This past Lord’s day I had a conversation with a man conducting bible studies in our area proclaiming “non-denominational” Christianity. This is a phrase I hear thrown around quite a bit and it is one that I have employed. However, it does not necessarily mean the same thing to everyone. Here is what I learned about non-denominational Christianity.
Some employ the phrase to refer to open door policy they have in accepting all forms of Christianity. Many community churches use this phrase to describe their belief structure. In other words, if you are a Baptist, a Catholic or a Jehovah Witness it does not matter to them. These “non-denominational” churches were inevitable. When people started saying church of choice and that it didn’t matter how you get there because we were all headed in the same place, it was only a matter of time before a church opened its doors in an attempt to accept every denomination at once. In theory (and on the surface) it is very attractive, especially to the millennial generation that has been raised to believe that everyone is exactly the same, can do the same and should be rewarded the same. However, feasibly these churches simply won’t last. Eventually different beliefs force these types of churches to make a choice. Should children be baptized or not? Can you pray to someone other than God? Can you get divorced for any reason. Once this community of Christians make a stance, they turn into our next category of “non-denominational” Christianity.
Some employ the phrase to refer to the fact that they are a stand alone church. According to dictionary.com this is what a non-denominational church is. A church that is simply a single congregation which has its own unique confession of faith. Or, in other words, it is its own denomination consisting of a single congregation. These churches hold no ties to a synod or counsel of churches. They are self governing, that is autonomous. While not all of those that fall into this category will reject denominational names, there are some who do. There are many Churches of Christ that fall into this category. When this happen the name becomes a title rather than a mark of ownership. When we claim to be non-denominational, while still having qualities of denominationalism we fall into this trap.
The third group is what I believe God is calling for us to have, genuine, true, godly non-denominational Christianity. This type of church recognizes that dividing the body of Christ into divisions or denominations is never what God intended. It is belief that we are to be one as Jesus and his father are one (John 17:11). We should not be okay with the fact that there are so many denominations in the towns in which we live. It should bother us that we are not united. Denominationalism revels in the idea that we don’t get along with each other and that we cannot agree with what is doctrine and what is not.
This type of Christianity all builders but one; Jesus Christ (Matt. 16:18). Yes, Alexander Campbell and Bart W. Stone were preachers in the early days of what is called the restoration movement. However, they did not found the Christ’s church. They were just preachers. If you read their books, sermons, and articles you will see that that had no vision of starting a new denomination. They were hoping to be the church that Jesus would call his. It holds no allegiances to their teachings, unlike denominations that hold to the teaches of men like Martin Luther, John Wesley and others. The only teaching we follow is the gospel of Jesus Christ (Gal. 1:6-9). To follow the teaching of some other builder makes it another gospel (or a distorted gospel). Think of it as a recipe. Once you start altering the recipe it is no longer the same. It becomes your recipe and not your Grandmother’s or Nestle Tollhouse, etc. If we change the gospel to accommodate the teaching of men like Martin Luther, we are no longer followers of Christ, we have become followers of Luther (See I Cor. 1:11-12).
This type of Christianity rejects denominational names. Yes, I understand that church of Christ sits on our signs, bulletins, etc. But, the name is NOT a name meant to distinguish from other churches. Rather, it is a name meant to denote ownership. As is this is Wes’ article. Or this is Pat’s car. This church belongs to Christ (Rom. 16:16). He built it. It is his body. It is his kingdom. It, all of it, belongs to him. Calling us God’s church or the church of Grinnell would be equally accurate “names” in that they donate either ownership or location as seen in the scriptures.
Grinnell church of Christ
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What is Non-Denomination Christianity?
Volume 8 Issue 11