A study in 2006 found that there are at least 43,000 different Christian denominations worldwide. That’s not a typo, either. An initial reaction to that huge number is, “How can there even be that many differences in beliefs?” And how do we reconcile that number to Jesus’s prayer in John 17:1 that His followers would all be one? I’m no genius but there’s a big difference between 1 and 43,000—and most of these denominations were created because of division and disagreement of some kind.
Regardless of how we got to that number, we have a choice to make. Do we spend our time picking out faults in other denominations and chastising them for “doing it wrong”? Or do we find the similarities, celebrate them, and openly acknowledge them as our brothers and sisters in Christ? If you still feel hesitant about what to do, let me give you another example.
My younger sister and I shared a room until I left home for college. We grew up with the same parents, the same basic beliefs, and attended the same church camp and Sunday school as kids.
Understandably, we each had different experiences as we grew up. When she went off to college, she found herself surrounded by a new group of friends who introduced her to pineapple on her pizza. Now, we’ve always been a pepperoni-only family (with occasional mushrooms). But pineapple on pizza? That just seems wrong.
We’re sisters, related by blood, who share the same foundational beliefs. And we both love pizza. Only she likes her pizza different than I like mine. Do I disown her? Ridicule her? Point out her every fault? Or do I sit on the couch next to her during family dinner and catch up on our lives while I eat my pepperoni pizza and she eats her pineapple pizza?
That’s a no-brainer—she’s family. Blood is thicker than tomato paste.
While this is a lighthearted attempt to point out how we (as believers in general) sometimes get too wrapped up in the differences rather than what really matters, I hope it encourages reflection.
With 43,000 different denominations, we won’t all agree on everything. We have different styles of worship—some with instruments, some without. We don’t all follow the same order for a church service. We may prefer a specific Bible translation over others. We may serve wine for communion—or grape juice. But at the end of the day, if we are teaching Biblical principles, helping our fellow neighbors, ministering to the homeless and underprivileged, and living honest lives—who cares if we don’t all agree on what color carpet we should have in the sanctuary?
I say we take the time to celebrate our similarities in Christ! Preferably over pizza.
Alice Sullivan is a Nashville-based writer, editor, and adventurer. For more about Alice visit alicesullivan.com.