Is there really one Christian church? This is hardly true anymore. There are over 1,500 recognized Christian denominations. Whether you are a member of a Christian church or not, you may be curious as to how exactly the single church that Jesus Christ organized when he was on the earth has become so many different faiths with so many different doctrines and theologies. Why has the Christian church changed over time?
Jesus Christ set up the Christian church when he was on the earth. He called apostles and gave them instructions about how it was supposed to be run. He gave one man, Simon Peter, the authority to lead the church. They largely preached to and taught the Jewish people because that is where they lived. They were Jewish. But the Jews largely rejected Jesus and his message of being the long-awaited Messiah. They crucified him. After he was crucified the apostles of the Christian church continued to teach the gospel to the Jews. Then, a man named Saul (later changed to Paul) was converted to the Christian church and began to teach the gospel to the Gentiles (those who were not of the Jewish faith.) This was essentially the first division that occurred in the Christian church because although it was what Christ taught, it was not what many of the early Christians wanted.
In 70 A.D. a group called the Gnostics, which would later become the Eastern Orthodox Church proclaimed a higher law and gospel. In around 300 A. D. the Roman Empire recognized the Christian church as an official religion and thus, the Roman Catholic Church was born. The Gnostics and the Catholics continued to disagree and the rift became wider until they completely split just after 1000 A.D.
Then in the early 1500’s people began to question the doctrines and practices of the Catholic Church-namely that church members could not read or interpret the scriptures on their own. The priests were the only ones allowed to do this. Some also questioned the method of baptism, which was sprinkling of infants. They felt that it should be baptism by immersion of adults like Jesus Christ. This led to the religious reformation and the exodus of many to America to find religious freedom.
In the 1800’s in America an Awakening occurred. People began to search for truths on their own, rather than just staying with their religion of birth. When they did not find what they were looking for, some began their own churches. It continues to this day. People continue to search for a Christianity that fits their way of life and their belief system.