Non-denominational Christian churches are growing in number. They are mostly Protestant and evangelical in doctrine and practice, though there are exceptions. Most Protestant and evangelical churches practice baptism, so do non-denominational churches?
Non-denominational Christian churches perform baptisms. They tend to practice “believer’s baptism” not “infant baptism,” so they require a public confession of faith in Jesus Christ. They also tend to perform full-immersion baptism, not sprinkling, unless there are extenuating circumstances.
While non-denominational churches have abandoned many of the traditions associated with mainline Christian denominations, baptism isn’t one of them. Keep reading to learn more.
Why non-denominational churches baptize people
Most non-denominational churches recognize that Christ instructed his followers to be baptized and to baptize others. In other words, baptism isn’t rooted in any particular denomination and it isn’t a tradition to be shunned.
Bible-believing non-denominational churches want to be follow Christ, obey Scripture, preach the gospel, and disciple believers. Baptism is directly connected to each of these desires.
Obedience: Christ told people to be baptized and to baptize others (e.g. Matt. 28:19-20). Like other Christian churches, non-denominational churches believe that, like the first Christians obeyed this instruction (e.g. Acts 2:38), today’s Christians should as well.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”Matthew 28:19-20 (emphasis added, ESV)
Discipleship: Getting baptized because Christ said to is a sufficient reason for most believers. Yet another reason why it’s important is because Christ himself was baptized (Matthew 3:16). Baptism isn’t the end of one’s commitment to Christ, it’s on the beginning of it. Discipleship is the process of following Christ doing what he did, including baptism.
“Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”Luke 3:21-22 (ESV)
Identification: A misunderstanding about baptism is that the water symbolizes cleansing the heart, mind, and soul of sin. However, that’s not the teaching of the Apostle Paul in the book of Romans. The water symbolizes death and getting raised out of it symbolizes new life.
“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”Romans 6:3-4 (ESV)
There are other Bible verses that connect baptism with washing and cleansing:
- Acts 22:16, “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’” (ESV)
- Titus 3:5, “[Christ] saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” (emphasis added, ESV) Some believe “the washing of regeneration” is a reference to baptism.
Yet there are others that teach that baptism isn’t about physical cleansing:
- 1 Peter 3:21, “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
How non-denominational churches baptize people
Mode: Many non-denominational churches practice full-immersion baptism, which means that a person goes completely under the water before getting lifted out of it. The significance of this is that the water covers the entire person, which some believe is important to the symbolism (e.g. Rom. 6:3-4).
- What about infant baptism? For non-denominational churches that practice infant baptism, the mode is sprinkling water on the head of the child or pouring a small amount of water on their forehead in a way that enables it to easily run off. Clergy, a parent, or a godparent often holds the child when this occurs.
Location: Most baptisms in non-denominational churches occur at the church itself. Many church sanctuaries have a tank or tub behind the stage or under the stage, which is used for baptism. The water is sometimes heated before the baptisms take place to make the experience more comfortable.
Some churches perform baptisms at outside locations like creeks, rivers, lakes, and even the ocean. They find encouragement in Christ himself getting baptized in a river. Churches sometimes have a picnic and then afterward everyone gathers at the water’s edge to hear testimony and see people baptized.
- Where are infants baptized? Commonly, infant baptized occur in the sanctuary, not outside. If a sanctuary or baptismal is located outside — like in warm-weather countries for example — an infant would of course be baptized outside.
Declaration: What the pastor, or whoever is performing the baptism, says out loud during the ceremony if often something like: “Based on your profession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” The declaration and the baptism itself come after the person getting baptized gives a testimony as to why they are being baptized.
- What is said during infant baptism? Infants of course don’t give a personal testimony and their baptism isn’t based on a profession of faith. A priest, minister, or pastor, often says something similar to what is mentioned above: “I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” Sometimes this is said as the child is sprinkled.
Who baptizes people in non-denominational churches?
Like in denominational churches, ministers or pastors often baptize people. In some traditions, the person performing the baptisms must be licensed or ordained, but non-denominational churches often to have those requirements. People besides pastors also baptize people:
- Associate pastors
- Worship pastors
- Youth and children’s pastors
- Elders or deacons
- Parents — often the father — if it’s a child being baptized
Sometimes the person performing the baptism is someone who has been especially important in the conversion and discipleship of the person getting baptized.
Do non-denominational churches believe that baptism is required for salvation?
For the most part, no, they don’t. But because non-denominational churches are independent and often write their own doctrinal statement, it’s possible that there are exceptions. Most, however, are consistent with Protestant evangelical theology that holds that baptism is important for a variety of reasons (listed above), but it’s not necessary for salvation.
What are some results of baptism in a non-denominational church?
The results of baptism in a non-denominational church are the same as those in a denominational church.
Testimony: In the tradition of “believer’s baptism” a public profession of faith is an important aspect to getting baptized. Others seeing the baptism itself and learning about why the person is getting baptized is, in part, intended to be a witness to their family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and anyone else in a position to hear their testimony.
Unity: When a person is baptized they become part of the baptized community of believers. The New Testament emphasizes the importance of Christian unity in several verses (e.g. 1 Cor. 1:10, 1 Pet. 3:8, Phil. 2:2, Col. 3:14).
- 1 Cor. 12:13, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.”
- Ephesians 4:5, “One Lord, one faith, one baptism”
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