|What does it really mean to be “non-denominational”?|
It is good news that many churches are adopting a non-denominational interpretation of Scripture, just like many are coming around to the idea that baptism is the moment in which we are saved by the grace of God (1 Pet. 3:21). Historically, few professed Christians taught these things to their own eternal detriment. But an associated trend has remained which needs to be addressed if only to have an opportunity to make a case for the biblical congregational organization for our own sake. Hopefully, we can share this with others too for the good of the Body of Christ.
As arranged in Christ, our organization as disciples has a very simple structure. Christ is the head of the body (Eph. 1:22). The body is the Church (Eph. 5:23) and there is only one of them (Eph. 4:4). The Church is composed only of individual disciples (1 Cor. 12:12). These disciples meet together with other local disciples in lower-case “c” churches, or assemblies (1 Cor. 1:2, Rom. 16:16). Each church has its own overseers and is autonomous from other churches’ oversight (Acts 20:17, 1 Pet. 5:1-2).
So what is a denomination? By definition, a denomination is a subset of a whole. In “Christian” vernacular, it means that the body of Christ is broken down into smaller subsets wherein each sect has its own separate mode and belief system that is in conflict with another’s belief system, thus the need for denominations. A denomination also inheres a hierarchical organizational structure to maintain this particular belief system within the subset. Take the Southern Baptist Convention for Baptist churches, or the Pope, bishops, and diocese for the Catholic church; all of which claim to be Christians, but also deny the legitimacy of the others. Local congregations are answerable to their respective regional hierarchy, which determines how they function, what they believe, and how their resources are used.
Strangely, a trend exists among so-called non-denominational groups that makes the term an oxymoron. Often, a large non-denominational “Mother church” in an area is orbited by several “satellite churches” that answer to the mother church. This is the very definition of denominationalism. It might be a relatively tiny denomination, but it is one nonetheless. Paul said that the Way of Christ is not a sect (Acts 24:14). This also means that it isn’t divided into sects. It is the (singular) Way! Where the appearance of sects emerges, it is condemned (1 Cor. 11:19, Gal. 5:20). Denominations are not valid and are an abuse of the singularity and simplicity of Christ’s body; the Church. This kind of practice and thinking happens in assemblies with “Church of Christ” on the signage too, and it’s a huge problem. There are no “branches” or “cells” or “local bodies” of the Body. We are not a denomination. Let’s not give people reason to believe we are.