What is the difference between Southern Baptists and Non-Denominational christians?

Besides difference in name, is there anything different about these two denominations like ideas, practices, etc.?

My friend who is a Southern Baptist likes to go to a Non-denominational church and I asked him if he found any difference between them and his reply was, “not really.” Although the people who started this non-denominational church were formerly Southern Baptists.

I’m a former Southern Baptist, and the only difference I’ve noticed between SB and Non-Denominational churches is that the ones labeling themselves as “Baptist” are almost always affiliated with some larger regional or national level organization (such as the Southern Baptist Convention or the American Baptist Association), whereas the churches that label themselves “non-denominational” usually have the exact same theology, beliefs, etc., but choose not to affiliate themselves with any larger organization.

In our part of Texas, many of the non-denominational Churches are Baptist in their theology and service “feel” but just don’t claim membership in any of the big Baptist conferences such as Southern Baptist. We have one church near by whose sign reads “Sunnydale Baptist Church” and below that “a non-denominational, bible church”.

I think there may have been different beliefs years ago when the they were formed, but for the most part I think Baptist and non-denominational churches are basically the same, along with self labeled “Bible churches”

I think they are the same. All the “non-denominational” churches I am aware of teach the exact same thing. Belivers baptism by dunking only, getting saved,symbolic Holy Communion as an “ordinance” not a sacrament, those are all Baptist doctrines.

I know the largest Baptist church moved to a new church in the burbs, and changed the name from Baptist to “non-denominational” but the teaching remained the same…Baptist.

Another church where I live is a “non-denominational” cowboy church, but they are really part of the Southern Baptist Convention.

I am not sure why, but I suspect it has a lot to do with prosletizing, and perhaps the idea that in order to be a Christian you have to Baptist as well?

I’m a former southern baptist, and my entire family is split between southern baptist/non-denominational. Although quite similar, a few differences are:

  1. Southern Baptists are typically affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention (aka the Magisterium of the Baptist Church)–otherwise they’ll normally be known as Independent Baptist. Non-denominational churches, on the other hand, are either not a part of a convention or make up their own convention which is usually just a group of like-minded churches.

  2. Southern Baptists usually only believe “traditional” Baptists teachings–once saved always saved, symbolic believer’s dunking baptism, the Bible and Beth Moore alone, and communion in the form of crackers and grape juice (we always love those days–we got to go through the remaining crackers/grape juice during church). Non-denominational believers, on the other hand, are typically open to more “liberal” interpretations of Baptists teachings; while they may believe the same things, they are also willing to accept Pentecostal-esque views of speaking in tongue and are more willing to view all churches as believing in the same faith in a different way. It may just be my brother (non-denominational), but he views my belief of priestly confession is valid; he believes he does the same thing by confessing his sins to his fellow believers.

  3. Southern Baptist churches typically exist quite separate from their pastors. Their pastors are often little more than employees of the church (although they typically follow their pastor just as much as we’d follow ours). At the same time, if their pastor leaves, they simply look for another one. I’ve notice that non-denominational churches seem to revolve much more around their pastor, since normally the pastor is the one who founded the church. New pastors normally come from within the church for a non-denominational church and without the church from a Southern Baptist.

  4. Generally speaking, Baptists tend to be more two-face and back-stabbing. They’ll go to every church function, yet they’ll turn on you in a moment’s notice (not publicly–they’ll only talk about you privately). If they stop liking the pastor/church, they simply go to another. Non-denominational believers are quite the opposite. They’re much more tight-knit since they only can relate their faith to others within the same church, and they’re much less likely to ever leave their church unless they’re joining a denomination.

  5. Finally, Baptists services are quite bland. They’re comparable to a Mass yet without any of the spiritual depth you’d find there. Non-denominational services, on the other hand, are much more upbeat, and at least keep you interested. They still, however, lack the spiritual depth you’ll find at a Mass (if you pay attention–if you’re one of the people who zones out or simply spews out memorized phrases at Mass, you’ll probably get just as much out of a non-denominational service).

That’s all I’ve got for now… All this is just personal experiences with family and visiting/being members of their churches before becoming Catholic.

The most important difference is that the Southern Baptists are part of one of the largest organizations, the Southern Baptist Convention, and have an entire organizational ladder of authority that runs the denomination from the top down.

Non-denominational fellowships, as the name implies, are autonomous–each fellowship or church is entirely independent of any outside authority.

There are advantages and disadvantages to each model.

When a denomination is under the authority of a larger organization (convention, consistory, council, conference, governing board, etc.), that makes it harder for a pastor or a group of pastors to get involved with heretical teachings or questionable practices.

Also, if there are problems in the church, the members have a higher authority to appeal to; this is good especially when there is a crime (e.g. sexual abuse) or a continual sin by the pastor (e.g., sexual abuse), or a grievance (e.g., ill treatment of a church volunteer or staff member).

Another advantage of being part of a larger denomination is that in the event of financial difficulties, the denomination can step in and help keep the struggling church solvent for a while anyway.

Disadvantages include control of curricula (often the denomination will announce an “emphasis” e.g., “Strong Marriages” and every church in the denomination is required to order teaching material and outlines and do sermons, classes, etc. on this topic for a specified number of weeks of months, whether or not this topic is timely for the particular church. Pastors often feel stifled because they want to emphasize a topic that is more meaningful to their particular congregation, but they are not allowed to.

Another big disadvantage is that the denominational organization takes a percentage of the church offerings. (That’s how they have monies to distribute to needy congregations.) No one likes to have their money taken away!

A third disadvantage is that denominational churches must support the denominational missionaries and para-church organizations that they are told to support, and although they can add other missionaries to their budget, it’s difficult for them to provide financial support for other good missionaries and organizations. E.g., a parachurch organization that a lot of Protestants support is Campus Crusade for Christ; all the staff members of this organization must raise their own support. Sometimes a denominational church just can’t offer even their own people any sizeable support monies because the money is already earmarked for missionaries that the congregation doesn’t even know.

The advantages of the non-denominational churches are the opposite of the above. There is no controlling authority that tells the pastor and elders what to teach–if they decide they want to teach about racism or birth control or sins of the flesh or the doctrine of justifcation, or teach through a book of the Bible–they can do it! No higher authority will stop them.

Also non-denoms get to keep ALL their offerings and use them as they see fit. That means that they can build that youth center or coffeehouse or senior citizen home or give all the money to a motorcycle missionary or raise the pastor’s salary or hire a good professional praise band or…?!

But there are disadvantages. A non-denominational fellowship is on their own. If they go broke, no one will help them, and often, they will fold. Also, if their pastor leaves or gets ill, there is no denomination to provide them with an interim pastor.

The biggest problem with non-denominational churches is that there is no one to stop heretical teachings or un-Christian practices. This means that non-denominational churches are at great risk of falling into heresy, or even becoming cultish.

Many times, these churches are started by a dynamic pastor with a strong personality, and sometimes, these churches can become “cults of personality.” People attend mainly because of the pastor and his great sermons. When that pastor leaves, the church falls apart.

And of course, if there are any grievances, there is no recourse for the victims. In the event of an actual crime (e.g. sexual abuse), the victim can and should appeal to the secular law enforcement agencies and courts. But in the event of a spiritual abuse; e.g. being accused of sin and kicked out of your position in the church; there is no one for the victim to appeal to.

This is what happened to our family in a non-denominational church–we were kicked out because a woman pastor trumped up false charges against us. A tribunal was convened (we didn’t even know half the people in the tribunal, and they had never met us). It was frightening and horrific–I had nightmares for over a year, and still suffer a lot of anxiety and have major trust issues.

We tried to appeal to a higher authority in the church, but there wasn’t any. The pastor was the highest authority. So the matter has never been righted, and probably won’t be until Purgatory. I am personally grateful for the doctrine of Purgatory because it comforts me that these pastors and elders who mistreated our family WILL someday be held accountable for their sins and recompense WILL be required.

Classic! :smiley:

You probably know more than I about this but one obvervation I have made is about Baptism. When a cradle Catholic joins a Baptist, he is usually re-baptized since they don’t believe in infant Baptism. When a Catholic joins a non-denominational church, he is expected to answer an altar call and indentify the moment he was saved, but not necessarily to be re-baptized.

This is probably true more often than not. I know for sure that a baptist church will require re-baptism (church members MUST profess to be baptized & saved, but baptism before being saved doesn’t count). Non-denominational churches seem split, although they certainly put less emphasis on baptism, so you’re probably right on this one in most cases. At my brother’s church, at least, I don’t think baptism is 100% necessary.

The biggest difference is that Southern Baptist churches adhere to Southern Baptist theology, practice and traditions, while non-denominational churches don’t.

Yes, there are many non-denominational churches that are extremely similar to Southern Baptists because both Southern Baptist churches and non-denominational churches tend to be evangelical in theology and practice.

However, I attend a non-denominational church, but we believe in baptism with the Holy Spirit (with the evidence of speaking in tongues) as an event separate from the new birth. We speak in tongues and shout. So, we have a classical Pentecostal theology. This is because our church was founded as a Pentecostal Church of God in the 60s or 70s and sometime around the 80s we voted to leave that denomination.

So you could be a non-denominational church with Baptist, Pentecostal, Calvinist, Church of Christ, Lutheran, even Anglican theology (I know of a very large Anglican church that is not part of the either the Episcopal Church or a smaller Anglican splinter group).

Also, many churches, like mine, start out as denominational churches but then leave. Often, these churches stay pretty much the same, but many times they try to downplay their theological heritage in order to seem as if they are just “generic evangelicalism.”

My non-denominational believes in believer’s baptism by immersion, but it is not a requirement for membership. All that is required is that you confess to being born again. In fact, until a few years ago we did not baptize people regularly. There was about a 10 year period where we had no baptisms in our church. Our church was growing and we had a lot of kids, but the emphasis was own being born again and Spirit baptized. Now we have at least one baptismal service a year, but is not a requirement to join the church.

I’ll add to this the very large number of extremely difficult to define rock-and-roll coffee-bar Churches here in the deep south.

Members of these rock-band worship-experience Churches would be as quick to distance themselves from Baptist, Pentecostal, Calvinist or any other major demonination as they would from Catholicism. These care as much about Martin Luther and John Calvin as they care for the Holy Father - useless to their personal relationship with Jesus Christ and personal study of the Bible.

These people are extremely hard to pin down, seeming to move from theology to theology seemingly at random. This group is truly an enigma to me.

Speaking of speaking in tongues… that confuses me. Anyone care to share more on that?

I know what you are talking about. There are alot of churches which would be classified as “evangelical” but don’t really “look” like your classic evangelical church. They also really don’t have the same concerns as the more traditional evangelicals do. Many of these could be classified as “seeker sensitive” or emergent churches.

Another type of church I don’t get is the non-denominational charismatic churches. So many times I encounter churches that claim to be “charismatic” churches but I never see any prayer for healings or speaking in tongues, or prophecy, or anything that you think of when you intentionally use the label “charismatic” to define yourself. But all I see from these churches is ordinary, generic evangelicalism with contemporary praise bands and some hand waving. How is that charismatic?

Well, not to derail the thread, but it refers to the spiritual gift spoken of in First Corinthians chapter 11-14. It is a spiritual language. This is not an attempt to proselytize, but for educational purposes only, I offer these links about speaking in tongues from a Pentecostal perspective:

The Purpose of Tongues (evangelism.ag.org/pfp/pot.cfm)
[ag.org/top/Beliefs/topics/baptmhs_faq_tongues.cfm"]Holy Spirit Baptism FAQ]("[/URL)

To see an example of people singing in tongues, watch the youtube video:

That’s the kind of non-denominational church my friend attends. I went there once with him and all they did was sing for the first 20 minutes, then the preacher came up to preach about what happens when “Boy meets Girl,” then they ended it with 20 minutes of music again.

You lost me at the “Boy meets girl” part :confused:.

I just wish churches were a little more honest about what kind of church they are you know? For example there is a common trend right now with churches that are part of denominations like Baptists or Pentecostals intentionally trying to ignore or hide their denominational affiliation. I know of both Baptist and Pentecostal churches where maybe half or more of the members do not even know that the church they go to is part of a particular denomination. It’s not mentioned in the church’s name or in the printed material, and the teaching and preaching gives no indication of where the minister is coming from theologically.

Emerging church?

I agree with you.

My husband and I converted to Catholicism 8 years ago. We attended various evangelical Protestant churches, and the trend was then (and still is) to hide the denominational affiliation with a name like “Community Church”.

I think that non-Catholic Christians should be very careful and KNOW exactly what denomination or non-denomination a church is before settling in, and make sure that the affiliation teaches doctrines and practices that they actually agree with.

It’s really awful to get involved with a fellowship, make friends, establish ministries–and then discover that the fellowsihp officially takes a stand that you simply cannot sanction. Very hard to walk away and start over, and if there are children (especially teenagers) in your family, it can cause major conflict if they don’t want to leave. It’s also bad for that fellowship that has grown to count on your presence, your ministry, and of course, your offering monies, if your family walks away. Tough situation.

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