What is Non-Denominational?

A friend of mine who left the Catholic church some years ago was re-baptized into his new church which he calls non-denominational. When I mentioned to my friend that basically means he joined a Protestant church, I was rebuked and told that they who consider themselves “non-denominational” means that they don’t conform to any religion because there is no religion and no church that can save a person that only Jesus saves.

So basically my question is what is non-denominational and if only Jesus saves than why do we need all these churches? I was taught that “the Church” is the doorway that leads to salvation in Christ.

I’ve always wondered this too. I think it’s because these churches get so many people from different backgrounds and want a brand new start. I also think that they say the whole “all you need is Jesus” because they make it okay for people to miss a service. I had a friend who did this, but since he was “saved” he said that he was okay. Also, I think people like being independent and not tied to a church or denomination. That way if they don’t like the pastor or don’t like the people they can leave and go to another church

Other than that I don’t know. I also wonder what makes one non-denom church better than the other. For example the campus crusade organization at my campus had 3 churches it had a relationship, all of which were non-denominational. Some of the kids would say that one church was better than the other and I never understood it.

It is quite simply a local church that is governed and regulated independently of any larger group, denomination, or church. Basically, it is (however it may be internally organized) its own ecclesiastical authority.

When it comes to ecclesiastical polity, many non-denominational churches practice congregational governance–where the members of the church vote on important decisions. The members delegate the day to day affairs usually to a pastor and an elected church board who lead the church together.

Other churches vest authority in a board or council of elders. These may be elected but many times the board is self-perpetuating. While the pastor is charged with the spiritual welfare of the local church, he is ultimately answerable to the elders for everything.

In other churches, the pastor is completely in charge of the church. There is usually a board of deacons or elders, but their role is usually as a council of advice. The pastor is the ultimate authority.

Theologically, most non-denominational churches are evangelical Protestant in doctrine. There are some “liberal” Protestant non-denominational churches (but I think they are rare). While they may say they are “non-denominational” or “just Christian,” there usually can clearly be seen a dominant theology informing the pastor’s preaching and the churches culture. For example, many churches are almost identical to Baptist churches except that they do not call themselves Baptists. Many are identical to Pentecostal or charismatic churches but don’t call themselves those names. There are non-denominational Calvinist/Reformed churches, such as Mars Hill in Seattle pastored by Mark Driscoll. It isn’t part of any larger Presbyterian denomination, but its teaching is strongly Calvinist.

The Church is the body of Christ. It is the vehicle by which God makes salvation known to the world. But going to church or being a member of a church or a particular denomination will not save anyone. If we simply go to church but are not transformed by Jesus then our going to church was for nothing. Institutions will not save anyone. Only a transformative encounter with Jesus can do that.

While you are right technically (he most definitely probably is going to a Protestant church), there are many groups that theologically and historically are categorized as Protestant but who do not feel that they are “protesting” anything or feel that since they are not Lutheran or Reformed that they are not within the Protestant tradition.

If you want to find out what this person’s new church believes, instead of using labels like “Protestant” you might understand him more and offend him less if you ask him things like, “What does your church believe about salvation? Does it teach free will or predestination? Once saved always saved or the possibility of backsliding? What does it believe about communion and baptism? What does it believe about ordained ministry? What does it believe about spiritual gifts? How does the pastor dress? What kind of music does your church sing: traditional hymns, praise and worship? What is the atmosphere: reserved or happy clappy? Does it try to be traditional or contemporary?”

Asking someone who goes to a non-denominational church these type of specific questions does a lot more toward explaining that church than labels like Protestant (whatever that means anyway).

What’s non denominational? It’s a denomination, lol!

Even if they claim there is no set belief system, I highly doubt it. If you ever prod and poke enough, you’ll be sure to find them.

To my understanding, a non-denominational church is one that is established as a church community on its own authority. The church is generally governed by some sort of board which hires the pastor and makes theological rules and decisions. Those who don’t like the rulings and be quiet or go somewhere else. There is no higher authority to appeal to if a congregant doesn’t like what is going on. Obviously, beliefs can differ greatly from one community to another.

I go to my daughter´s non-denominational church. To me it´s mostly Baptist. I should know, because I used to be a Baptist. Although I am sad that she left the Church, I would rather she be Baptist than any other Protestant religion. I pray for her constantly, and I am certain, that God has a way for her salvation. I just don´t know what it is.God bless:thumbsup::thumbsup::thumbsup:


It’s pretty much Protestant theology, but they get to throw out any parts of Protestant theology they don’t like; or add anything they want.

It’s basically like a tower of bable made out of tissue paper and glue. Nothing to hold it up, and it’s sitting on a few grains of sand. It’s not a sturdy foundation if one is looking for a True Apostolic Tradition.

“Non-denominational” means you’re Protestant but you have an aversion to titles. Basically a non-denominational church is its own denomination. They don’t like the other denominations so they, like all the other denominations, say that they are just “going by what the Bible says.” And thus a new denomination is born.

It sort of works like the “competing standards” in this web comic:

As Belloc pointed out, heresies are simplifications. Simplify the Church and adopt Sola Scitptura which contorts the history of a Church once made (the New Testament) to a bizzare set of do-it-yourself blue prints where one person’s interpetation is as good as another’s. Before coming home to Rome a couple of years I attended what was, in truth, a non-denominatioal church. The Sunday school class was heresy bingo. Everyone’s opinion was as good as anyone else’s. Baptize infants, fine. Wait for people to be older to baptize them, fine. Don’t baptize them at all, fine. Just come back next Sunday.

And sure, the personal relationship with Jesus thing is great, but it has to be informed. Otherwise it looks an aweful lot like some one’s imaginary friend, who always loves them just the way they are.

And sure, being part of a church–being put down on the list of members–by itself won’t save one; but it does not follow then that being part of a church is not an essential part of it. That is the classic protestant insistence on turning such questions in a false dialectec either-or, instead of being open to and-also. Protestantisim has a tendancy to try to find the One Thing that is most important in any area or topic, and everything but that has to be obliterated lest it detract from it.

At what point does one stop simplifying? The end game, which is already in play, is that every person belives what they want and their behavior and actions are limited only to what they can rationalize. It isn’t so much Sola Scriptura, as Sola Self. Instead of recognizing this a theological nihilisim or relatavisim, it is celebrated as the end of denominations, as though they are “above all that now.” It seems likely that people don’t know enough about the Bible or religion these days to even have a good argument about it (is it not odd that people have the kind of arguments about politics these days that they used to have about religion?) It isn’t saved through this and that and that, or just this or just that, it is just Saved! I remember hearing that in the non-denominational, and I thought “fine, I can just stay home Sunday’s from now on, no point in this church thing anymore.” To keep the people coming back there has to be activities for everyone, youth groups, mommie groups, soft ball teams, an entertaining “up-with-people” style praise service with electric guitars, a motivational speech/sermon, etc. Nothing wrong with that, but if those things were not there, how many weeks would it be before the church went bankrupt?

They are not non-denominational, they are uni-denominational. They are their own unique denomination to conform to a particular socio-economic regional demographic. Being their own denomintion is fitting as a good number of Protestants, and more and more of them, are a themselves a denomination unto themself. It is their interpretation, their beliefs, their everything. Who needs Augustine, Clement, Aquinas, Irenaeus, or even Ratzinger to provide insight when wonderful, amazing, I can scan the New Testament and spout off on everything. The praryer in the garden was that they all may be one. The way some Protestants define what being one is, it would be impossible to be anything else. Did Jesus sweat blood praying a silly tautology? Well, they are one now, everyone of them is one, a whole lot of ones all by themselves.

I agree. Most people I know who have gone regularly to non-denominational churches are simply not concerned about teaching or theology beyond whatever they consider to be the bare basics. If they say something in their mission statement to the effect that “Jesus saves,” that’s probably enough for many. Their solution to the lack of a Magisterium among non-Catholics is to throw up their hands and ask, “Who cares anyway? We’re saved and nothing can keep us from going to heaven!”

When I’ve asked why they attend, the answer inevitably refers to a particular activity of the church. “They have a great youth group and my kid needs that.” “They’re really focused on helping the homeless and that’s important to me.” “I have a lot of friends who go there.” None of these sorts of things are bad–they just represent the market-place mentality where you shop for what you want, because you believe the end result is the same regardless.

Well thought out and expressed. Thanks for your contribution. :thumbsup:

The short answer is that non-denominational means non-aligned.

The more nuanced answer- especially for those who will invariably say that it’s a denomination with an aversion to being called one- is that it means, more specifically, not formally aligned. I suppose it is a somewhat important distinction.

First, let’s look at what non-aligned means. It means not being affiliated with a particular party, faction, cause, whatever.

Next, look at the distinction between formal and informal. Are non-denom Christians affiliated with certain groups/movements/factions and not with others? Yes, of course, they are affiliated with Evangelicalism and with Protestantism and sometimes with Pentecostalism or the Baptists or with certain kinds of Free churches. These affiliations exist, and it would be silly to argue that they do not. Those affiliations are important to the identity of an ND church and to its people, and it’s just as important to note that they have no such affiliations with Catholicism or Orthodoxy.

Just as silly, however, is the conflation of formal affiliation and informal affiliation. For an ND church, the affiliations that they have are informal. They are important, but that doesn’t make them formal. And the primary reason why any church has ever been called “ND” is because it lacks formal affiliation- not because it lacks informal affiliation. Every church has some identity, some connection to other ecclesias, some type of two-way influence on other bodies of believers. If you’re looking for the non-denominational churches, they are the ones that have informal affiliations but no formal ones.

The slightly longer answer- ND means not formally aligned.

I thought it was disrespectful, borderline contempt.

Yeah I agree. I go to a non-denominational church, but we are Pentecostal in doctrine, we associate with other Pentecostal churches, and we have no problem admitting that we are a Pentecostal church.

Being non-denominational is not about denying having doctrine. That’s just silly. Being non-denominational is just an outgrowth of an evangelical ecclessiology–the “Church” is not a specific church or denomination but all Christians in all times and all places. The Church is universal, but the fundamental unit is the local church, where Christians gather together and live out being the church. While we don’t have problems with denominations per se (there are positives and negatives with being a member of a denomination), we don’t confuse denominations with the Church and thus we don’t feel any requirement to join one.

I will say, however, that when I move next month I will definitely be looking for a denominational Pentecostal church (maybe the Assemblies of God) to attend since I do find that while non-denoms do have a recognizable theology, they sometimes lack accountability when it comes to the top level leadership. I really feel that it is important that local church leaders are accountable not just to members of the church (which I think they should be also) but to godly overseers as well, and this is really only possible in a denomination.

I thought it was quite informative.

It is basically Evangelical, which is Protestant even if your friend doesn’t like the term. (Don’t call him Protestant if he doesn’t like it though) We don’t need all these churches since there is only one Church Christ established: the Holy Catholic Church. Jesus saves us through the Church via sacraments that give us faith hope and charity. :slight_smile:

Please explain why. :slight_smile:


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