Which Denomination Am I?

Nov 04

Which Denomination Am I?

I think there are many Christians who are a little frightened by how many different denominations there are out there, and so they just pick a church that has the worship style they like, and don’t pursue it further. Or perhaps they just pick a non-denominational church to play it safe. But in the back of their minds they wonder…which denomination would I belong to if I knew what their differences are? Which one best represents what I think the Bible teaches?

So I decided to create a chart that lists some of the theological differences. To be fair, I had to generalize. And I couldn’t list all the differences–just some main ones. And the chart doesn’t take into account worship style differences or how churches operate (does the congregation vote? do they have elders who call all the shots? does a bishop have authority over local churches?). So let me know what you think. Would you change any of the descriptions? Do you think another denomination ought to be included? (I didn’t include Orthodox Christians, so if someone wants to suggest how to fit them in, go for it.)

Here are the denominations I included:

  1. Assemblies of God
  2. Baptists
  3. Calvary Chapel
  4. Catholic
  5. Charismatics
  6. Charismatic Baptists
  7. Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee)
  8. Church of God (Anderson, Indiana)
  9. Episcopalian
  10. Evangelical Covenant Church
  11. Evangelical Free Church
  12. Freewill Baptists
  13. Lutheran (ECLA)
  14. Lutheran (Missouri Synod)
  15. Nazarene Churches
  16. Non-Denominational
  17. Presbyterian (PCA)
  18. Presbyterian (USA)
  19. United Methodist Church
  20. Vineyard Movement
  21. Wesleyan Church

So let me know which one you turned out to be! Without further ado (click to enlarge)…

Denominational-Chart01-GIF

 

 

30 comments

  1. I guess it works in a general sense, in broad brushstrokes. My own experience is a bit different. For example, there are very Bible-oriented Episcopal parishes and very culture-oriented ones; there are Catholic parishes that hew more to the Vatican line and those that prefer their own emphases; there are non-denominational churches that have very strict rules by which they interpret scripture, and those that try to be as entertaining and fluffy as possible. The chart helps me guess what your experience with them is, though.

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    • You’re absolutely right, it only works in broad brushstrokes. I tried to lay this out based on the official positions of denominations, knowing that there are churches w/in each denomination that vary. The Methodist Church was one of the hardest for me to place, because I happen to know from personal experience they are all over the map depending on the local church and have very ambiguous official stances on top of that.

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  2. Thomas Bullock /

    I’m sort of amused that if you believe in predestination essentially the chart has no more questions. There are a wide range of churches with reformed soteriology who have differing views on gifts/church government/etc.

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    • Good point. I noticed that discrepancy too. I should have at least added gifts of the Spirit option for reformed. I tried to stay away from church governance differences, though. Do you know which reformed denominations have differing views on theological issues, such as spiritual gifts, etc? I really am clueless on that front, but would love to add that info to the chart. As long as the denominations aren’t obscure ones.

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  3. I’m not apart of a non-denominational church because I’m playing it safe. I’m apart of a non-denominational church because I have some strong convictions and beliefs that don’t fit perfectly in a neat box of a certain denomination. One of them is that I really don’t think religion is what God intended. It only creates division.

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    • I thought you were part of a non-denominational church because there’s such an awesome pastor there. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  4. I didn’t realize Nazarenes and Wesleyans had an official doctrine that “baptism in the Holy Spirit” results in perfection. Do you have any more information on that? Do you know if this belief involves a baptism/perfection in this lifetime or somehow at death?

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  5. I don’t think it’s very fair to Episcopalians, ELCA Lutherans, and PCUSA. There’s a big leap from inerrancy of scripture to “eh, it’s sketchy but I’ll read it sometimes after Tom Clancy.”

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    • I don’t think that’s a fair representation of how I described them. ๐Ÿ™‚ Haha. But my point in this chart was for people to determine what their own beliefs are, and then see which denomination they would feel most comfortable in, based on those beliefs. Wouldn’t you agree those are the denominations they should seek out if they feel that way about the Bible? If not, which denominations would work better for them?

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  6. Interesting! Certainly a broad stroke, as you have said. My only thought is that the Episcopal Church probably belongs on the left side of that split you have at the bottom right of the page. It just doesn’t jive with what I’ve experienced and read in the last 6 years since we joined the Episcopal church. And my experience isn’t isolated to just one local parish.

    I also wonder what the Lutheran ECLA and the Presbyterian USA folks would say about that description, but I don’t know anyone in those circles.

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    • Thanks, Jason. I think you’re right that there are Lutheran ECLA, Presby USA and Episcopal churches that fall on both the right and left side, depending on the congregation.

      My point was actually to look at it from the other direction of–if you have those beliefs, which denominations should you consider? Not from the direction of–here’s the denomination, and what they all believe. Simply because some denominations like Methodists, Lutherans, Episcopals can literally be found all over the map. However, if you’re going to take a liberal view of Scripture, those are the denominations that allow for that view of Scripture (and as time goes on, more and more of the leadership of those denominations [i.e. bishops, etc] tend to view Scripture in that “liberal” vein).

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  7. Chris /

    Hi Tim, I cam across your post today while looking at different denominations. It’s certainly broad brushstrokes, but I think most people who are looking at this kind of a breakdown understand that. As a non-ELCA Lutheran, I am curious to where you would see the Missouri Synod and other more conservative Lutheran Church bodies fitting in. Thanks for the work!

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    • Hi Chris, good question. If I had to guess, perhaps in the same column as non-denominational churches or in the same column as United Methodists? Just because it seems to me that Lutherans really don’t have theological distinctives. I know they emphasize the Trinity, but that is accepted by pretty much everyone. Do you know of any important distinctives within the Lutheran church that set them apart from other denominations?

      I know their worship service is close in format to a Catholic mass, but my chart wasn’t intended to choose denominations based on worship style or church structure, but more along doctrinal lines.

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  8. Phil /

    Hi Tim. I just wanted to let you know that Calvary Chapel is NOT a denomination. I’ve been attending one since 1989, and have read the book Calvary Chapel Distinctives. Each Pastor leads his own church and there is no governing body or headquarters. That’s what separates Calvary Chapel from the denominations. To verify this, call any Calvary Chapel church. Thank you!

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    • Technically, the A/G also isn’t a denomination. Many Baptist groups also claim not to be denomination. That being said, I acknowledge that I use the term in this post loosely.

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  9. Jacqueline Greene /

    Tim I see your chart and my teacher gave me the same chart to plug in which demomination said each statement. I’m still confuse and can’t find answer to who say what.

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  10. Hi Tim, Great Post!
    I really found your post very captivating. It did seem a little tongue-in-cheekish with some of the descriptions, but I found that amusing. At any rate, I do attend a Pentecostal church. Being baptized in water and of Spirit from John 3:5 and other verse, is what the baptism of the Holy Spirit is derived. This is not considered a secondary filling ( not that I’ve ever read or heard in 34 years). The baptism of the Holy Spirit is synonymous with being filled with the Holy Spirit as a result when one repents and surrenders to Jesus as Lord, evident when another language is spoken under the divine influence of the Holy Spirit. Hope that helps!

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    • Hi Chantel, which Pentecostal denomination are you? I used to be Assemblies of God. The A/G, the Church of God In Christ, and The Church of God Cleveland, TN denominations believe that the baptism of the HS is a secondary filling. I’m curious which denomination of Pentecostal you are. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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  11. You clearly spent some time on this chart! Thanks for sharing it :). I grew up in a Non-Denominational church, but I am now a Christian Universalist, meaning that I believe that the Bible teaches that God will ultimately redeem and save all of mankind through faith in Jesus Christ. I am meeting more and more Christians who were raised in the denominations of your chart, now recognizing this understanding of the Gospel as the true “Good News.” If you ever add to or revise this chart and re-publish it, I’d love to see you add Christian Universalism!

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    • Hi Kimie, thanks for the compliment. Since you believe that the Bible teaches that God will save everyone, I would put you in the same category as the Reformed Churches and Presbyterian PCA. However, you’ve got me curious, how do you explain the many verses in the Bible that indicate some people will be saved and others won’t? Most universalists I know do not believe that everything in the Bible teaches universalism; instead they believe only portions of the Bible are true/inspired of God. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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  12. Elle of NC /

    Interesting chart, Tim. Your use of everyday language works well in pointing the way to some of the various beliefs within the Christian faith.

    I have enjoyed reading the comments that followed and the “broad strokes” term used by several. Your follow up comments are considerate and thoughtful. I appreciate the humble nature in which you reply. (That’s refreshing considering the usual responses one normally finds when different denominations discuss dogmatic viewpoints that divide and separate the church.) Your humility in comments appears genuine and suggests a willingness to consider changes that might improve the chart.

    With this in mind, in my opinion, there is an aspect to the very first belief statement not considered on the chart. I see the need for a separate qualifying statement while the chart, perhaps, assumes this aspect as simply “understood” that all those denominations named are in agreement making a separate determinant unnecessary (though I would disagree.) My knowledge of every denomination is admittedly limited. I share the aspect as food for thought not as an authority on denominations but as one who loves the Lord with all her heart who chooses not to lean on her own understanding.

    You “Start” with “The Bible is clear and everything it says is completely true; therefore, the Bible is our ultimate authority, and nothing else is equal to its authority.” The chart doesn’t clarify the position that while “The Bible is clear and everything it says is completely true” (the Bible as a written witness and record bearing witness to His Truth), our “ultimate authority in which nothing else is equal” is found in a Risen Savior who is Alive and seated at the Right Hand, ALL authority having been given to HIM, the HOLY SPIRIT bearing witness, leading and guiding in truth.

    Logically, if the written Word is “our ultimate authority, and nothing else is equal to its authority,” then the Holy Spirit was only necessary to bring about it’s writing. The initial two-part statement leaves out The Ultimate Authority of the Living Word and the Living Word bearing witness of Himself through His Holy Spirit in man today. The statement qualifies the Bible not only as inerrant, but THE authority rather than the written witness OF HIS authority.

    There are denominations that do believe the written Bible is, indeed, all authority. Period. While many would contend that the Lord has all authority and that a personal relationship with Him is necessary, their contention conflicts with the belief that He reveals ALL of Himself through the written words of the Bible. If one believes the Bible IS the supreme authority, the power of the Holy Spirit through man today is unnecessary; this logically nullifies the reason and ability for a personal relationship with HIM, and, essentially, places all authority in the hands of those deemed “qualified” to teach and interpret the writing; in my opinion, this creates confusion, and, well, the many denominations found on the chart.

    Also, I find compelling the position, or temporary position (interdependent upon the chart user), in which you place “non-denominational.” Would not “non-denominational” be found at the end of each chain depending upon belief system? Would not the purpose of the term “non-denominational” in relationship to the church today be used by church families who do not believe in denominational affiliation by conviction, though their beliefs line up with aspects of doctrine held by certain denominations, they do not agree with others? In other words, shouldn’t “non-denominational” be suggestive of those whose belief statements don’t completely line up with any particular doctrine, again, those who choose not to be affiliated with any denomination, thus the meaning of the term rather than dead-ended under the short qualifying path that encourages one to go back through and pick one?

    Blessings and love in our Lord Jesus the Christ, Yeshua, The Most High!

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    • Thanks for your thoughts. How do we evaluate what you claim is a word from God through the Holy Spirit w/out something objective/outside ourselves by which to evaluate it? If our final authority is what we sense from the Holy Spirit ourselves and we have nothing outside of this subjective feeling (something objective like Scripture) by which to judge your claim, how trustworthy is our method of accepting or rejecting your claim? Catholics lean on their church leadership’s interpretation of Scripture as the final authority–Protestants lean on Scripture itself. Are you suggesting that leaning on our own personal feelings from the Holy Spirit would work better than appealing to Scripture?

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  13. Lacye Schmidt /

    Why arenโ€™t Mormons listed in the chart?

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    • Because Mormons are not considered a “denomination” of Christianity by most Christians. They are considered an off-shoot of Christianity (a completely different sect/cult/religion).

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  14. I was unable to find Lutheran Missouri Synod? Help

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    • You are right, I accidentally did not include them. However, Karl in the comments section posted some very helpful material on the Missouri Synod that might help you determine where they would be placed.

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