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This question involves a few intertwined issues, but generally the question is: is it normal for Christians to switch denominations? Or is it considered "flaky"? For example, my parents went to a Baptist Church but when we moved we started going to an Episcopal Church (I think there was no Baptist Church within a reasonable driving distance). It gets more complicated when you are Baptist not by affiliation with a particular group of people but in only that you believe in baptism by choice (believer's baptism); there seem to be, in fact, Episcopal Baptists. That aside, assume my parents went to a church of a denomination clearly distinct from their later choice of Episcopalian. Do most Christian's consider the move "unfaithful" in some way? Or is it normal for Christian's to jump around from one to another at their convenience?

I ask only because I was reviewing a question I asked and I noticed Mr. Stratton say that he "currently belongs to" XYZ Church. I thought it interesting to word it that way; as if one may change their mind from time to time.

If I were to venture a guess, I'd say that people who go to Church out of convenience or more habit (like my parents) will change their Church whenever it is convenient for them. They just go to Church so they can feel good at night, it's like a weekly community service to them. However, those who go to Church for the experience and atmosphere and actually care about the views of the people will tend to only join Churches which share their views on various topics (abortion, gay marriage, etc.). But maybe there are more factors that I'm not aware of, having not been to Church too many times in my life.

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Your question appears to be a little off topic since it seems to be asking for an evaluation of Christian motivation. I will say this much the choice of which Church or denomination to worship with is a deeply personal choice. –  Bye Jan 5 at 22:27
    
Sure, "deeply personal" only in that it is a choice that resides within the purview of the self alone; not in that it was particularly "intense or extreme" (as in my parents' case). But I agree, the question is a bit borderline; I was just wondering if anyone had a general idea as to whether the habit of switching denominations was a common one or not common among Christians. I doubt there are any scientific papers on this, but I have a feeling there is a number many of you here might agree on... –  stoicfury Jan 5 at 22:41
    
For the record, nobody who knows that Stratton guy would ever accuse him of being normal. I don't know if this question will stand, but if you ping me in Chat, I would be willing to explain why I, personally, phrased it like that. –  David Stratton Jan 5 at 23:07
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I don't believe it's particularly common. One's denomination (particularly if you have been a member since a very young age) is part of your being. It takes an enormous amount to change it, believe me. –  Andrew Leach Jan 5 at 23:33
    
Reciprocally related...christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/23380/… –  Charles Alsobrook Jan 5 at 23:36

3 Answers 3

The answer to this will in large part depend on how you'd answer the question of Why should I choose one particular congregation or denomination?

Christians do regularly switch congregations and denominations, but usually only within the branch of Christianity they adhere to. If they have chosen their old church on the basis of their doctrinal position, then to switch branches would mean they have changed their minds on several major doctrines. To switch between denominations within a branch might not require them to change their minds about anything, or if it does, only for small insignificant things.

For this reason it's more likely to occur for protestants, because the non-protestant branches generally only have one denomination. If you believe the Roman Catholic Church is correct, then there's only one denomination for you. I don't know enough about the Orthodox churches to know if their members would be comfortable switching between the churches they are in communion with (say between the Orthodox Church of Alexandria and Antioch) - they may or may not.

But within protestantism there are lots of very similar denominations. If you are Pentecostal there are lots of Pentecostal churches with almost identical beliefs. If you are a Calvinist then the Anglican and Presbyterian churches are almost identical except for whether you should be lead by a single person (a bishop) or a committee (session). If you're a Baptist then there are many denominations you'd be happy in. Protestants may change churches or denominations because of personal situations (such as moving house), or personal problems (not fitting in with the people in your old church.)

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I think the question as well as at leat one answer is narrowly assuming that things are commonly like they are in the USA.

Mind you, that in the rest of the world, as unimportant as it seems to be for US americans, there is typically just a single major church. In Europe, in countries that had no restoration of catholizism, you have Catholics and Lutherans (or Anglicans, in England), and that's it almost. In traditional catholic countries (Italy, Spain, Poland), even protestantism is merely an obscure sect.

I know that there are Baptists, Seventh-Day-Adventists and Neo-Apostolians, and so forth around here (in Germany) though I doubt they have sub-denominations. For this, they are just too small.

Consequently, changing churches is rather rare. The more so, as in recent times the tolerance is growing in this respect, i.e. if you are catholic, you can have a protestant wife, and it's not so difficult anymore like it used to be.

Keep in mind, many of the churches you have there in America like Baptism and the like are absolute minorities in Europe, if they are know at all. (I, for example, know the word "Episcopalism", but have no idea what makes them unique.)

Historically, this is easily explained: Members of protestant sects often felt that it was better to escape to America, and so they exiled and flourished there, while getting forgotten in Europe.

In case there is any doubt: I don't say things are better there or here. I find it just a bit regrettable that knowledge about the relative unimportance of ones own protestantic denomination seems to be lacking.

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I believe that all Christians should eventually graduate from their denomination. A denomination for most people serves as an entry point to become believers in Christ.

But if the person continued on from being just a believer to become Christ's disciple, she/he then would be guided directly by God the Holy Spirit and in increasing measure apply the Scriptures until there are more Christ than self in her/him. At this point, the person would be so occupied with producing the fruits of the Spirit, having the mind of Christ. Here, denominational differences no longer matters, the person's witness to the world is of Christ and Christ alone.

How do we know this? Tell me what exactly is the denomination of the Apostle Peter? How about Paul? James? John? Phillip? Thomas? How about the denomination of Titus? Lydia? Cornelius? What do all of these saints have in common? They are Christ's disciples.

Graduating from a denomination does not mean turning one's back or denouncing the denomination, rather, the focus is on feeding on the Scriptures and fellowship with Christ.

I have read the writings of saints from different denominations, and at the mature level, their thinking is more similar than different, which again, is the reflection of their source of power and thinking. After all there is but one Lord, and He did not establish any of the denominations we have today.

Mature Christians no longer fight with fellow Christians defending their denominations, which is a childish behavior (ref. 1 Corinthians 3:1-4).

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I think I understand what you're saying, though "graduating from a denomination" is an odd way to put it. Also, a notable difference between the early apostles and the churches today is that the apostles had a single teaching, but many of our denominations teach different things. –  Ryan Frame Jan 6 at 19:11
    
@RyanFrame, the different teachings espoused by the denominations is the exact reason why I chose the word "graduate" to convey the concept of the maturing of a Christian. Spiritual maturity is the only way out of the stale-mate situations among believers who got hung up on their denomination's teachings. Only when a believer start to personalize the Scriptures as the way to fellowship with God, he is no longer bound by the denomination creeds because those are less authoritative than the illumination given by the Holy Spirit to each believer (ref. John 14:26). –  Will Jan 6 at 19:41
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Mature Christians will also abhor falsehoods. Every church and every denomination is wrong about something, so mature Christians will care a lot that they are in one that has as few as possible. –  curiousdannii Jan 6 at 23:39
    
@curiousdannii, so you are agreeing with me that Spiritual maturity is the key to distinguish the right and the wrong. –  Will Jan 7 at 16:03
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Yes, you need a level of spiritual maturity to be spiritually discerning. The more maturity you have the more discerning you'll be. An immature person might fight to defend their denomination, but a mature person will plead with others to embrace the truth and sometimes even to abandon a denomination with major problems. There are bad reasons to argue about denominations, but there are also good and eternally significant reasons to argue about denominations. –  curiousdannii Jan 8 at 0:15

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