Wikipedia says that there are 38,000 different Christians groups! That's a lot! So, the question is, why so many? If Christianity started with Christ 2000 years ago, how did we end up with so many different groups in 2012? Another question I often hear from unbelievers is, how do you know which Christians are right? They all claim to be Christian. They all claim to have the truth, but obviously they all can't be right. If they were all right, then we wouldn't need 38,000 thousand different groups. If all Christians were the same, there would just be one group. All Christians are not the same. I often tell people I'm not like other Christians. Unfortunately, the unbelieving world (and sometimes even the believers) would like to paint all Christians with the same brush. They use the term Christian very broadly, even though within these 38,000 groups there are vast difference of belief. It's hardly fair to lump us all together.
The two most common and broad groups of Christians are Catholics and Protestants. Many people would like to neatly divide all the Christian groups into one of these two categories. However, when I went to Bible college, I learned that there are a large number of Christians who are quite opposed to being lumped into these two divisions. I was surprised to find out that I was one of those who would neither be Catholic nor Protestant. It's important that as Christians we know our history. Too many Christians are guilty of following the crowd, instead of really searching out the truth. Even Wikipedia has a chart that basically divides all these Christian groups into either Catholic or Protestant. I can tell you that their chart is not accurate. Those belonging to that "other" category of Christians don't really have a name for themselves. I guess we could be described as New Testament believers. Here's why we don't label ourselves Protestants.
Protestants are those who during the reformation in the 1500's protested against the Catholic church. Hence the name "Protest"ants. Many tried to reform the Catholic church, and some even left it and started their own denominations (ie. Martin Luther and the Lutherans). As a Bible believer, I would maintain that my Christian lineage was never part of the Catholic church. Contrary to Catholic church doctrine, they are NOT the true church. The true church are those who have followed the New Testament all throughout the centuries. Some would say that during the Dark Ages, when the Catholic church ruled Europe, there were no true believers. Everyone was required to be Catholic. That's why the Reformation was such a great event, because it brought people back to the Bible and out of the Catholic system. However, that idea contradicts Jesus words in Matthew 16:18, where He says the gates of hell will not prevail against His church. If the true church was "lost" during the Dark Ages, then Jesus claim would be false. If Jesus' church had to be rescued by the Reformers, then "will not prevail" is inaccurate. Of course, we know Jesus was perfect, so the church must have, and did exist even in those Dark Ages.
I've been asked on several occasions how I know that with all the many groups of Christians I'm doing the what's right. Here's the thing. I don't know that I'm right. In fact, I could be very wrong. But, I do know that God is right, and I do know that what God has said in His Word is truth. My authority for what I believe doesn't rest in my opinion, in my church, in the opinion of my pastor, or in the teaching of any other man or woman. My faith is in the only thing that cannot fail. It's in the only thing that is 100% accurate and true. My faith is in the only thing that I can really trust, and that is God! God has chosen to reveal Himself to mankind through His written Word the Bible. The Bible as God's very Word is the only thing I have that is trustworthy. I cannot trust my feelings. I cannot trust what people tell me. I must only trust the Word of God.
The reason there are 38,000 different Christian groups in the world today is that people have stopped putting their faith in the Word of God. Instead, they follow a church, a denomination, a popular pastor, a creed, a confession, a book, their feelings, and the list could go on. Men and women are elevating their opinions, scholarship, and human teachings as accurate and trustworthy. This is what has caused so much division in Christianity. People suddenly think they know better than God. They rationalize, use logic, and try to conform God to their ideas of what He should be, instead of changing their ideas to match what God has already told us in His Word. Error is mixed with truth and many are led astray.
I am so thankful that I have the Word of God to read, memorize, study, and meditate on. God has made His Word accessible to every single believer. We don't need to be led astray by all the false teaching and error that abounds in many groups who claim to be Christian. We must be students of the Word. We must learn what God has taught us in His Holy book. We must test what men and women teach us by what we read in the Scripture. We must always be asking, "What does the Bible say?" We can know the truth! We must seek pastors, churches, and teachers that will teach us what the Bible says. Not what they think it says, but what it actually says!
Jesus promised that the gates of hell will not prevail against His church. The truth is out there. Somewhere in those 38,000 Christian groups there is a group that is right. There are those who are following whole-heartedly the Word of God. There are those who are believing, practicing, and teaching others God's truth from His Word. If you have a Bible, then read it, study it, and obey it. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Learn from God's Word. It's the only thing that you can trust!