What Is a Non-Denominational Church?

Non-denominational churches are a growing segment of Christianity. When a church identifies as Baptist, Lutheran, or Methodist, for example, many people have a sense of who they are and what they believe. However, that isn’t always the case with non-denominational churches.

A non-denominational Christian church is one that isn’t associated with a traditional denomination. Non-denominational churches tend to be Protestant, conservative, and evangelical. They believe in the Trinity, the inspiration of Scripture, and the deity of Christ. They also perform baptisms and practice the Lord’s Supper.

Why are non-denominational churches Protestant? Are non-denominational churches growing? What’s the difference between non-denominational churches and interdenominational ones? Keep reading to learn more.

Also, see Protestant vs. Catholic vs. Orthodox: Compared to learn more.

Assemblies of God church
Are non-denominational churches growing? See below

Are Non-Denominational Churches Protestant?

Most non-denominational churches are a part of the Protestant branch of Christianity, not Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox. Non-denominational churches don’t often use the term “Protestant” to identify themselves because other descriptions are more common, such as “evangelical.” (Also, see Catholic vs. Non-Denominational: What’s the Difference?)

When did Protestantism start? The Protestant movement broke away from the Roman Catholic church starting in 16th-century Europe when many believers became disgruntled with some of its beliefs, practices, and alleged abuses.

Who started the Protestant movement and why? Men like Martin Luther of Germany (1483-1546), Ulrich Zwingli of Switzerland (1484-1531), and John Calvin of France (1509-1564) charged the Catholic church with unbiblical practices and valuing the traditions of the church over the teachings of the Bible.

Luther’s intention wasn’t to start a new movement but to refine the Catholic church. Nevertheless, Protestantism was born.

In what way are non-denominational churches similar to the first Protestants? Many see similarities with non-denominational churches. Some people who start non-denominational churches, as well as some people who attend them, are discouraged by what they have seen and experienced in mainline denominations.

Many historically conservative denominations, like the Presbyterian Church USA and the United Methodist Church, have permitted and welcomed doctrines and practices that conservative evangelicals oppose. [1] (Also, see Non-Denominational vs. Evangelical: What’s the Difference?)

Are any denominations still conservative? Yes. Many Christian denominations are still conservative and haven’t adopted modern values, such as the Southern Baptist Convention, the Presbyterian Church in America, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, and the Assemblies of God.

Yet, non-denominational churches are another option for conservative Christians. Besides their conservative worldview, they have other inviting characteristics, such as their independence from tradition.

Also, see What Translation of the Bible Do Non-Denominational Churches Use?

Non-denominational Christianity
What’s the difference between non-denominational and interdenominational? See below

Are Non-Denominational Churches Growing?

Non-denominational churches have grown at an incredible rate since they first appeared in the 19th century. Research suggests that non-denominational congregations are among the fastest-growing churches in recent years.

According to Christianity Today, non-denominational churches have experienced massive growth, “Using a baseline average from 1972–1976, over the last four decades, there has been more than a 400 percent growth in Protestants who identify as nondenominational.” [2]

At a time when many denominations like the Southern Baptist Convention and the United Methodist Church are reporting declines, other congregations are growing, like many in the Assemblies of God and non-denominational churches. (Also see Can You Be a Christian Without a Denomination?)

With more non-denominational churches appearing, it causes people to wonder about what they are like, who attends them, and what they believe.

According to CNN, most of the top 100 largest churches in the United States identify as non-denominational, “Many analyses of religious data in the U.S. miss the growing presence of nondenominational churches.”

It continues, “That is, congregations that are not affiliated with national church organizations like the United Methodist Church or Southern Baptist Convention. Why is this significant? Well, for example, most of the top 100 largest churches in the United States are now nondenominational.” [2]

Why are so many people attending and seeking out non-denominational churches? One reason for the increase in attendance at non-denominational churches may be past hurt.

An individual who had a poor or traumatic experience with one church may feel inclined to attend a non-denominational church. (Also see Do Non-Denominational Churches Perform Baptisms?)

Do people have bad experiences at non-denominational churches? Some do. Non-denominational churches, like all congregations, are comprised of people who aren’t perfect and make mistakes. People who have been hurt in denominational churches likely know this, yet a non-denominational church still feels like a fresh start to them.

Christian denominations
What does interdenominational mean? See below

Non-Denominational vs. Interdenominational: What’s the Difference?

Although some use the terms non-denominational and interdenominational interchangeably, they are two separate and different concepts.

The term “interdenominational” is often used as a synonym for “ecumenical.” Merriam-Webster defines “ecumenical” as (1) “of, relating to, or representing the whole of a body of churches” and (2) “promoting or tending toward worldwide Christian unity or cooperation.”

  • While non-denominational churches aren’t rooted in traditional denominations, interdenominational churches are rooted in multiple denominations but aren’t committed to just one.
  • Interdenominational churches often take the perceived strengths of multiple denominations and then combine them into their belief system. They survey the perceived successes of multiple denominations and take from each what they see fit.

Are interdenominational churches independent? Like denominational churches, interdenominational churches seek to be independent of traditional denomination labels. They also seek to be independent of a denominational hierarchy of accountability and authority.

  • Interdenominational leaders often point to the authority of the Holy Spirit in their church and claim to follow His lead rather than an organization’s.
  • They seek to maintain unity and do what they can to dispel division in their church.

Are interdenominational churches well supported? Also, like denominational churches, interdenominational churches can suffer from a lack of financial support since they don’t have a denominational organization to back them up.

However, this usually doesn’t hinder their growth, and they believe in doing whatever is best for the church in all areas.

So, although they are similar, denominational churches don’t associate with traditional denominations, while interdenominational churches attempt to blend multiple denominations. (Also see How to Become a Non-Denominational Church Pastor)

The History of Non-Denominational Churches

Oftentimes, non-denominational churches arise out of concern for correct theology and practice without denominational or government interference.

Non-denominational churches arose during the last half of the 20th century and have grown in number ever since. The reasons behind their success often depend on the church, but they tend to be Bible-centered.

Also, see Do All Denominations Believe in the 10 Commandments?

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Daniel Isaiah Joseph

Daniel's seminary degree is in Exegetical Theology. He was a pastor for 10 years. As a professor, he has taught Bible and theology courses at two Christian universities. Please see his About page for details.

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