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Why are there 42,000 Denominations?
According to a report published by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, in mid-2011 there were over 42,000 Christian denominations worldwide.1 Furthermore, that number is increasing at the rate of 2.2 new denominations per day. This is a rather shocking statistic, considering the earnest prayer of Yahshua,2 the Son of God, just before he was crucified:
I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one... The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (John 17:20,22,23)
Knowing how important this prayer was, and sensing that the church was losing ground, the Apostle Paul strongly urged the church in Corinth:
I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. (1 Corinthians 1:10)
Obviously, Paul’s appeal and Yahshua’s impassioned prayer for perfect unity have carried little weight in the hearts of the Christian leaders over the centuries who started each of those 42,000 denominations. Without a doubt, each one thought he was justified in leading away his following.3 So just what is it that causes Christians to divide, and what is the “glue” that could have held them together?
In a word, it is glory — or the lack thereof.
Yahshua said, “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one.” So whatever he meant by glory, he expected that it would enable his disciples to be one, just as he and the Father are one. Surely Yahshua and his Father don’t belong to different denominations.
So what exactly did Yahshua mean by the word glory?
In Hebrew, his native tongue, the word translated as glory literally meant weight, as a measure of the value of something. As applied to a person, glory is one’s inner worth which demands the respect of others.
Yahshua had received great inner worth from his Father, being filled with his word, and confirmed audibly at his baptism, “You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”4 In Hebrew, the word translated as father literally means source. His Father was the source of his glory, his inner worth, and everything he did or said expressed that glory:
It was not just what he said, but how he said it;
It was not just what he did, but how he did it;
It was not just what he saw, but how he saw it;
It was not just what he heard, but how he heard it.
When people saw Yahshua, they were seeing his Father.5 Anyone who sincerely desired to be connected to his Creator was drawn to Yahshua. The glory upon him demanded their respect. He had the words of eternal life, so where else could they go?6
“Well,” you may say, “that’s all fine and good. But he was the Son of God, and we’re just ordinary people.”
Yes, but that is the miracle of true salvation. Remember, Yahshua said, “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one.” Those who are truly baptized into him7 receive his glory, his inner worth, having been adopted by the same Father.8 True salvation connects us to the very Source of inner worth, giving us access to the same grace and the same wisdom that sustained our Master in his times of need.9 That inner worth is expressed in what we say and how we say it, what we do and how we do it, what we see and how we see it, and what we hear and how we hear it. Glory engenders respect. Those who have glory recognize and respect it in others, and that creates oneness, for they esteem others more highly than themselves.10
Those who seek their own glory11 show that they have none, for the glory of our Master is only given to the humble, and is only recognized by the humble. True leaders are the most humble of all, and have the most glory, which fosters the increase of unity:
And he gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-13)
Ironically, it is always the leaders in the churches of Christianity who start the new denominations, seeking to make a name for themselves. That is why there are 42,000 denominations today, and 42,002 tomorrow, and 42,004 the next day... Ichabod. It means the glory has departed... long, long ago.