What are Non-Denominational Churches? Why are these fellowships created and what do they usually believe? Learn the answers to these questions and more as we explore the meaning, growth, and examples of non-denominational organizations.
Meaning of Non-Denominational
Non-Denominational Churches of Christianity are congregations who are not self-affiliated with a traditional denomination and often separate themselves from the strict doctrine and customs of other Christian fellowships. Simply put, it means “not denominational" and somehow different from the historic, well-known denominations of Christianity.
Commonly established by individual pastors or communities, these churches seek to practice a unique approach to traditional Christian worship. Although there is some general overlap between non-denominational churches and traditional Protestant congregations in terms of practices and foundational beliefs, sharing common sources of theology from the Bible and Protestant Reformation. Examples of Protestant denominations include Presbyterian, Episcopal, Lutheran, and Methodist.
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Modern Growth of Non-Denominational Churches
The rise of non-denominational congregations has been remarkable in modern history. Reported by Universal Life Church, the amount of Americans classifying their religion as non-denominational increased from fewer than 200,000 in 1990 to greater than 8 million by 2008.
Non-denominational Christians usually have an inclination to regard the Bible itself as their authority rather than the customs of a distinct church. As contemporary fellowship has moved away from traditions, many people favored the Christian teachings of the Bible to the edicts or directives of authorities in large churches.
Unconventional churches allow more adaptability in a Christian's decision of worship or outlook. For instance, some historic denominations have become immersed in social matters that favored toward one political bias. So non-denominational Christians left for churches that eluded politics while continuing attention for social issues.
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Examples of Non-Denominational Churches
As mentioned before, non-denominational churches are regularly established by individual pastors or communities seeking to practice a unique approach to Christian worship. Some others are established to perform a particular social benefit as an independent Christian organization. Below are some examples of independent churches and organizations with their purpose and principles:
Churches of Christ: Distinct aspects of the Churches of Christ include getting their creeds of faith directly from the Bible, members are baptized as adults, and congregations are governed by a group of church elders. As common for other denominations, members also participate in a weekly Eucharist or communion service. One unique practice of this church is musical worship only done by acapella congregational singing.
Independent Christian Churches: These churches are comparable to the Churches of Christ, besides that they utilize instruments in their musical worship services. Independent Christian Churches typically support the central teachings of the Restoration Movement and believe in complete obedience to Christ.
Association for a More Just Society: This is a non-denominational Christian organization. Their mission is to invite and enable others to "do justice" in their society, following biblical teachings on the matter. Based in Honduras, this group focuses on fighting for peace, public security, and anti-corruption in their country.
- Hope Haven: A non-denominational Christian organization that strives to help others, Hope Haven was founded in Iowa in 1964. Its aim is to assist people with disabilities. They offer job training for people with hearing disabilities and provide disabled individuals with adult living services, employment assistance, mental health and recovery, and religious services.
Non-Denominational Churches are continually created as communities decide to establish their own churches, beliefs, and practices however unique to their own within the Christian religion.
Pros & Cons of Non-Denominational Churches
Pros: Being independent congregations, Non-Denominational churches can customize their beliefs and practices to whatever doctrine and creeds they deem appropriate and righteous. This provides the opportunity to deviate from certain traditions of established denominations and appeal to modern (or more classical) interpretations of Christianity. Non-denominational churches could theoretically adapt more easily to an ever-changing world.
Cons: Diverging from larger existing denominations, Non-Denominational Churches can lack the resources or influence to gain a sustainable or growing fellowship. Also as the diversity of churches expands, confusion and misunderstandings between congregations could increase having an expanding number of theological interpretations and views. Boston University theology scholar Stephen Prothero contends that nondenominationalism ignores the primary theological and spiritual issues that originally drove the division of Christianity into denominations behind a cover of "Christian unity."
This article is part of our Denomination Series listing historical facts and theological information about different factions within and from the Christian religion. We provide these articles to help you understand the distinctions between denominations including origin, leadership, doctrine, and beliefs. Explore the various characteristics of different denominations from our list below!
Catholic Church: History, Tradition & Beliefs
Jehovah's Witnesses & Their Beliefs
Mormons: The Church of Latter Day Saints & Their Beliefs
Baptist Church: History & Beliefs
Presbyterians: History & Beliefs
Mennonites & Their Beliefs
United Methodist Church: History & Beliefs
Seventh-Day Adventists & Their Beliefs
The Pentecostal Church: History & Beliefs
Lutheran History & Beliefs