What Makes a Church Non-Denominational?
Any person today who is looking for a religious group of believers is going to find several who claim to be non-denominational. I have often wondered how can all of these different religious organizations who have branched off from other religious organizations, who are all built on creeds, rules of faith, and doctrines and commandments of men, be non-denominational? According to Webster (and any other reliable source) a denomination is a piece, or a division. In other words, there is only one church that has never been, nor ever will be, a denomination, and that is the church that Jesus Christ built.
In Matt. 16:18 Jesus said, "Upon this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." It was the faith of His apostles that He was saying would be the foundation of His church, along with the faith of the prophets, and He, Himself, would be the "Chief Cornerstone" (Eph. 2:20).
In Matt. 16:19 Jesus went on to say His apostles would be given authority over His church. He said to them, "Whatever you bind on earth would be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth would be loosed in heaven." The only church today that is non-denominational is the one that is bound together by the apostles’ doctrine that they, themselves, have revealed in the Bible. Any church that insists they have to bind man made creeds, or rules of faith, or "doctrines and commandments of men" (Matt. 15:9) can not be the church that Jesus built. Therefore, it is a denomination. This includes any church that lets loose of any of the apostles’ doctrines, which are the "law of Christ" (Gal. 6:2; Matt. 16:19).
If you do a study of the Old Testament, you will find that God's people, the Israelites, were always united as one people as long as they worshipped God and followed His lead as it was revealed by His chosen judges. When you come to 1 Sam. 8, you find they were no longer satisfied to be led by God's chosen judges and His laws. They thought they could do better. 1 Sam. 8:4-22 tells us they wanted Samuel to appoint a king to rule over them like all the nations around them. They wanted to be with the "popular crowd." Sound familiar? I think it does to most of us. That is what makes the "popular crowd" so popular. Well, God told Samuel to let them have their way. That is what He does with people who prefer falsehood to the Truth (2 Thess. 2:9-12; 2 Tim. 4:1-4). God told Samuel, "They haven't rejected you. They have rejected Me" (1 Sam. 8:7). The people of Israel, who at one time were united and couldn't be defeated, got what they thought they wanted. So, what was the result? Strength for a short while under kings Saul, David, and Solomon, but then, after all the tragedies that fell on those three, a divided kingdom. The kingdom split Israel to the north, and Judah to the south, till both of them were conquered and taken into captivity, never to rise again even to this day. All of this because they rejected God's revealed pattern for them to live by and worship Him by.
Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to His apostles so He could teach them what to teach us as His church, and we have it all in the New Testament. His doctrine still brings the unity that He prayed for in John 17:20, 21, and that Paul commanded in 1 Cor. 1:10, 11. All we have to do is love God so we will sacrifice the time, the effort, and yes, even the money sometimes to study the Bible with prayer and diligence for the sincere purpose of learning and knowing His will for our lives, and then we must obey Him for salvation (Mark 16:15, 16; Heb. 5:8, 9; John 14:15). Those of us who are willing to take up this cross of sacrifice and obedience are the ones who make up His one and only non-denominational church today.
Timothy A. Sundlie
Evangelist for the La Crosse church of Christ