According to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity (CSGC) at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, there are approximately 41,000 Christian denominations and organizations in the world (2011 statistic). That’s 41,000 groups who think that they’re doing, believing or focussing on something slightly different to the Christian group next door. To paraphrase Bono, ‘they’re one, but they’re not the same.’
Jesus said to his disciples, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).
‘Love one another’: this is, or should be, the defining characteristic of Christianity as manifested individually and collectively. One cannot escape the concept of love in the Christian gospel. Whatever else is presented as important or distinctive from one group to the next, love needs to be the blanketing feature. Jesus commands it.
However, there are other features to this gospel of love and they invite people to participate from all sorts of different perspectives. I call this ‘gospel geometry.’ The gospel of Jesus Christ has angles. In a postmodern world (or is it post-postmodern now??), with no or plural claims to truth, some are attracted to Christianity by its claim of Truth to cap all truths. For some, it might be the appeal of salvific grace. Some are drawn to the big picture presented in the Bible, a story that makes sense of our own lives: human beings are created, they fall from grace, they are redeemed by grace and they are made new. For others, it may be the beauty and simplicity of life as lived and taught by Jesus. For others, it’s the vision and hope of a future where heaven and earth intersect eternally. For others it’s the crazy upside-downness of a God who died to demonstrate his love for us.
Whatever your starting point, there’s a conversation to be had with God. Scripture can kick start the conversation. 41,000 denominations can fuel it. But in the end, it all comes back to Love.