In my small community one can readily find a wide selection of churches are fitting into the broad category of Christian. Within a 20 mile radius serving a population of less than 5,000 people there is a Bible Church, a Methodist Church, a Pentecostal Church, a Foursquare Gospel Church, an Episcopal Church, a Seventh Day Adventist Church, a Presbyterian church, two Baptist Churches, two Lutheran churches and a Congregational Church. I may have missed some, but you get the idea. There are a lot of different kinds of churches in our small community. In larger communities there are even more churches with an even greater variety of denominations.
Why do we have so many churches? The reason is simple, each church believes differently than the others. Even between those sharing the same denominational name (like Baptist or Lutheran), different churches have significant differences. The differences vary, some churches have more in common than others, but all have noticeable differences from all the rest. The differences between the churches are not just differences of outward forms and denominations. The differences between the churches are differences between what is being taught about the Bible, salvation, Jesus, God and other things. These differences are very, very important.
While I think most of the churches described as Christian would use similar descriptions of their beliefs, they really don’t believe the same things. Sometimes the differences are hidden under the same word. All may teach that you have to be saved, but they do not all teach that salvation is received in the same way. Some may teach salvation is acquired by asking Jesus for forgiveness, being baptized, attending church and participating in the sacraments. Some may teach salvation is acquired by asking Jesus for forgiveness and being baptized. Some may teach salvation is acquired just by being baptized. Some may teach salvation is acquired just by asking Jesus for forgiveness. Some may teach that you are not really saved if you don’t speak in tongues. Some may teach you are not really saved if you don’t observe the Sabbath. Some may teach that God loves everyone and that in the end everyone is going to get saved. Though all can say that you must be saved through Jesus, they are not all saying the same thing about how salvation is received. What the churches teach on salvation are obviously not the same. These differences cannot be glossed over under a fine gilt of “we all love Jesus”. If one church teaches that to be saved you must trust in Jesus and be baptized that teaching directly contradicts the church that teaches that to be saved you must trust in Jesus alone.
The reality is, there is already a genuine division between the churches that cannot be papered over by ignoring the differences. The differences are significant, not mere semantics, which is why there are so many different kinds of churches.