you one final verse. I want to remind you of the One you serve and the power that never fails you.
Eph 3:20-21 says, “No to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever, amen.”
We are the church, my friend. We are brothers and sisters in the Lord. Lift one another up in prayer, encourage one another always, and hold fast to the name of Jesus. It is the only name under heaven in which men can be saved.
Have a great week and I’ll catch you on the next one!