"I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." John 12:24
I have been thinking for some time about the function of the Protestant Reformation and Christian denominations. Especially with Jesus prayer that all believers would be marked with unity, it is troubling that Christianity is scarred by divisions at nearly every level. It occurred to me that perhaps the Protestant Reformation might be akin to what happens when the "kernel of wheat falls to the ground". The Catholic Church was the kernel and it grew and thrived and eventually began to decline (especially morally), but out of their work was birthed the Protestant Reformation, they produced "many seeds."
In the centuries since the Protestant Reformation there have been many denominations that have been vying with one another. But nearly every Christian denomination in the West is in a decline. Now we are seeing church planting movements and emerging church movements arise within and across denominational boundaries. The variety and diversity has increased greatly.
What if all this was what God intended? What if God knew the challenges that the church would face in its first thousand years so he organized the Roman Church to withstand all the troubles that they would face (thanks in no small part to Constantine)? What if God knew that there would be no force in Europe capable of stopping the Islamic invasion without a strong, centrally organized church?
At a family reunion it is nearly impossible to find two people to agree on everything, but you find everyone agreeing on their common connection. What if we find our unity in our common connection and purpose? We are a part of the same family heritage. We can each celebrate the ways in which God has brought the seed of faith from Jesus right down to us.