As of the early 21st century, Christianity has around 2.2 billion adherents (members, followers, Christians). The faith represents nearly one-third of the world's population and is the largest religion in the world, with approximately 38,000 Christian denominations. Christians have composed about 33 percent of the world's population for around 100 years. The largest Christian denomination is the Roman Catholic Church, with 1.166 billion adherents, representing half of all Christians.
Christianity is the predominant religion in Europe, Russia, the Americas, the Philippines, East Timor, Southern Africa, Central Africa, East Africa and Oceania. There are also large Christian communities in other parts of the world, such as Central Asia and the Middle East, where Christianity is the second-largest religion after Islam. The United States has the largest Christian population in the world, followed by Brazil and Mexico.
Christianity, in one form or another, is the state religion of the following 16 nations: Argentina (Roman Catholic Church), Bolivia (Roman Catholic Church and Christianity), Costa Rica (Roman Catholic Church), Denmark (Danish National Church), El Salvador (Roman Catholic Church), England (Church of England), Greece (Church of Greece), Georgia (Georgian Orthodox Church), Iceland (Church of Iceland), Liechtenstein (Roman Catholic Church), Malta (Roman Catholic Church), Monaco (Roman Catholic Church), Norway (Church of Norway),Vatican City (Roman Catholic Church).
The first nations that adopted Christianity were:
· Armenia (301 AD)
· Georgia (319)
· Ethiopia (including Eritrea) (325)
· Roman Empire (380)
In total, 120 countries with 2,232,940,029 (2.2 billion) people, have a Christian majority, while 77 countries, with 4,604,857,693(4.6 billion) people, have a Christian minority.
“A Christian denomination is an identifiable religious body under a common name, structure, and doctrine within Christianity. In the Orthodox tradition, Churches are divided often along ethnic and linguistic lines, into separate churches and traditions. Technically, divisions between one group and another are defined by doctrine and church authority. Issues such as the nature of Jesus, the authority of apostolic succession, and papal primacy separate one denomination from another.
The Roman Catholic Church is the largest denomination with over 1.1 billion members, comprising over half of all Christians worldwide making it the largest denomination for any religion worldwide (although the Church itself does not view itself as a denomination, but as pre-denominational). Protestant denominations comprise roughly 38-39% of Christians worldwide, and together the Catholics, Protestants, Anglicans, and other closely related denominations comprise Western Christianity. Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Churches and the Assyrian Church of the East are considered Eastern Christian denominations. Western Christian denominations prevail in Western Europe and its former colonies. Eastern Christian denominations are represented mostly in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.
Christians have various doctrines about the Church, the body of faithful that they believe was established by Jesus Christ, and how the divine church corresponds to Christian denominations. Both the Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox consider themselves to faithfully represent the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. Protestants separated from the Catholic Church because of theologies and practices that they considered to be in violation of fundamental Christian doctrine. Generally, members of the various denominations acknowledge each other as Christians, at least to the extent that they acknowledge historically orthodox views including the Divinity of Jesus and doctrines of sin and salvation, even though some obstacles hinder full communion between churches. Since the reforms surrounding Vatican II, the Catholic Church has referred to Protestant communities as "denominations", while reserving the term "church" for apostolic churches, including the Eastern Orthodox. There are however some non-denominational Christians who do not follow any particular branch.
Christianity has denominational families (or movements) and also has individual denominations (or communions). Within these denominational families and movements are (often further denominational families and) various individual denominations or communions. The difference between a denomination and a denominational family is sometimes unclear to outsiders. Some denominational families can be considered major branches.
Christianity is composed of, but not limited to, five major branches of Churches: Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant; some groupings include Anglicans amongst Protestants. The Assyrian Church of the East is also a distinct Christian body, but is much smaller in adherents and geographic scope. Each of these five branches has important subdivisions. Because the Protestant subdivisions do not maintain a common theology or earthly leadership, they are far more distinct than the subdivisions of the other four groupings. Denomination typically refers to one of the many Christian groupings including each of the multitude of Protestant subdivisions.
Comparisons between denominational churches must be approached with caution. For example, in some churches, congregations are part of a larger church organization, while in other groups, each congregation is an independent autonomous organization. This issue is further complicated by the existence of groups of congregations with a common heritage that are officially nondenominational and have no centralized authority or records, but which are identified as denominations by non-adherents. Study of such churches in denominational terms is therefore a more complex proposition.
Numerical comparisons are also problematic. Some groups count membership based on adult believers and baptized children of believers, while others only count adult baptized believers. Others may count membership based on those adult believers who have formally affiliated themselves with the congregation. In addition, there may be political motives of advocates or opponents of a particular group to inflate or deflate membership numbers through propaganda or outright deception.
Christianity has not been a monolithic faith since the first century or Apostolic Age, if ever, and today there exist a large variety of groups that share a common history and tradition within and without mainstream Christianity. Since Christianity is the largest religion in the world (making approximately one-third of the population), it is necessary to understand the various faith traditions in terms of commonalities and differences between tradition, theology, church government, doctrine, language, and so on.
The largest schism or division in many classification schemes is between the families of Eastern and Western Christianity. After these two larger families come distinct branches of Christianity. Most classification schemes list six (in order of size: Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Anglicanism, Oriental Orthodoxy, and the Church of the East, which was originally referred to as Nestorianism but in modern times is embodied by the Assyrian Church of the East).
Unlike Roman Catholicism, Protestantism is a general movement that has no universal governing authority. As such, diverse groups such as Adventists, Anabaptists, Baptists, Congregationalists, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Reformed, and Pentecostals (depending on one's classification scheme) are all a part of the same family, and with further doctrinal variations within each group. From there come denominations, which in the West, have independence from the others in their doctrine. The Eastern and Roman Catholic churches, due to their hierarchical structures, are not said to be made up of denominations, rather, they include kinds of regional councils and individual congregations and church bodies.
Points of distinctive doctrine may be a very small number of simple propositions, or very numerous and difficult to explain, depending on the group. Some groups are defined relatively statically, and others have changed their definitions dramatically over time. As an example, sometime after the First Council of Nicaea in AD 325 established the doctrine of the Holy Trinity and before the Enlightenment, Christian teachers who denied the doctrine of the Holy Trinity would be cast out of their churches, and at times exiled or otherwise deprived of the protection of law. In later times, some points of the doctrine of the Trinity are considered false doctrines according to groups such as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Christadelphians, and the Jehovah's Witnesses (representing tens of millions of believers combined). The Iglesiani Cristo, for its part believe the Trinity dogma is a totally unchristian doctrine. These groups believe that their religious view of the Godhead comes from Christian teachings prior to the establishment of the doctrine of the Trinity AD 325. For example, Latter-day Saints teach that God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are three distinct beings that are one in purpose forming the Godhead. Some groups have their roots in the Latter Day Saint Movement, like Community of Christ, but have reformed to such an extent that they are now more trinitarian and are striving to be recognized as mainstream Christianity.
Other movements united to form today's Unitarian Universalism, whose member congregations recognize to varying degrees and in different ways their Christian origins. Unitarians and Universalists have historically been non-creedal and congregations have been self-governing, such that when the denominations consolidated in 1961, some congregations and individual Unitarian Universalists continued to identify themselves broadly as Christian, even more as "followers of Jesus" while other Unitarian Universalist congregations simultaneously embrace agnostics and atheists as well as "followers of Jesus".
Another group, the local churches (The Lord’s Recovery), is similar in many respects to mainstream Christianity but theologically reject denominationalism altogether. The Local churches differ from other Christian groups in the interpretation of a great number of points, as does most of Christianity with itself, but they claim to fully agree with everything in the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. Witness Lee was the successor of Watchman Nee on who’s teachings the local churches were founded. There has been some debate over whether or not Lee’s Recovery version of the Bible and some of his major teachings do in fact adhere to orthodox Christianity. Some evangelicals and mainstream Christian theologians and ministers have criticized Lee's theology as being a departure from essential doctrines of the Christian faith. Others have said that the teachings and practices of the local churches and its members represent the genuine, historical, biblical Christian faith in every essential aspect.
There are some Christians that reject organized religion altogether.
Major Denominational Families of Christianity
(This table does not include all Christians. These numbers are estimates, and are here primarily to assist in ranking branches by size, not to provide a definitive count of membership. http://www.adherents.com)
Number of Adherents
African indigenous sects (AICs)
Latter Day Saints
Stone-Campbell ("Restoration Movement")
New Thought (Unity, Christian Science, etc.)
Brethren (incl. Plymouth)
A Look at Jesus
There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. For there is no distinction; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. Ephesians 4:4-7, Romans 10:12
Is Christ divided? No.
Is Christianity divided? Yes.
Each division, each denomination, each so called “non-denomination”, each sect, each branch, each movement founded by a man, each church founded by men, all the churches of men.... preach not the one gospel of Jesus Christ but each preaches a different gospel, a different god, a different christ.
Judgment on those who preach a different gospel other than The Gospel.
But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. Gal 1:8-9
The Lord’s Judgement of the Divided House
Jesus says to us...to you,
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it (I always wonder what a “few” of 2.2 billion Christians would be like, what do you think?). “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew 7
[Jesus didn’t say one thing to the Catholics, another thing to Protestants, another thing to the Anglicans, nor did he say a different thing to the countless others]
If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. Mark 3:24-25
“Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls.” Luke 11:17
Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? Matthew 12:25-26
Lord his kingdom won’t stand! Only Yours will! Amen!
Can you amen this dear Christian brother?
Can you amen this dear Christian sister?
“I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ”. [or I follow Jesus AND I follow the Pope, I follow Jesus AND I follow Calvin, I follow Jesus AND I follow Luther, I follow Jesus AND I follow Wesley, I follow Jesus AND I follow my pastor, or my father, or my archbishop, or my prophet, or my apostle, or overseer, this man, or this woman”] Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you (or any other man/woman)? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul (or any other man/woman)?”
Will you follow Jesus ALONE? Will you follow ONLY Jesus? Will you be yoked to Him or yoked to someone or something else? There is no in between. One either loves Jesus or loves the alternatives. You cannot serve two masters.
His Peace and His Sword
Jesus gives peace, His peace, to His followers. A peace that is not of the flesh like the world’s peace such as peace in money, in a home, in a family, in a job, in a status etc etc. NO. Jesus’ peace in a peace He gives to the inner man. A peace that is sustained despite what happens to the flesh or the world around us. It is peace in the Holy Spirit.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
But to the world He brings no peace, but a sword...the Sword of the Spirit...the Sword of His Mouth... to divide [and judge]...To divide those who do the will of the Father from those who do the will of themselves, to divide those who love from those who hate, to divide those who love from those who are wicked, to divide those who are true from those who are false, to divide the merciful and forgiving from the unmerciful and unforgiving, to divide those who stand for the truth from those who stand for the lies, to divide the truth from the half-truths, to divide the humble from the prideful and arrogant, to divide the meek and lowly from the raised up and pompous, to divide those of honesty and integrity from those of hypocrisy and double-mindedness, to separate the righteous from the evil, to separate the givers from the takers, the abused from the abusers, the victims from the crooks, to separate the sons of obedience from the sons of disobedience, to separate the children of God from the children of the father of lies. The Sword is to divide all that is of God from all that is not of God.
““I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Luke 12:49-53, Matthew 10:34-39
Which side will you be found on when the Sword of His Mouth visits you, your nation, your town, your neighbourhood, your church, your family? On His side, or the others?
“Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth.” Revelation 2:16
Jesus says to us...to you,
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of Him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
“I told you, and you do not believe....but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock.”
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”
“Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.
So there will be one flock, one Shepherd.”
Whose flock will you be counted among in the Day of the Lord? That of divided Christianity and the churches of men or the one flock of the Good Shepherd?