I saw a church the other day that said they were “founded in 33 AD”. When asked for evidence, they did not have any, but assured me that they were the oldest (read “truest”) denomination of Christianity.
In middle school, I went to church with a friend, and their pastor said that theirs was the oldest; having existed as secret Protestants since the beginning, avoiding persecution by the big Christian churches, and only coming out of hiding after 1800 years when the coast was clear. As Dr. Evil would say, “Right…”
This is a fairly common claim. It is natural if if you think about it. You cannot really say “We have discovered the only truth, and everybody else has gotten it wrong for 20 centuries.” and expect to have credibility, without claiming some form original mandate.
However, if you combined all of the evidence of these claims from all of these churches into a thimble, you would have plenty of room left inside.
So, who is the oldest denomination of Christianity still in existence today?
The winner is the Armenian Apostolic Church. Officially recognized as the state religion by Tiridates III in 301 AD, this made Armenia the first Christian country in history, beating even Constantine by a couple of decades.
The Armenian Church is an Eastern Orthodox church, and claims the apostles Bartholomew and Thaddeus as its founders. Gregory the Illuminator converted the king. They originally cooperated with the larger Christian community, but as doctrinal drift became larger in the West, they went their own way. Over 9 million people are its members, and it is still the official church of the Republic of Armenia today.
So, there you have it. A Christian church in business for 1,814 years. If you are struggling with any doctrinal issues, visit their websites. They can help.