number of Denominations an Church Switching


On this forum people like to complain about the number of Protestant Denominations. And also about how protestants change churches.

Firstly I have heard on this forums the following estimates:
20,000 denominations
10’s of thousands
100’s of thousands
and one 60,000 (He admitted he exaggerated for effect.)

I’d like to discuss where people are getting these figures as they appear they are getting a bit out of hand.

Secondly, all this talk about Protestants cavalierly changing churches. Most of these so called 100’s of thousands (or however many) of Churches are very similar, so much similar that My praying about switching from from my non-denominational type church to the Assembly of God really wouldn’t be a whole lot different than any Catholic who changed Parishes. I have found two things in all of their teachings that disagree with what I believe is the truth, this is why I hesitate. And Catholics DO change parishes. However If I suddenly decided to go from where I am to be a Calvinist Baptist… that would be an extreme conversion and a BIG deal. I simply wouldn’t do it anymore that Catholics would switch from their parish to the same Baptist Church.


The 30,000 number came from a study a few years back that many have admitted as being an inflated number. It considered churches in the same denomination, but in different geographical areas, to be different denominations. Since there really is no good study on this, I generally say “thousands”.

Going from one actual denomination to another (say, non-denom to Assembly of God), is a significant change, much more so than changing parishes. Different denominations teach different things. Parishes always teach the same.


I strongly disagree, my non-denominational church has a total of ONE teaching that is different than the Assembly of God. ONE. The only different teaching is about speaking in tounges. Nothing diffrent about any other issue. How is that a huge change?

I want to know which study you are referring to, BTW.



In my life I have been to 3 different churches.

  1. I was raised in the Episcopal church, which 30 years ago was very similar to the catholic church. I recieved a good base for my understanding of God and bible stories. I was confirmed(whatever that meant) Oh and baptized as a baby. I left there because I was a kid and could of cared less about religion.:frowning: As I matured and started searching for God I was not lead back to that church because I felt they were not teaching me the essentials of salvation.

2.When I did go in search of a church at about age 29 I went to several churches and they were all preaching the same doctrines. I chose the southern baptist because it was close to home and I liked the minister and the people were friendly. Sadly things went down hill due to minister problems. The one I liked was in military and was shipped out so we had to hire another one. He was young and full of pride(those two dont mix). Slowly people left and my children and I were left and we were not growing. I had to make a move so my children could grow in Christ.BTW I became saved at this church.:smiley: :bowdown2: :dancing:

  1. Hence where I am now. A non-denom bible believing evangelical church.(that was a mouthful:D ) They teach absolutely nothing different then the baptist. They are thankfully different then the Episcopal. We can all agree they are going down hill fast.

I chose to switch because in each case I was not growing as a Christian nor were my children. I was more worried about my children then me, but it turns out we all found our way to God at this church. The opportunities to serve God are tremendous:D I am happy to report that I have grown tremendously as a child of God because God lead me to the church where He felt I should be. IMHO God leads all of us to where He wants us to go once we have committed ourselves to follow Christ. For one person it could be a catholic church or a lutheran church or a baptist etc.

I am sure any catholic would switch parishes if they felt the priest was molesting(sorry that is just in the front of my mind) or if their was a rogue priest teaching off the wall doctrines. I have heard this happens.

I also know people in different denoms and when we talk religion we are all learning the same stuff. I think what we need to understand is that just because the Protestants all arent under one person or heirarchy(whatever you call it) doesnt mean they are all teaching different gospels. There is only ONE BIBLE(The LIVING, BREATHING WORD OF GOD, ONE TRUTH(Jesus Christ) and ONE GOD. I bet you would find that that is taught in every bible believing protestant church.:smiley:
I think I wrote more then I wanted–sorry:o


Yet that one teaching is a pretty significant one that completely changes the “flavor” of the worship services.

I however, would tend to feel that for MOST Protestants, the changing of denominations are likened more in the person’s mind to the changing of parishes.

Some will change** specifically** for doctrinal differences, but most do not feel or see that the doctrine is the reason for the change but rather that they feel that the change is because they are better able to worship Christ with the resources (pastor, programs people, etc) at the new Church.

I say this as a revert. Someone who had their born again experience in a Nazarene Church, was led to the Assembly of God before going to an Evangelical Church and finally coming back to the Catholic ( I was never part of the Catholic Church as an adult before the “reversion/conversion”).

None of the changes I made, except for coming back to the Catholic Church were made with what I thought was any significant doctrinal differences, even though the pastor of the Nazarene Church was convinced that tongues were from Satan.

I can see now that tongues is a rather significant difference, but I went to the AoG not FOR tongues, but because I was attracted to the worship music and the dynamic pastor they had as well as the kids programs. I felt I could better worship Christ there.

Was that too much of a ramble?:o

God Bless,


I went all over the Anglican spectrum from Episcopalian, to the Anglican Church in America (part of the Traditional Anglican Communion) to being Confirmed in the Catholic Church. I can’t say I ever felt there was an enormous difference between the Episcopal and Anglican Churches. Many of the Anglicans I met were also in my situation; we were refugee Episcopalians, and we all had a common background and heritage. So I didn’t feel that it was a huge change for me to make. I was nervous about the Anglican to Catholic change because Anglicanism has been in my family for so long, and it’s one of those things that you don’t question why you’re practicing that faith, you just practice it.

There are so many people who switch denominations for reasons that have nothing to do with doctrine. I know a lot of people who are Presbyterians and couldn’t tell you anything about Calvin, or Methodists who don’t know who Wesley was, ect. I would say that most people who switch do it for social reasons or because they just feel closer to God there.


The number of denominations depends on how you define “denomination”. Realistically, there are thousands, but the vast majority of Protestants can be found in a few denominations or, at least, a few “denominational families”. There are several ways of comparing denominations, the most common being by: (1) theology and (2) worship style. My guess is that most people (in the USA at least) know little about the fine points of theology and, since many protestant churches see eye-to-eye on the fundamentals of theology, there is very little to keep people from church shopping. Now, there are certainly serious theological differences between many protestant viewpoints (predestination vs. free will, for instance), but most people do not care. They should care, but they don’t.

From the standpoint of worship style, I have seen little difference between the churches I’ve attended over the years including Presbyterian, Methodist and Baptist Churches. The bigger difference in worship style is between the non-liturgical vs. liturgical churches (such as the Episcopal and Lutheran Churches).


I have found some significant doctrinal differences between different churches with in a single (supposed) communion, but I’m not sure Protestants really think much about them.


ok here are the churches I’ve been to and why I changed:

  1. I grew up in a very large inter-denominational church. I left there with much sorrow. I miss it to this day. We only left because we moved to a new state.

  2. We moved and were staying with my Aunt so we attended my aunts church. It was a Bible Church. We soon found it was very different in beliefs than my mother and I held so we left there.

  3. We became members of Church on the Rock. I was there when I graduated High School. I left because of a disagreement with the Pastor’s wife reguarding my style of “Fashion”. I do not believe I handled the situation well, but I do believe I still would have ended up leaving. :frowning: At the same time I attended a Catholic Parish every Sunday as well with my fieance. (In these 5 years he had us change parishes twice.)

  4. I didn’t really know where to go next. I was at a time in my life I wasn’t really following God. I began attending a Baptist church just because my mom was there. I was very uncomfortable the whole time because I didn’t agree with any of their doctrines.

  5. I moved out of state again and had an awful time deciding where to attend church. I prayed about it for months! One day I was driving around (lost) and passed a little Episcipal Church. Clearer than anything I’d ever heard, God told me that was the church I was to attend. I left there because I again moved out of that state.

  6. This brings me to where I am now, A Vineyard Church. I am very frustrated at church. I feel the doctrines are vague to non-existant. It’s not that I disagree with anything, there just isn’t much of anything to to disagree with. My own Daughter is now in sunday school (almost 5 yo) and was complaining that they always cover the same subject every week. the teacher told me that she feels the most important things for the kids to get are that God loves them and Sunday school is fun! :bigyikes: As her parent I feel like I have a big responsibility to make sure she knows about God and not just one lesson over and over again!

Maria you are right, that is a significant chage in that area. The Vineyard believes speaking in tounges is from the Holy Spirit but it’s not so … mandatory (or loud). I don’t think it is endangering their salvation or anything but that one thing (at least in that church) does have a big place there.

Most of my church changes were due to moving but choosing where to go is hard. Not something done lightly. At the same time I don’t really see every denomination as totally different. Most of the main doctrines are the same with minor variations like it is/isn’t ok to drink alcohol, is/isn’t ok to dance, is/isn’t best to sing Hymns every week. Other than that I basically see three types, Calvinist, Arminian, and ones that are a mixture of the two.


That’s a very vague statement, care to expound on that?


Baptism needed for Salvation, Baptism not needed.
Baptism by immersion, baptism by sprinkling
Saved by faith alone, saved by faith plus works
Open communion, closed communion
Literally the Body and blood, meant metaphorically and only a remembrance.
7 sacraments, or 3 sacraments, or 0 sacraments.
Communion of Saints, no communion of Saints
Confess to a group in public, confess to a priest, or confess to God in secret.
Speaking in tongues needed to know you’re saved
Bible only, Bible + Apostolic Tradition
Bible inerrant
Bible infallible
Trinity, no Trinity
Jesus divine, Jesus not divine, Jesus is the Arch angel Michael

That’s just a quick list and if you take all the combinations of just those topics you are well into the hundreds possibly thousands category. It isn’t hard to get into the thousands of different denominations since a denomination can be a Church that differs in teaching from others.


Well first of all many of the things on your list are the same issue listed twice.

for example:
Saved by faith alone, saved by faith plus works
Your first one there is the second one.

Also, Some of those distinctions I would not say if they believe it they are still protestant… that pushes them to be in the cult catagory.

no trinity
Jesus not divine
for example
The reformation (And thus protestant) never said anything remotely like these.

Do you consider ALL non-catholics to be protestant? I would not consider Mormons, JW’s SDA’s etc to be protestant. I certianly wouldn’t even consider switching over to one of their congregations from my own. I would be equally surprized if one of them suddenly decided to switch to my church.

Do you think because you can make a list of 10 or so things denominations disagree on that in apologetics you should refer to 100s of thousands of denominations?You truly have no idea where the figures you cite came from?

The ONLY soucre I have so far found for these huge numbers comes from David B. Barrett.

A study by Barrett (which probably started all this) cited 20,780 denominations of Christianity… but remember they weren’t all protestant and Catholics didn’t count as only one. He cites 8,196 protestant denominations. Have fun quoting that large number but remember that by that SAME study there were 2,942 Denominations of Roman Catholicism(223 types). Still want to cite the 8,196 figure?

Barrett did not consider denominations to be defined whe way you or I would.

I think rather than throwing numbers at one another we should be more reasonable. It only makes you lose considerable credibily when you exaggerate and take figures out of context because it wasnt; at all hard to get to thousands for Catholis either.


There is a wonderful Vineyard Church in our town. Great people, wonderful worship music, but not alot of doctrine.

Just a note, you are aware that there are Charasmatic Catholic Churches, a fully approved movement by the Catholic church, out there in which tongues are not central to worship, (Christ is central) but are part of and accepted. I bet (pray) you would have more meat in your Religious Classes for kids there:D

God Bless,


Yep, that’s the issue right there. When an almost 5 yo has complaints that she isn’t getting docrine… well something is really lacking!

To my knowledge there are no Charasmatic Catholic Churches in my area, I attened a teen life mas once and enjoyed it, though the sermon (homily) on Obeying ones parents and teachers at school was a bit… young for me. :wink:

I can not, in good conscience, join a church I don’t believe is correct. And there are still several issues that would stop me being Catholic. So for now I must choose differently. I would rather be a Gung-ho on fire for God protestant then a cafeteria Catholic.


I agree with you. Much better that way.

But that brings up an interesting thought for me. I remember when I was going to Protestant Churches, I never had a problem with changing churches as long as I agreed with “most” of what they taught.

It wasn’t until I thought of becoming (technically returning and the priest was not going to make me take any classes to do so) to the Catholic Church that I felt as if I needed to “resolve” all the issues I had with any of the Catholic Church teachings.

Others seem to have similar views on this. I never questioned why I felt I needed to resolve things with the Catholic Church before seriously attending, since I had never felt that way before.

Do others feel as if they need to resolve all issues with the Catholic Church before attending also?

God Bless,


Can you elaborate more on the issues that you think are stopping you from begin a Catholic? I would be interested to know them. Maybe starting a new thread on this subject would be a good ideea…



Yes I did clear up all my concerns before I even approached a priest. Good thing too 'cause he was a little confused about what y’all believe :whistle:

Also since I was taught as a kid y’all were all goin’ to hell, the RCC was the Whore of Babylon and the Pope was the Anti-Christ I felt I needed to be sure :wink:


A good point. If I were to become Catholic, I believe that I would first have to resolve according to my conscience the various issues where I believe that the Catholic Church errs. Or, at least, I would have to resolve in my mind the issue of authority and say that the Catholic Church has the authority to define these issues and simply accept the Catholic position based on that authority. You are right that most Protestants do not go through the same process when converting from one Protestant denomination to another. Generally (but not always), if you are in agreement with most of what the denomination preaches regarding major theological issues…that is good enough. The difference, I believe, with the Catholic Church is due to the claim that the Catholic Church makes…that the Catholic Church is NEVER in error regarding matters of doctrine. Protestant Churches do not make that claim. Protestants have no problem believing that their particular church may be right on 95% of the issues, wrong on the other 5%, and that individual protestant merely follows his own conscience with respect to the 5%. You can’t do that in the Catholic Church unless you are going to be a cafeteria Catholic. I don’t know about reverts, but as for potential converts, anyone who is serious enough about their faith to think through the issues and to convert from the Protestant to Catholic faiths is not going to be satisfied with being a cafeteria Catholic.


That’s a good point, and if ever I thought the church was lost or teaching error I assume I would do the same. Cafeteria Catholics are essentially Protestants anyway, it’s really just semantics. My brother doesn’t believe in the infallibility of the Pope, purgatory, praying to saints etc… yet he calls himself a Catholic. I would say he’s a Protestant anyway, may as well be happy worshipping with them, then miserable worshipping with Catholics and arguing about how the Church needs to change all the time.

He says there should be a married priesthood, change doctrine on purgatory, stop praying to Saints and remove all statues, make confession optional, people should be able to ask God directly for foregiveness. I said I’m sure there’s a Church out there that believes just that.


As to the number of Protestant denominations–to my mind even one is too many considering Christ prayed that we all be one and St. Paul taught there is one faith, one baptism, one body of Christ.

I was brought up Episcopalian and entered the Assemblies of God in my teens. I was a member of the AoG for about 20 years, but I had a lot of experience in other Evangelical/Pentecostal churches. The major difference between the liturgical approach and the Evangelical one is one of separation from the parent Church–the Catholic Church.

Those farthest away all teach an experiential belief system based on “faith alone” while liturgical churches, those closest to their Catholic roots, all stress the importance of church community as the body of believers rather than individual experience of Christ.

To come from the Evangelical into the liturgical mind set is coming from night into day (or day into night depending on how one views it). It was quite a leap for me to return to the Episcopal Church after immersing myself in the Evangelical world for so long, but for me, it was a blessed relief, for reasons it would take too long to explain here.

But, I still wasn’t satisfied. For me it was a matter of authority. To whom did Christ give it and who still has it. I reasoned that if the Catholic Church had it and still has it (I don’t recall Jesus changing his mind anywhere along the line), then the Church must be right in what it teaches. Once I got over that hurdle, the understanding of those teachings came one after another–like puzzle pieces falling into place. I truly believe one has to abandon oneself to proper authority and begin practicing the Catholic faith before one can truly understand (not that I understand everything, but just knowing I’m safe in the Church gives me the freedom to explore that understanding without the hindrance of constantly worrying about my being right or wrong, if you follow me).

I hope that all makes some kind of sense, despite the rambling nature of my comments. :slight_smile:

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