Understanding Denominations for Unity’s Sake, Not Uniformity’s

What is a denomination? I think everyone pretty much understands that in general. I think my denominational experience and perspective may be a little different than some; I grew up in ignorance of denominations. I guess I knew that my Mom was a “Baptist”, but I didn’t think it was that much different than any other denomination. And I didn’t really know any of the definitions regarding doctrines of men. And it didn’t really matter, because we rarely went to church anyway.

And as I studied my Bible in the original languages from the front of the Bible, to the back, all day and every day for 3 years in jail, I still didn’t know much about denominations because they’re not in there. It wasn’t until I was freed from my jail sentence and began to do what we are all called to do, (find a teacher to mentor us in discipleship just like Jesus/ Yeshua modeled for us) that I started to understand denominations. What I saw was that denominations were puzzle pieces in the Body of Messiah. Each one had a piece of the whole picture mixed in with doctrines of men (things that I did not learn studying the Bible, and neither did they). My heart was on fire; I was zealous for the Word and I was immature although I was quickly learning how much more I understood than most pastors and elders and the arrogance set in. And I became a bit angry that people were being led astray in different areas. I couldn’t believe that educated people didn’t know christmas used to be outlawed in America. Or that people who didn’t study Hebrew and Greek were TEACHING the Bible. And I became passive-aggressive in seeking out pastors but still was kind of searching for the right “denomination” to find a teacher.

To this day I don’t consider myself a teacher and still struggle with the difference between being called and being sent. And I have found several anointed, appointed teachers to learn from since then to give me things to think about and study. And I spend a lot of time in the Word and am just as zealous as ever. So before I say anything about denominations, are some of them are right and the rest of them are wrong? It depends on who you ask. If you ask someone with a western, Graeco-Roman mindset (like most Americans from Seminary who end up teaching in churches) they will  generally tell you that time is linear and everything is black and white. Therefore, yes- someone has to be right and someone has to be wrong if 2 disagree in that mindset.

For someone with an Eastern, more Hebraic mindset they will tell you time is cyclical and it depends on the perspective from where you are observing. I would fall in the latter category, and I would answer you that without certain pieces of the puzzle (that only God can open our eyes to see and more importantly none of us can), there is absolutely no way to come to certain conclusions and so if people have not seen that key piece then based on their understanding they are absolutely correct at their point in the journey because there is no way they will be able to see anything that is dependent on the key revelation and any argument is futile. So both people can be right.

For example; If someone has never had their eyes opened up to the Joh 3:14 reference to the serpent lifted up in the wilderness as a foreshadow, then they will have no idea what the Nu 21:9 instance would mean or foreshadow.  There are scores of examples, that is just the first one that came to mind that wasn’t controversial (I skipped a handful). So am I wanting to tell someone they are “wrong” while they are on they’re journey? Absolutely not. They can be 100% correct based on what they know and still be wrong. And I’ll give you the best example of what I mean by “controversial” examples.

One of the first extra-Biblical books I read during that time in jail was about the “Sunday law” (today, I know it was from the Seventh-Day Adventists but I didn’t know what that was at the time). When I first read it, I didn’t understand why they were making such a big deal about the 7th day being the Sabbath; Seemed like over-stating the obvious (and honestly it hasn’t been that many years since I realized that Jesus/ Yeshua wasn’t resurrected on Sunday) but when I read the Bible I understood that first-century disciples gathered on the first day of the week after the Sabbath and they clearly continued observing the Sabbath and the feasts. But my definition of “observing” remained skewed for many years. It was purely prophetic to me for a long time as well as the feasts.

Also, I had never really felt convicted to be baptized. And even though I hadn’t been baptized, I never felt I wasn’t “saved” because I saw baptism as a perpetual/ repetitive thing in Scripture, not a once-for-all thing; it was tied to repentance and a sign of repenting that is oft-required. And my continuous increase of being “puffed up” with knowledge didn’t help. I actually refused to be baptized just so that people would see I still ended up in the kingdom without it. Then I was introduced to the United Pentecostal Church during my denominational sifting. Their hearts were on fire like mine; and I was also introduced to the strange idea (because the Bible wasn’t written in English) that only the King James version of the Bible was the “inspired word”. They had more zeal and less knowledge than anyone I had yet come across (and Jehovah’s Witnesses were a close 2nd in zeal). But they convinced me to be baptized- and they also said that if I did, all my Bible learning would turn into miraculous apostolic power and I would speak in the tongues of angels. I didn’t believe that part and still don’t, but I agreed to be baptized in obedience.

When I came out of the water, they were really surprised that I didn’t “speak in tongues”. And I am not kidding, one girl said, “his knee was out of the water” so they collectively held all my body parts (I’m tall and skinny) and dunked me again to make sure I was fully submerged so I could “receive the gift of tongues”. I could see it in their faces and I was surprised they didn’t try again; They were confused because their expectations weren’t met. But their expectations weren’t founded in Truth. On that day pretty much I became “non-denominational” because it was the only identity I could identify with and everyone else seemed to need me to have one. Soon after I became “inter-denominational” in my personal identity as a “Christian” and felt a calling to unite all these divided people with a website because church leadership just never were willing or open to a paradigm shift from their denomination. They didn’t want to consider whether they might be wrong or even talk about it.

I never intended this blog post to be about my testimony at all even thought it was on my list to do; it was intended to be strictly about what the title is. I’d like to think I am diverting because of the leading of the Spirit, but I’m not going to say that is what happened; maybe I am just following the voice in my own mind to logical conclusions of what to write about to get to the point. And the point is that denominations are like exit ramps on the journey; They are plateaus while climbing the mountain or becoming more “elevated”, closer to God. And they are places with hidden nuggets of Truth simultaneously keeping others from those nuggets as we throw the baby out with the bathwater so often regarding all of the “other” denominations that are not our own denomination.

If I had stopped learning or gotten sucked in/ convinced by any one of the number of the “denominations” on my journey to that point, it could be compared to getting off an exit while I’m driving down the interstate. Every denomination I visited ended up teaching me something I didn’t previously know about the Bible even if it was just one little nugget of Truth or they were simply the catalyst for more study. And by no means am I without learning some things that have had to be “unlearned” and sometimes re-learned after I decided again they made sense Biblically. The adversary is tricky and wise; I’ve changed my mind a lot because I am open to crazy ideas; I just want to know the Truth. I believe I have obtained quite a bit of it, but I know I could be wrong and there’s always more to learn. How do I know that? because it has happened too many times.

And I would submit to every reader, that if you have grown up in any denomination or if you have never studied out the beliefs of other denominations (and here’s the key) to try and prove them to be TRUE, you are probably wrong about some things too, and that’s ok. We don’t have to look very hard to prove something to ourselves as false; Everyone is so quick to prove things as false because they want to prove that they are right. So many more writings can be found to prove something false (or someone wrong) than something correct. The internet is FULL of people telling us why they are right because they don’t want to be wrong. No one wants to be wrong, right? But I do.

I want to be wrong, and I want to impart that desire on the reader. Because I have learned that being wrong is the greatest, most exciting thing that can happen to a person… If they are willing to admit they are wrong after studying out an alternative position/ denomination/ doctrine. And this is a level of bare-minimum humility. Without the ability to be humble enough to say, “I could be wrong” there can be no unity without uniformity.

I have spent the last 15+ years reaching out to others from an inter-denominational perspective to suggest to them that their paradigm maybe needed to be shifted. And it was only a little more than a couple years ago that I reached out to someone to help him shift his paradigm, only to have my own paradigm shifted because he had more pieces of the puzzle than I did, or in the very least he had some that I didn’t have. And that’s exactly what I was hoping for when I started looking for a teacher. I’m not going to tell you who that guy is, or what denomination he is… because I can’t, and not because it’s a secret. There’s just no English word for it and it’s not a denomination, although there really isn’t another English word to box it in, because everything has to be put in a box right? So only in that sense do I say it is a denomination with some doctrinal positions (as painful as it is to have to word it that way). True “christianity” came to humanity before there was an English language (sorry to all the KJV-only folks). True christianity is not a new religion, it’s a return to the pure religion undefiled in the form of relationship with God almost as it was in the garden of Eden; unspotted from the world and taking care of Earth and others and the fulfilled hope of a promised Jewish Messiah- kingdom-minded discipleship, teaching others to do what He did.

And every denomination has and IS a piece of the puzzle that makes up the parts of the journey in the Body of Messiah, just as every believer has and IS a piece of the puzzle that makes up the Body of Messiah. Messiah is just the English-Hebrewish word for Christ/ anointed one. We should all know that Jesus/ Yeshua was the promised Jewish/ Davidic (line of king David) anointed one who came and died during Passover, the feast of Unleavened Bread and resurected on Firsfruits in the first century in accordance with the Bible. Shouldn’t that be enough agreement for us to come together in harmony and unity to make our communities a better place? Shouldn’t we be able to lay aside our doctrines of men and come together to feed the hungry and shelter the homeless?

Coming out of the spring feasts (or, the easter season, if you prefer) I’m still focusing on getting the leaven out; making sure there’s no hypocrisy in me puffing me up. That requires humility and honesty. I’m reminded of the second Passover in Scripture (Numbers 9:10), because mine was interrupted by a loss and that makes it difficult to enjoy the usually-fun and much-anticipated days of celebration and contemplation.

I am also reminded that recently I met a christian who was interested in one of my candles and I told her (thinking she would be excited about the revelation I was sharing) “I call this candle scent ‘clothed in righteousness’, which in Hebrew …”

…to which she responded rudely and abruptly “I don’t speak Hebrew, I speak Jesus” and walked away.

I didn’t say anything of course, but I wanted to say “Well…Jesus… spoke Hebrew. He has a Hebrew name that you apparently don’t know about and so does His Father. The Bible was primarily written in Hebrew and the world you live in was spoken into existence in Hebrew. And if you don’t know anything about Hebrew, you miss out on 5/10ths of what the Bible says…” but I said nothing of course because I’m not the same person I used to be. It wouldn’t have done any good and I don’t blame her because almost every denomination was started by an anti-semite or a “replacement theologist” as were also most “church fathers” (http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_den1.htm )(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_Fathers).

There’s a reason Jesus/ Yeshua spoke in parables- to speak to those Jews in the first century who had eyes to see and ears to hear at the right time. There’s also a reason why I am posting again after stopping and hiding more than half of the articles on this website. I stopped for a while because everything I was posting and learning was just dividing people and I didn’t want to feed the snake. I didn’t want to leave my church, either, or to be put in a box, but for some reason we have to label everything. Hebrews 10 tells us not to forsake the gathering together. And it’s OK to gather together on Sunday. But it’s not my intention to forsake or change or transfer the Sabbath. The SDA denomination has that right and that’s THEIR puzzlepiece, but they don’t have everything right. And neither do any of us. We’re all just supposed to be trying to figure this out together as it unfolds and is unveiled. And I’m making another post because it’s therapeutic (I’m grieving), and as a plea for unity without uniformity. Not like a NWO, everybody-get-under-the-catholic-church unity; but a community unity that doesn’t have to know “what church do you go to” before they decide if they can walk together.

Not just unity with christians, but also Jews; because to them were entrusted the oracles of God (Ro 3, Heb 5, 1Pe 4). It was through them that we even have a Messiah to celebrate and follow. And I can tell you from experience, when we try to convince a Jew about our Messiah without any understanding of the oracles of God (which were delivered to us in Hebrew, not English) we will be laughed at and might even end up converting to Judaism because of our inability to give an answer to what we believe.

And not just believers; because what if some non-believers become believers as a result of the seeing the love and unity that has been lacking for 1500 years?

We’re not all called to believe all the same stuff at the same time; We’re just all called to believe in order to be called “sons of Abraham” and continue on that journey. We’re not even all called, believe it or not, to believe in the Trinity or the deity of Jesus/ Yeshua specifically or any other non-Biblical “statement of faith” of what belief is as required for salvation, although I do believe that. Thankfully, we’re saved BECAUSE we believe, not because of WHAT we believe. What we believe is supposed to change and increase as we grow in knowledge.

And how do we know that we believe? We show it in our actions. We show it by our works. It is seen in our fruits of labor and our love for one another. And that labor is supposed to be done together, as one Body with one Lord and one baptism- and one Savior. God didn’t create sects or denominations with one exception;

When God created Adam, Eve was inside of him until He took her out of him; When God created Israel, the house of Judah was inside of him/ them until He took them out. And just as Adam was to cleave to his wife, so too are we supposed to cleave to Judah and become one flesh (one new man Eph 2), one Body adorned for the Bridegroom grafted in to the olive tree (Romans 11) and walking together (Jeremiah 3). It’s prophecy being fulfilled before our very eyes today, and that’s not the point of this post on unity without uniformity. But it’s a good example in that many people have no idea what that is referring to or that it is even mentioned in the Bible.

But is that a reason for more division and more splitting up into more denominations? No. God made 2 houses and prophesied that the 2 Judeo-Christian (from the latin for Jewish Messiah) houses would become 1 in His hand (Ez 37:19) no longer Jew or Gentile (Ga 3); he did not create 40 thousand denominations of christianity, we did; just like it was prophesied that we would inherit lies from our fathers (Jeremiah 16). But it only makes sense that believers would congregate and sojourn together with like-minded believers in similar places on the journey, so I’m not saying denominations are necessarily bad in my opinion and experience. Just don’t forget to get back on the journey and continue to Ask, Seek and Knock for ourselves, not for other people. And don’t be surprised if the disciples (learners) church-hop on their journey of increased learning. Likewise, don’t be surprised that those who have been at the same rest stop for 40 years haven’t grown or learned much. Maybe they didn’t need to grow that much.

To those of us who have our identity in our denomination, whether it’s catholic, Jehovah’s witnesses or church of Christ etc., our identity is skewed because we took an exit ramp and instead of just fueling up we decided to get a room. Many of us even decide to buy a house and never get back on the journey; we stay stuck in and identify with our pitstop. Some even go so far as to say, “we’re the the only ones who have enough of it right to make to heaven”.

But I can’t stress enough how important it is to get back on the road heading to the destination, the narrow path; To continue to Ask, Seek and Knock. Not that it’s about the destination, it’s not. It’s about the journey. It’s not about, “what church do you go to?” It’s about the “do you know the Father and do you know the Son” Journey. And the only way to do that is through the Word in Spirit and Truth so as not to hear those dreadful words, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work lawlessness”.

The only way to show that faith and that we know Him is in our actions; Faith without works is dead. Those works don’t bring our “salvation”, our “salvation” brings our works (the 3-d manifestation of our belief). If there’s no works though, we might want to question our salvation because it’s the ONLY way to see our faith. And we have to remember that people don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care, no matter what denomination we may identify with if any at all. So let us show everyone how much we care, not how much we know.

There are a lot of people who believe very similar to what I believe. But I’ll be honest, a lot of them are puffed up still, argumentative and prideful. The same can be said about some people in almost every denomination. Pride is not tied to any denomination or set of beliefs; Even some of my Atheist friends are full of it because it’s a human condition, not a religious condition (even though I would argue atheism as a religion having multiple sects or denominations).

Just possibly, when it says “come out of her my people”, could it be talking about denominations and doctrines of men? Is it a parabolic way in saying “get out of the rest stops and get back on the journey”? Everyone on the journey has that in common- they’re on the journey; That is their common identity even if they’re at an off ramp, and even if they don’t fully understand their identity, they have one. Everyone who has stopped off and forgotten the journey has an identity issue or is going through an identity crisis. So the question “what exit are you at?” is like “what church do you go to?” The correct answer to either could be “I’m just here to fill up and give directions if anyone asks where I’m headed”.

Another analogy is, it’s like going on a “walk”. Not that going on a highway journey is a bad analogy, but this one is older- MUCH older and more Biblical in a way. Before we had highways and exit ramps, before we had horses with buggies, we walked. In the first century, Jesus/ Yeshua was asked by Pharisees, “Why don’t your disciples walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?” The Hebrew word for “walk” is הֲלָכָה and is pronounced ‘halacha’. It means in its root “to go or to walk”. The new testament is full of references to this “walk”, this halacha, this journey and sojourns (pitstops for gathering).

But this idea of discipleship and walking out ‘the way’ was not just in the new testament.

De 6:6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
8 And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.

And neither is the problem of those Pharisees limited to the new testament. Here is His answer to the question about how His disciples walked; about their halacha:

Mr 7:6 He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.
7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
8 For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.
9 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.

Men’s traditions being turned into doctrine led to rejection of the commandments of God. That was the problem with the first-century church leadership. Today’s church leadership, our calling is to lay aside the traditions of men and hold to the commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus/ Yeshua. None of us have the exact same understanding of what those 2 things mean. And that’s a good reason to reason together. It’s a good reason to halacha together.

Php 3:17 ¶ Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.

Can two walk together, except they be agreed (Amos 3:3)? What is their agreement on to walk together, doctrinal position or belief? No, they agree they are both on the journey to the same destination, otherwise they wouldn’t be walking together. That’s my “denomination”. I’m walking together with ALL my brethren who are walking with me following the Jewish Messiah, making disciples in His name, which in Hebrew… means “He will save”.

Mathew 1:21 She will give birth to a son; and you shall call His name Yeshua, for He will save His people from their sins. (TLV)

I know most of us don’t speak Hebrew, we speak Jesus. But may I humbly suggest what I didn’t get to share…

“Well…Jesus… spoke Hebrew. He has a Hebrew name and so does His Father. The Bible was primarily written in Hebrew and the world we all live in was spoken into existence in Hebrew, and that Hebrew Word became flesh and dwelt among us. If you don’t know anything about Hebrew, I would be glad to help point you to some really easy tools I published into a free App that you can download from anywhere in the world that has weekly Bible studies along with more compiled Biblical resources than anything else out there. It doesn’t matter where you are in your walk or what denomination you affiliate or identify with as long as you are following the Jewish Messiah or want to know more about Him, I will walk with you in agreement that we are on a journey to the same destination.”

~~A Plea to Walk Together, Laying Aside Our Doctrines of Men to Lay Hold to the Commandments of God and the Testimony of Jesus/ Yeshua