Different Christian groups exist for a variety of reasons. Prior to the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, the two major branches of Christianity included the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church divided in approximately AD 1000, rejecting the role of the Catholic pope, holding instead to Scripture and sacred tradition as authoritative.
What is the reason for all the Christian denominations?
In the 16th century, movements of Protestant churches broke from the Roman Catholic Church as Martin Luther and others returned to the concept of sola scriptura (Scripture only) as the church's authority. This led to the Lutheran Church, Presbyterian Church (influenced greatly by John Calvin) and the Anabaptist Churches, a movement churches influenced by Huldrych Zwingli and united by the belief in believer's baptism by immersion.
History would soon see the spread of other church movements, typically connected with the name of its leader or particular belief of emphasis. The Methodist Church arose in popularity at the leadership of John Wesley from England. Many of the denominations are historically rooted in a particular region. The United States experienced the growth of many denominations as the result of being a land of religious freedom. In addition to those previously mentioned, some popular denominations include Evangelical Free Church, Christian and Missionary Alliance, Southern Baptist (and their various Baptist branches), Nazarene, and many others. An increasing number of churches have also started with the label of being non-denominational churches, rejecting the denominational labels of past generations that have often been seen as divisive. However, denominations can be the result of good, bad, or simply neutral reasons. For example, the original Protestant churches started with a new emphasis on salvation by faith alone and the Bible alone as authoritative (good reasons). Other denominations have been created as the result of cultural choices, including the splits in America of multiple denominations in the North and South over slavery in the 19th century (bad reasons). Still other denominations have emerged from the growth of Christianity in new areas. While this growth has been typically seen as positive, the choice of whether to start a new denomination, join an existing one, or remain unaffiliated with a denomination is neither good nor bad from a biblical perspective.
The variety of denominations today has both positive and negative aspects for today's church. Denominations can offer great strength in working together around common beliefs. However, the creation of so many denominations leads to the need for careful evaluation of each denomination's beliefs in considering working together or joining a particular association of churches.
What was God's purpose in establishing the church?
Which churches are considered 'mainline denominations,' and why?
Should a Christian be involved in the ecumenical movement?
What does non-denominational mean? What do non-denominational churches believe?
What should we look for in a church?
Truth about Church