I do not like denominational titles. Denominational titles might be convenient in so far as they help us classify the various Christian groups more or less according to their doctrine, but the existence of formal denominations hinders true Christian unity. This is why the Apostle Paul forbade Christians to start denominations:
My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”;another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” (I Corinthians 1:11-12).
My perception of a denomination is a coalition of Christian churches that formally unite around the memory of an individual or a man-made creed. The various Lutheran synods, for instance, are united around Luther and the Augsburg confession, the Presbyterians have Knox and the Westminster confession, the Methodists have Wesley. The premise behind each of these denominations is that it is important for the churches to formally adhere to the memory and traditions of these specific men and their creeds in order for the church to remain spiritually and doctrinally pure. I absolutely reject this premise. Yes Wesley, Luther, Knox, and others were great men, and many of the creeds and confessions say some good things, but their retention is not vital to the survival of the Christian faith. The Christian faith depends only on the survival of the Holy Scriptures and the devotion of believers to Jesus Christ. Christians should not organize themselves around the traditions that have grown up since Christ.
It is exactly this spirit of denominationalism, I believe, that Paul is deploring in the verse I quoted above. He does not want Christians to organize themselves around being a follower of “Paul” or “Apollos.” He wants them instead to be united with each other as members of the one true church, and not use the names of great preachers as ammunition in their disagreements with each other.
Watch out for Denominationalism in disguise: Some church groups endorse the spirit of denominationalism even while claiming to reject it. I am speaking of denominations that, instead of naming themselves after famous Reformers, name themselves after God or Jesus, and then claim to be the only true remnant of the church. This action is just as bad as calling themselves “Lutherans” or “Wesleyans,” if not worse. If you read the passage above carefully, you will see that Paul is not afraid to criticize groups that claim to be followers of “Christ,” probably because they claim to be the exclusive followers of Christ. They see themselves as being somehow better than those who follow Paul or Apollos, just because they use the name of Jesus as their formal name of recognition. But if they are exclusive in their dealings with other Christians they are just as bad as the denominations that they are criticizing. My war against denominationalism is a two-way street: on the one hand I decry those who take denominational labels upon themselves, but on the other hand I accept them as my brothers and sisters in Christ, as long as they believe in Jesus and have repented of their sins. I have no desire to exclude “Lutherans” or “Presbyterians” or “Baptists” from the one true church: they are my brothers and sister in Christ. I do not view myself as being any more pure or holy than the lot of them. We are all sinners saved by grace.