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Nondenominational Christianity (or non-denominational Christianity) consists of
church Church may refer to: Religion * Church (building) A church building, church house, or simply church, is a building used for Christian worship services and other Christian religious activities. The term is usually used to refer to the p ...
es which typically distance themselves from the
confessionalismConfessionalism may refer to: * Confessionalism (poetry) * Confessionalism (religion) * Confessionalism (politics) {{Disambiguation ...
or
creed A creed, also known as a confession of faith, symbol, or statement of faith, is a statement of the shared belief A belief is an attitude Attitude may refer to: Philosophy and psychology * Attitude (psychology) In psychology ...
alism of other
Christian Christians () are people who follow or adhere to Christianity, a monotheistic Abrahamic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus in Christianity, Jesus Christ. The words ''Christ (title), Christ'' and ''Christian'' derive from the Koi ...

Christian
communities by not formally aligning with a specific
Christian denomination A Christian denomination is a distinct religious Religion is a - of designated and practices, , s, s, , , , , or , that relates humanity to , , and elements; however, there is no scholarly consensus over what precisely constitutes a rel ...
. Many non-denominational churches have a
congregationalist polity Congregationalist polity, or congregational polity, often known as congregationalism, is a system of ecclesiastical polity Ecclesiastical polity is the operational and governance structure of a church or of a Christian denomination. It also ...
, which is self-governing without a higher church authority. Nondenominational Christianity first arose in the 18th century through the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement, with followers organizing themselves simply as "
Christians Christians () are people who follow or adhere to Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic, Monotheism, monotheistic religion based on the Life of Jesus in the New Testament, life and Teachings of Jesus, teachings of ...
" and "
Disciples of Christ A disciple is a follower and student of a mentor, teacher, or other figure. It can refer to: Religion * Disciple (Christianity), a student of Jesus Christ * Twelve Apostles of Jesus, sometimes called the Twelve Disciples * Seventy disciples in th ...
". Often congregating in loose associations such as the
Churches of Christ Church may refer to: Religion * Church (building) A church building, church house, or simply church, is a building used for Christian worship services and other Christian religious activities. The term is used to refer to the physical build ...
, or in other cases, founded by individual pastors, they have little affiliation with historic denominations, but many typically adhere to
evangelical Christianity Evangelicalism (), also called evangelical Christianity, or evangelical Protestantism, is a worldwide trans-denominational movement within Protestantism, Protestant Christianity that maintains the belief that the essence of the Gospel consists ...
.Protestantism Protestantism is a form of Christianity Christianity is an , based on the and of . It is the , with about 2.5 billion followers. Its adherents, known as , make up a majority of the population in , and believe that is the , whose comin ...
.


History

Nondenominational Christianity first arose in the 18th century through the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement, with followers organizing themselves simply as "
Christians Christians () are people who follow or adhere to Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic, Monotheism, monotheistic religion based on the Life of Jesus in the New Testament, life and Teachings of Jesus, teachings of ...
" and "
Disciples of Christ A disciple is a follower and student of a mentor, teacher, or other figure. It can refer to: Religion * Disciple (Christianity), a student of Jesus Christ * Twelve Apostles of Jesus, sometimes called the Twelve Disciples * Seventy disciples in th ...
". Congregations in this tradition of nondenominational Christianity often refer to themselves as
Churches of Christ Church may refer to: Religion * Church (building) A church building, church house, or simply church, is a building used for Christian worship services and other Christian religious activities. The term is used to refer to the physical build ...
. Independent nondenominational churches continued to appear in the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...

United States
in the course of the 20th century. Nondenominational and
interdenominational Ecumenism (), also spelled oecumenism, is the concept and principle in which Christians Christians () are people who follow or adhere to Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic Monotheism, monotheistic religion b ...
missionary A missionary is a member of a Religious denomination, religious group sent into an area to promote their faith or provide services, such as education, literacy, social justice, health care, and economic development.Thomas Hale 'On Being a Missio ...

missionary
organizations, especially
faith mission Faith, derived from Latin ''fides'' and Old French ''feid'', is confidence or trust in a person, thing, or In the context of religion, one can define faith as "belief in a god or in the doctrines or teachings of religion". Religious people often ...
s, grew in the second half of the 19th century, beginning with the American Christian Missionary Society (incorporated in the United States in 1849), Woman's Union Missionary Society (incorporated in the United States in 1861) and the
China Inland Mission 'OMF International'' (formerly Overseas Missionary Fellowship and before 1964 the China Inland Mission) is an international and interdenominational Protestant Christianity, Christian missionary society with an international centre in Singapore. It ...

China Inland Mission
(incorporated in Britain in 1865).Norman E. Thomas, ''Missions and Unity: Lessons from History, 1792—2010'' (Cascade Book, 2010), pp. 35, 42. Later-founded U.S. missionary groups included
Christian and Missionary Alliance The Alliance World Fellowship is the international governing body of the Christian and Missionary Alliance (The Alliance, also C&MA). The Alliance is an evangelical Protestant Protestantism is a form of Christianity that originated with the 16t ...
(1887), Evangelical Alliance Mission (1890),
Sudan Interior Mission SIM is an international, interdenominational Evangelical Christian mission organization. It was established in 1893 by its three founders, Walter Gowans and Rowland Bingham of Canada and Thomas Kent of the United States. The initials originally s ...
(1893), and the
Africa Inland Mission Established in 1895, Africa Inland Mission (AIM) is a Christian mission sending agency focused on Africa. Their stated mission is to see "Christ-centered churches established among all African peoples." AIM established the Kapsowar Hospital in 193 ...
(1895). Nondenominational congregations experienced significant and continuous growth in the 21st century, particularly in the United States. If combined into a single group, nondenominational churches collectively represented the third-largest Christian grouping in the United States in 2010, after the
Roman Catholic Church The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with 1.3 billion baptised Baptism (from the Greek language, Greek noun βάπτισμα ''báptisma'') is a Christians, Christian ...

Roman Catholic Church
and
Southern Baptist Convention The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is a Christian denomination A Christian denomination is a distinct Religion, religious body within Christianity that comprises all Church (congregation), church congregations of the same kind, identifia ...
. In Asia, especially in
Singapore Singapore (), officially the Republic of Singapore, is a sovereign state, sovereign island city-state in maritime Southeast Asia. It lies about one degree of latitude () north of the equator, off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, bor ...

Singapore
and
Malaysia Malaysia ( ; ) is a country in Southeast Asia Southeast Asia, also spelled South East Asia and South-East Asia, and also known as Southeastern Asia or SEA, is the geographical southeastern subregion of Asia, consisting of the regions ...

Malaysia
, these churches are also more numerous, since the 1990s.


Characteristics

Nondenominational churches are not affiliated with specifically denominational stream of
evangelical Evangelicalism (), evangelical Christianity, or evangelical Protestantism, is a worldwide trans-denominational movement within Protestant Christianity that maintains the belief that the essence of the Gospel consists of the doctrine of salv ...

evangelical
movements, either by choice from their foundation or because they separated from their denomination of origin at some point in their history. Like denominational congregations, nondenominational congregations vary in size, worship, and other characteristics.Nicole K. Meidinger & Gary A. Goreharm, "Congregations, Religious" in ''Encyclopedia of Community: From the Village to the Virtual World'' (Vol. 1: eds Karen Christensen & David Levinson: SAGE, 2003), p. 333. Although independent, many nondenominational congregations choose to affiliate with a broader network of congregations, such as IFCA International (formerly the Independent Fundamental Churches of America). Nondenominational churches are recognizable from the
evangelical Evangelicalism (), evangelical Christianity, or evangelical Protestantism, is a worldwide trans-denominational movement within Protestant Christianity that maintains the belief that the essence of the Gospel consists of the doctrine of salv ...

evangelical
movement, even though they are autonomous and have no other formal labels, such as the and the
Willow Creek Community Church Willow Creek Community Church is an American non-denominational A non-denominational person or organization is not restricted to any particular or specific religious denomination A religious denomination is a subgroup within a religion Rel ...
. The movement is particularly visible in the
megachurch A megachurch is a church with an unusually large membership that also offers a variety of educational and social activities, usually Protestant or Evangelical. The Hartford Institute for Religion Research defines a megachurch as any Protestant Chris ...
es. The
neo-charismatic The Neo-charismatic (also third-wave charismatic or hypercharismatic) movement is a movement within Evangelicalism, evangelical Protestantism, Protestant Christianity that is composed of a diverse range of independent churches and organizations tha ...
churches often use the term ''nondenominational'' to define themselves. Churches with a focus on seekers are more likely to identify themselves as nondenominational.


Criticism

Boston University Boston University (BU) is a Private university, private research university in Boston, Massachusetts. The university is nonsectarian but has a historical affiliation with the United Methodist Church. It was founded in 1839 by Methodists with ...
religion scholar
Stephen Prothero Stephen Richard Prothero (; born November 13, 1960) is an American scholar of religion. He is a professor of religion at Boston University Boston University (BU) is a private research university in Boston Boston (, ), officially the ...
argues that nondenominationalism hides the fundamental theological and spiritual issues that initially drove the division of Christianity into denominations behind a veneer of "Christian unity". He argues that nondenominationalism encourages a descent of Christianity—and indeed, all religions—into comfortable "general moralism" rather than being a focus for facing the complexities of churchgoers' culture and spirituality. Prothero further argues that it also encourages ignorance of the Scriptures, lowering the overall religious literacy while increasing the potential for inter-religious misunderstandings and conflict. Baptist
ecumenical Ecumenism (), also spelled oecumenism, is the concept and principle in which Christians who belong to different Christian denominations work together to develop closer relationships among their churches and promote Christian unity. The adjecti ...
theologian Steven R. Harmon argues that "there's really no such thing" as a nondenominational church, because "as soon as a supposedly non-denominational church has made decisions about what happens in worship, whom and how they will baptize, how and with what understanding they will celebrate
holy communion The Eucharist (; grc-gre, εὐχαριστία, eucharistía, thanksgiving) also known as Holy Communion and the Lord's Supper, among other names, is a Christian Christians () are people who follow or adhere to Christianity, a monothe ...

holy communion
, what they will teach, who their ministers will be and how they will be ordered, or how they relate to those churches, these decisions have placed the church within the stream of a specific type of denominational tradition."Steven R. Harmon, ''Ecumenism Means You, Too: Ordinary Christians and the Quest for Christian Unity'' (Cascade Books, 2010), pp. 61-62. Harmon argues that the cause of Christian unity is best served through denominational traditions, since each "has historical connections to the church's
catholicity Catholicity (from , via ) is a concept pertaining to beliefs and practices widely accepted across numerous Christian denomination A Christian denomination is a distinct Religion, religious body within Christianity that comprises all Church ( ...
... and we make progress toward unity when the denominations share their distinctive patterns of catholicity with one another."
Presbyterian Presbyterianism is a part of the Reformed tradition Calvinism (also called the Reformed tradition, Reformed Christianity, Reformed Protestantism, or the Reformed faith) is a major branch of Protestantism Protestantism is a form of ...
dogmatic theologian Amy Plantinga Pauw writes that Protestant nondenominational congregations "often seem to lack any acknowledgement of their debts and ties to larger church traditions" and argues that "for now, these non-denominational churches are living off the theological capital of more established Christian communities, including those of denominational Protestantism."Amy Plantinga Pauw, "Earthen Vessels: Theological Reflections on North American Denominationalism" in ''Theology in Service to the Church: Global and Ecumenical Perspectives'' (ed. Allan Hugh Cole: Cascade Books, 2014), p. 82. Pauw considers denominationalism to be a "unifying and conserving force in Christianity, nurturing and carrying forward distinctive theological traditions" (such as
Wesleyanism Wesleyan theology, otherwise known as Wesleyan–Arminian theology, or Methodist theology, is a theological tradition in Protestant Protestantism is a form of Christianity that originated with the 16th-century Reformation, a movement against ...
being supported by Methodist denominations). In 2011, American evangelical professor
Ed Stetzer Edward John Stetzer (born 1966) is an American author, speaker, researcher, pastor, church planter, and Christian missiologist. Stetzer is Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and Executive Directo ...

Ed Stetzer
attributed to
individualism Individualism is the Ethics, moral stance, political philosophy, ideology and social outlook that emphasizes the intrinsic worth of the individual. Individualists promote the exercise of one's goals and desires and to value independence and self ...
the reason for the increase in the number of evangelical churches claiming to be non-denominational Christianity.


See also

*
Evangelicalism Evangelicalism (), also called evangelical Christianity, or evangelical Protestantism, is a worldwide trans-denominational movement within Protestant Christianity Protestantism is a form of Christianity that originated with the 16th-century ...
*
Protestantism in the United States Protestantism Protestantism is a form of Christianity Christianity is an , based on the and of . It is the , with about 2.5 billion followers. Its adherents, known as , make up a majority of the population in , and believe that is ...
* History of Protestantism in the United States * Community Church movement *
Jesuism Jesuism, also called Jesusism or Jesuanism, is the teachings of Jesus in distinction to the teachings of mainstream Christianity.Owen J. Flanagan. ''The Really Hard Problem: Meaning in a Material World.'' Cambridge: MIT Press, 2007. p.36 In part ...
* Local churches * Non-church movement *
Non-denominational Muslim Non-denominational Muslims () are Muslims who do not belong to, do not self-identify with, or cannot be readily classified under one of the identifiable Islamic schools and branches. Non-denomination Muslims are found primarily in Central Asia. ...
*
Non-denominational Judaism Jewish religious movements, sometimes called "denominations Denomination may refer to: * Religious denomination, such as a: ** Christian denomination ** Jewish denomination ** Islamic denomination ** Hindu denominations ** Schools of Buddhism, Bu ...
*
Postdenominationalism In Christianity, postdenominationalism is the attitude that the Body of Christ extends to Born again Christianity, born again Christians in other denominations (including those who are Nondenominational Christianity, non-denominational), and is not ...
* Sunday Christian


Notes


References


External links


Nondenominational Congregations Study
{{DEFAULTSORT:Nondenominational Christianity Ecclesiology
Christian terminology Words or phrases used to refer to concepts associated with Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic Monotheism, monotheistic religion based on the Life of Jesus in the New Testament, life and Teachings of Jesus, teachings o ...