A frequent follow-up question to “Are you a Christian?” is “What denomination are you?” “Denomination” is not found in the Bible, and the idea is based on sectarianism and division. “Denomination” is not simply an incidental name, but a choice to be divided from other believers who do not share the same sectarian doctrines. Religious denominations are divisions among people who may all claim to follow the same Lord and same Bible but cannot agree because of their denomination.
As Jesus prayed for His apostles before His arrest, He said, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word, that they all may be one, as thou Father art in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one is us, that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17:20-21). Jesus wanted unity among His apostles, and everyone who would believe the apostles’ teaching (whether through their preaching or writings). This unity is not possible as long as the denominational system exists.
The denominational system has developed with various creeds, manuals, handbooks, hierarchies, and systems of organization, which have grown more complex over time. Years ago many people understood that the denominational system was a violation of God’s will and sought to leave the denominations so that they could restore the “undenominational” church of Christ of the New Testament. By being just Christians, without being associated with any denomination, they believed they could better serve God. That is why the churches of Christ are undenominational. We have no creed but the Bible, no denominational or church hierarchy over the local congregation, and no authority for faith and practice other than the Bible. We are not “Church of Christ Christians,” but simply “Christians.”
“Seeds” of denominationalism were in the church at Corinth. Paul wrote, “It hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ” (I Cor. 1:11-12). Some were not satisfied to be Christians only, but wanted to be “Paulite Christians,” or “Apollosite Christians,” or “Cephasite Christians.” Paul asked, “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1:13). They had divided the church into arguing factions. Paul emphasized the seriousness of the situation by saying he was glad he had only baptized a few at Corinth, so few could claim to follow him instead of Christ (1:14-16). Of what denomination were Peter and Paul? None! They were just Christians.
The church of Christ, if it truly is the church we read of in the New Testament, cannot be a denomination.