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The full text of this tract is shown below in the ESV version. (Do you want to print this tract in a different version than the one listed? Contact us and let us know what you're looking for—we may be able to create the alternate version for you at no charge.)

How many churches are in our area?

Seriously – take a guess….

How many churches were in each city listed in the Bible?

City,Verse,# of Churches

Jerusalem,Acts 11:22,1

Corinth,1Cor. 1:2,1

Philippi,Phil. 1:1, 1

Thessalonica,1Thes. 1:1,1

Laodicea,Col. 4:16,1

Pergamum,Rev. 2:12,1

Sardis,Rev. 3:1,1

Antioch,Acts 13:1,1

Ephesus,Acts 20:17,1

Colossae,Col. 1:2,1

Cenchrea,Romans 16:1,1

Smyrna,Rev. 2:8,1

Thyatira, Rev. 2:18,1

Philadelphia,Rev. 3:7,1

Some of these cities were quite large, like Jerusalem1, with over 800,000 people. The Church at Jerusalem started with 3000 people (Acts 2:41), and that number was added to daily (Acts 2:47)—so much so, that in a very short time, their number rose to 5000. And still their numbers grew (Acts 5:14)!

Acts 5:12 tells us that they all met together under ‘Solomon’s Porch’ (portico) in the Temple. According to Josephus, Solomon’s Portico was a double-columned porch on the east side of the Temple near the court of the Gentiles. They also met “house-to-house” (Acts 5:42).

Are churches (plural) ever found in the Bible? Yes! Let's look.

Acts 16:4-5As they went on their way through the cities … So the churches were strengthened in the faith

Rom. 16:4…all the churches of the Gentiles

1Cor. 7:17…This is my rule in all the churches

1Cor. 16:1The churches of Galatia

2Cor. 8:1The churches of Macedonia

Gal. 1:2To the churches of Galatia

I found 34 verses with the term “churches” (plural), and they all fall into one of three categories:

Churches in a region. Example: Galatia, which was about the size of Arkansas.

Churches of a specific group of people, such as ‘the Gentiles’.

All churches, as used in this statement:

2 Thess. 1:4 “Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God.”

Well, how many churches did Jesus set up?

Matt. 16:18 “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

Eph. 1:22-23 “And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”

Eph. 4:4-6 “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.”

Jesus set up one church and there is one body of Christ.

One important point to make before moving on is that even though the saints might have met in different houses, there was still one church leadership governing or overseeing the local believers in each city.

Acts 14:23 “And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.”

Acts 20:17 “Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him.”

Acts 21:18 “On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present.”

1Tim. 4:14 “Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.”

1Tim. 5:17 “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.”

Tit. 1:5 “This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you.”

Phil. 1:1 “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons.”

In truth, there is only one church—or at least that is the way the Bible speaks of it.

Acts 20:28 “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.”

1Cor. 12:28 “And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles…”

Eph. 1:22 “And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church.”

Col. 1:18 “And he is the head of the body, the church.”

Yet, it would be physically impossible for the church world-wide to meet together in one singular place. The only thing that divided the saints of the early church, then, was distance. In fact, Paul condemns denominating (dividing) the church for other reasons (1Cor. 1:10-13).

Remember fractions in math? With a fraction you have a numerator—let’s say 1—then under that, is the ‘denominator’. What does the line between these numbers mean? “Divided by.” For example, one-fourth is one divided by four.

When we divide ourselves amongst many groups, we have taken our One Lord Jesus (our numerator) and divided Him with our denominations!

1Cor. 1:13 “Is Christ divided?”

It’s not uncommon for people to place a lot of weight on a dying person’s words. Consider Jesus’ prayer before facing the cross in the Garden of Gethsemane recorded in John 17:

11 Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 21 That they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one.”

Jesus’ one ‘dying’ wish is to see us, the church, as one.

A lack of unity displays a lack of love.

Christians who can’t worship together despite their non-salvation differences prove to the world that we DON’T have the love Jesus talked about—the love the world needs.

In that same Garden prayer, Jesus asked that the love that unites Him to the Father also be present in us.

John 17:26 “I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

Our love for one another shows that we are Christ’s disciples.

John 13:35 “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

We know that in the first several centuries, there was only one church. Despite issues and disagreements, and even despite different perspectives on doctrines, there was still only one church. The Corinthians were all about the gifts, but lost focus on the unity of Christ. The Galatians had become very works-oriented, focusing on keeping laws, and lost sight of the Spirit of God leading them. The Romans had to be asked “shall we sin that grace abound?” They had gotten so focused on grace, that holiness and sanctification became less important to them. In these writings, you can find some of the same issues we face today—but still, they didn’t divide over those things. There was open dialogue, teaching, correction, and instruction.

Denominations over the last century have focused on their differences, refusing to worship together because of them. I suspect that there are Christians who share more beliefs in common with saints worshiping elsewhere than they do with some of those that they might share a pew with. Are you sure that your take on homosexual marriage, for instance, is the same as those you worship with? Our separating, then, due to differences of beliefs, is really a sham. We worship with people who believe things we strongly oppose, while dividing from those we only disagree with on more trivial matters … matters that do not impact salvation.

We look around and complain about the way the world is headed. But our in-fighting and divided testimony is hindering our ability to make a difference!

Matt.12:25 “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.’”

You and I have inherited a mess. What can be done? Can I, by myself, make it all right? Maybe not, but we can do something.

We have allowed the enemy to divide us, and we are paying the price. Imagine if the church was fully united where you live, or in your state, or in this country.

Imagine Christians coming together for all sorts of common interests. This could be through a hunting clubs or weekly gatherings for Moms with little children. Imagine hosting a knitting club and inviting a lonely widow who’s not a Christian to come along. Or picture men from all over the community getting together to fish while talking about God and praying.

Every interest and every aspect of life could be covered by Christians gathering around that thing with Jesus as the focus. How exciting church-life would be—how impactful. How easy it would be to reach the lost. How our communities would be affected and changed.

When significant differences arise, or correction is needed, what if we responded in love and humility like the early believers? What if we were willing to drop our pride, admit our faults, and move toward biblical truth?

If the congregation you attend were to just eat a meal together with the congregation down the street, Christians from different backgrounds might get to know one another—couldn’t we do that?

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