Brands of churches

Brands of churches

One of the most confusing things to someone investigating Christianity is the range of different churches that are out there. Many of them have ‘brand names’ that surely have some technical meaning that new believers don’t understand (like Baptist, Presbyterian, and Anglican). If you were to visit these different types of churches, you would see that often they do things differently from one another as well. How can we explain this phenomenon when the Bible so clearly encourages unity?

  1. We need to emphasize what we have in common

There are too many sermons and blogs that basically say: “we are the right ones, those ones down the street have everything wrong”. There are reasons why I serve in a Presbyterian church, but I need to keep reminding myself (and teaching others too) that other Christian churches are on the same team as us. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ. If they love Jesus and trust in Him as their Lord and Saviour, we will be celebrating eternity together with them.

If a church believes in the Bible as God’s infallible word to us, there are many things that they will have in common with other Bible-believing churches. The nature of God, the problem of sin, the way you are saved, the importance of the sacraments, the reality of Jesus coming back: these will be taught in many places. The kinds of things you see explained in the Apostles Creed will be in common across true Christian churches. Just because you can identify differences doesn’t mean that churches others than yours are not Christian or are the enemy.

This will mean that we will strive to be united and express that how we can between churches.

  1. There are differences due to history, theology and practice

There are, however, reasons why churches are not the same as one another. Sometimes those differences are historical rather than practical. Sometimes there are different understandings of certain topics from the Bible, such as baptism, spiritual gifts, or church government. Sometimes the differences are essentially differences of form and not really substance, things like the style of music that is played or the structure of a service.

Every church runs the way it does for a reason. A church led by thoughtful, educated leadership will carefully think through how they run their services and ministries based on their understanding of the Bible and the goals they are trying to achieve.

  1. There is value in denominations

In our individualistic age, we like to be independent and do our own thing. Traditionally, however, churches have been allied together with other like-minded churches. The church I serve is part of the Westminster Presbyterian Church (the WPC, or the Wezzy Prezzies as some call us). Being part of a denomination means that we can do things together that are harder to do as a local church. We can plan to plant churches together, train pastors together, and generally encourage one another.

As a practical outcome of this, visiting a WPC church means you know already what we believe and what our ethos is. You can also have confidence that the elders and pastors have been examined by the denomination and are strong theologically. In our case, the brand tells you something.

  1. What to look for in a healthy church

With so many choices, what advice can be given for those who are looking for a good, healthy church? In the end, there are some simple pointers. The primary thing is to go to a church that teaches the Bible. By that, I don’t mean a church that claims to preach the Bible, but one that works through the Bible in some systematic way, explaining what the text says and applying it to your life. You want to find a place you can grow and serve, a community what has many people serving in different ways. Many of the other issues are somewhat secondary, like the music style you prefer.

Church is critical for your faith. The Christian world is more united than it looks, but you do need to choose a local church wisely. Ask questions and make sure you are comfortable with the theology and practice of a church, then stay there and serve as you can.