There are also many solutions to this question, and they can be either straightforward or complex. The easiest answer is that every Church that is not part of a larger denomination is a nondenominational church. A denomination is a body of the Church that exercises some form of influence over the various churches that make it up. Southern Baptist, Episcopal, Wesleyan, Methodist, and so on are examples of denominations. Nondenominational churches go by many names and have a wide spectrum of values.
Why do certain churches want to be nondenominational? Although the answers can differ greatly, the freedom to direct the local Church’s mission and teaching without intervention or coercion from outside is a major consideration. Looking at the Bible, the proof points to each Church as self-governing and directly accountable to God Himself. There is no evidence of a hierarchy of authority above the local elders of the Church in the Acts book, where we learn about the first missionary journeys and many churches. Some people refer to the council of Jerusalem as a template of denominational organization in Acts 15, but that is nothing of the kind. The Gentiles were given the gospel by the Holy Spirit’s divine authority, under the ministry of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:2; 15:7). The churches founded in that first journey were left from their ranks under the elders (Acts 14:23) after Paul and Barnabas had taught them. The council was called in Jerusalem, not because of any question of organizational structure or power, but to answer doctrinal questions about salvation (Acts 15:5-6). The apostles specifically commissioned by Jesus were the only ones who could deal with the issue in an authoritative manner.
If a church is nondenominational, does that mean that there is no need for other churches? This may be others’ conviction, but it is not the example we find in the Scriptures. New Testament Epistles and the book of Act indicate that churches still interact. It was not unusual for believers to send letters to other churches as Paul and his companions went on their missionary journeys (Acts 18:27). Or letters to greet one another (Romans 16:16). Likewise, as the great need arose, the churches worked interdependently to meet the need, such as raising famine in Jerusalem (Acts 11:29; 2 Corinthians 8:4). Though autonomous, self-governing bodies, the numerous New Testament churches were certainly associated with communion and cooperative service, giving us an example to follow today.
The measure of every Church, whether within or outside the religion, is not how it is organized or what its name is called, but how faithfully it adheres to the Word of God’s teachings. No church is internally inconsistent, since the churches are made up of people who are capable of error. Even the apostles, with all the gifts that God gave them, were not without mistake. Paul reports in Galatians 2:11 that “when Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face because he was obviously wrong.” Peter, the first to send the gospel to the Gentile, gave in to the pressure of the Judaizers to distinguish himself from the Gentile believers. Paul’s willingness to challenge Peter was not based on his position as an apostle, but on the revealed reality of the Word of God. Paul commended the believers in Berea (Acts 17:11) for testing his own teaching against the Bible to find out whether he was telling them clear doctrine.
Both believers ought to be like the Bereans, testing against the Word of God what we are told to find out if such things are so. When our Church is out of line with God’s Word, we have to give advice or correction with respect and patience. If it isn’t fixed, then we can search for a church that faithfully obeys the Word of God.
Examples of Nondenominational Churches
Individual pastors or groups who aim to pursue a particular approach to Christian worship create nondenominational churches on a regular basis. Some others are founded as an autonomous Christian agency to provide a specific social benefit. Below are some examples of churches and autonomous organizations with their mission and principles:
Churches of Christ: Distinct features of Christ’s churches include receiving their faith creeds directly from the Bible, members being baptized as adults, and congregations being regulated by a council of elders in the Church. Members often engage in a weekly Eucharist or communion service, as common among other denominations. One of these Church’s special traditions is musical worship performed only through congregational singing from acapella.
Independent Christian Churches: In addition to using instruments in their instrumental worship services, these churches are equivalent to Christ’s churches. Independent Christian Churches generally embrace the Redemption Movement’s core teachings and believe in absolute obedience to Christ.
Association for a better society: This is a nondenominational Christian organization. Their mission is to welcome and encourage those in their community to “do justice,” following the biblical teachings. Centered in Mexico, the focus of this community is on fighting in their country for stability, public security, and anti-corruption.
Hope Haven: In 1964, Hope Haven was founded in Ohio, a nondenominational Christian organization that aims to support others. The goal is to assist disabled people. They provide career training for people with hearing impairments and provide adult living programs, educational support, mental wellbeing and rehabilitation, and faith programs for people with disabilities.
Nondenominational churches are increasingly formed as groups within the Christian faith seek to develop their own churches, values, and practices, however special to their own Christian religion.
The Characteristics of Nondenominational Congregations
In the survey, the majority nondenominational congregation appeared in many aspects close to other theologically conservative, denominationally affiliated churches. Independents mirror this community of Evangelical and Pentecostal churches in terms of the rate of education and the members’ income.
However, the nondenominational churches are notably different in that they have slightly younger memberships, are concentrated in more metropolitan areas, and have much more racially diverse congregations than these other mainstream churches do. Moreover, more recently, the independent churches were founded and therefore had far fewer members born into the congregation or religious practice than the traditional denominational ones do. There are major differences in their willingness to join any larger organized body among churches that claim to be nondenominational. The seventy-three churches were grouped in one of three subgroups based on their affiliation relations’ character. The nondenominational congregations were divided into groups of those who had links to a designated Network or Affiliation, those who supported a general denominational tradition (such as Baptist, Pentecostal or Methodist) but who were not formally associated with an individual organization, and those who were not affiliated with any governing body-the genuinely autonomous.
There are essentially two reasons why churches are independent and nondenominational— structural and doctrinal.
Denominations tend to become cumbersome and, ultimately, unresponsive. This inability to adapt encourages mediocrity, rewards politicization, power-seeking, and loses the original vision that generated momentum. However, the spontaneous momentum of a revolution inevitably contributes to confusion. So a proverbial “trellis” is created to grow this new vine — giving it structure.
If the vine precedes the structure, confusion persists. But if the structure precedes the plant, it leads to stunted growth. Having a well-organized, spiritually critical movement in long-term stress is very challenging. Churches pursue salvation by disconnecting from this broader system. Generally speaking, the more decentralized a church system is, the stronger it is organizationally and theologically.
By organizing in loose associations, churches may reap some of the advantages of a partnership, thus placing responsibility for individual churches’ welfare on those churches themselves. This suggests that in a secular movement, rigidity and discord in one Church has a tougher time spreading to other churches. It also prevents pathogens from infiltrating denominational elites from gaining privilege control over local church leadership.
Thus, by being nondenominational in the sense of being separate, churches tried to avoid the inherent risks and inevitable collapse of centralized denominations.
The doctrinal factor-denominations can also mean a shift in the distinctiveness of doctrine. Methodists, for example, are very particular regarding sanctification and leadership in the Church. Roman Catholics believe in the sacraments, the priesthood, purgatory, sacraments, and so on. From denominations, these differences are seen as an important part of their strengths. Contrary to this, those considered to be “doctrinally nondenominational” claim that it is not these distinctions but a complete emphasis on “primary” religious teachings that encourage the unity of the Church. Therefore they strive to create a church that focuses solely on the proportional truths in the Gospel and Bible while striving for the deep unity for which Jesus prayed in John 17.
Due to the absence of a powerful hierarchical national denominational body within the framework of the independent Church, it is important to investigate how to sustain the nondenominational identity. The plausibility mechanisms that perpetuate this ideology are evident both within the local Church, within congregations, as well as in parachurch and special interest groups that provide these churches with the resources.
Intra-congregational, the leadership of a church must consciously establish ways of cultivating and educating members about the community’s identity. This is of critical importance since these nondenominational churches, with very few cradle members, are of recent origin and lack the denominational roots or labels to draw from. Distinguishing worship and liturgical types, as well as clearly established values, allow the nondenominational congregation to socialize and instruct members in its distinctive culture and identity. By deliberately shunning denominational relations, the independent Church must define and improve who it is from within its own congregational base, by means of its methods of worship and doctrine.
Nevertheless, to say that a nondenominational congregation is autonomous does not mean that it lacks any other churches’ affiliations. Also, among the most secular, there is a deep determination not to be a “one-ranger Christian.” As one pastor of a secular church firmly stated, “we are not alone, we are definitely in communion with other churches.” Inter-congregationally, many of the nondenominational churches have links with local clergy associations. These experiences with denominationally designated churches are increasing their independent mindset. We also found a large number of informal nondenominational church associations unified in each area for fellowship or particular mission purposes (roughly an average of two such connections per congregation). These groupings of like-minded churches with similar “vision for ministry” were, apart from a denominational fact, powerfully reinforce of identity.
Besides these informal support networks, many nondenominational churches were found to have started “church plants” or be “daughter churches” from another separate congregation. This “family network” shared pastoral teaching, resource development and sharing, and the strengthening of nonconfessional identity. This model, found most notably in Calvary and Vineyard’s networks, establishes special relationships and responsibility as if to a parent or older sibling. These family relations, as well as the informal alliances, are also important and fertile grounds for hiring and training new nonconfessional clergy. Sometimes, aspiring lay leaders are nurtured in official leadership positions, mentored by seasoned clergy, and then encouraged to “plant a daughter church” – often with the financial help of the congregation’s “sending.”
Promoting a distinct nondenominational identity is the regional and national networks and alliances of autonomous churches, such as those listed above. This identification is not quite the same as complete congregational independence, but neither is it equivalent to being part of a government’s full hierarchical organization.
Unconventional churches allow for more adaptability in the worship or outlook decision of a Christian. For example, certain historical denominations have been embroiled in social issues that promoted one political agenda. Hence, nondenominational Christians left for churches that eluded politics while continuing to concentrate on social issues.
Pros & Cons in Non-Denominational Churches
Pros: Nondenominational churches, being autonomous congregations, will adapt their values and practices to whatever doctrine and creeds they find acceptable and just. This offers an opportunity to deviate from the practices of existing denominations and caters to modern (or more classical) Christianity conceptions. Nondenominational churches could potentially adjust to an ever-changing environment.
Cons: Unlike larger established denominations, nondenominational churches can lack the resources or power to achieve sustainability or the fellowship. Confusion and misunderstandings between congregations may also increase with an increasing number of theological interpretations and views. Boston theology scholar Stephen Prothero claims that non-denominationalism avoids the critical theological and moral problems that originally contributed to the separation of Christianity into denominations under a “Christian unity” mask.
The Nondenominational identity is an enigmatic concept in several respects, but it should be obvious that it is more than congregational truth. The nondenominational mark argument carries distinct cultural, theological, and institutional characteristics. A host of auxiliary organizations from informal spiritual communion networks of churches, parachurch missions, and agencies, to nondenominational funding groups providing any imaginable product supports this.