by Ken Gardner

Donald Wildmon is the president of the American Family Association, a conservative organization that opposes salacious movies and television shows and objects to homosexuality and abortion.  Mr. Wildmon is concerned that not only his denomination, the Methodist church, but also the denominational world in general, is becoming more and more liberal, compromising on abortion and accepting homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle.  In the September 2001 issue of the American Family Association Journal, in an editorial titled “Christ’s Church will survive our church,” he criticized denominations for not condemning sinful and immoral behavior.  He noted that many denominations are dividing over issues such as homosexuality, and some, perhaps many, of them will not survive.  He then points out that individual denominations are not “the Church” (although he would probably argue that all denominations together make up “the Church”).

Again—please notice carefully what he said.  Individual denominations are not “the Church.”  This is how he began his editorial:

Often in our society, people confuse the man-made institution with the Church.  We use the term “church” when we mean the institution or a denomination.  To use that definition as synonymous with the eternal Church of Jesus Christ is a mistake.

Mr. Wildmon is actually calling denominations "man-made” institutions!  Not one of them—not the Catholic church, not the Baptist church, not the Methodist church (of which Mr. Wildmon is a member), nor any other denomination—is “the Church.”  Just what is “the Church”?  Five times Mr. Wildmon calls it simply “the Church, also referring to it as the “eternal Church of Jesus Christ,” and “the Church” that is “of God.”  He considers it God’s Church, calling it “His Church.”  He’s talking about the one church, the church of the Bible.

Now, Mr. Wildmon would probably say, as all denominationalists must say, that it is impossible to be a member of “the Church” without being a member of a denomination (if it is possible to be a Christian without being a member of a denomination, then denominations cannot justify their existence).  Why can’t people today be Christians without being denominationalists?  Christians two-thousand years ago did not have to be members of a denomination to be members of “the Church.”  There were no denominations two-thousand years ago!  Remember—denominations are just “man-made institutions,” most of which began in the 1500s.  Two thousand years ago Christians were just…Christians, nothing more and nothing less.  Why can’t you and I today just be Christians and not denominationalists?

Imagine you and I are members of two different denominations.  Why can’t we say to one another, “Look, why don’t we just be Christians?  Why don’t we leave our respective denominations and be Christians only?”  If we then leave our denominations, and begin to worship and believe just as Christians did in New Testament times, then won’t we be Christians, just Christians, and not denominationalists?  If not, what denomination would we be members of?  Obviously, no denomination.  And another thing—why should we be thought arrogant just because we don’t want to be denominationalists?

I don’t know about you, but I am determined to be a member of no denomination.  I’m a Christian—only a Christian.