I attend a non-denominational church, and I’ve been meaning to invite one of my Catholic friends since I attended their service last Sunday. I enjoyed the hymns and worship, as well as the priest’s sermon and thought it would be a good idea if she saw things from my perspective. However, I am skeptical. Can a Catholic go to a non-denominational church?
There is no right or wrong answer to whether a Catholic can attend a non-denominational church. A non-denominational church is simply one that does not adhere to the mainline denominations that exist, such as Baptists or Catholics. It is not a sin for a Catholic to attend a non-denominational church, in my opinion. One can attend my church and then return to her church in the same way that I attended my friends’ mass. I feel that as long as attendance does not change or affect what people believe in, it is acceptable; in any case, all denominational and nondenominational churches base their teachings on the Bible. I’ve visited various churches and believe that having an open mind and filtering what works for you and what doesn’t is a good thing.
Keep reading this article if you want to learn more about what non-denominational churches are, if Catholics can go to their churches, how Catholic churches differ from non-denominational churches, and much more information.
What are non-denominational churches?
Non-denominational churches arose in the 1800s during the Restoration Movement as a reaction to confessionalism and creedalism. To them, the only thing that mattered was Christ. Later, in the United States, the term “non-denominational” was coined.
Non-denominational churches are self-governing organizations that focus on the ideas provided in the Bible rather than on denominational customs. They do not align with mainstream denominations such as Baptists, Catholics, Lutherans, Presbyterians, or Methodists. They believe that the Bible is the sole authority. In most situations, this church is controlled by a group of elders or a board of directors who are responsible for how the church established its traditions and its structure.
Non-denominational churches are likewise less rigorous and do not adhere to the same practices as their traditional counterparts. They exist to preach the gospel and make it known to as many people as possible. These churches are referred to as “contemporary” or “modern” churches. Their music, clothes, and preaching style differ greatly from those of traditional churches, which take a more severe and rigid approach to things.
Many of these churches, while claiming to be nondenominational, frequently reflect a specific denomination in terms of beliefs and practices. They simply create their guidelines around these principles; therefore, they are not linked with any religion. The majority of these congregations were fleeing the politics of belonging to a specific denomination and being ruled by a specific leadership.
How are Catholic churches different from non-denominational churches?
In comparison to non-denominational churches, Catholic churches have a long list of differences. These are the same distinctions that exist between the Catholic and Protestant churches. They are as follows:
Orders of the Catholic Church
Priests and nuns in the Catholic church devote themselves to God’s mission; they are not permitted to marry; theirs is a life with God. They are often isolated from the rest of the world, living in monasteries where they maintain celibacy. Priests and nuns are not found in the non-denominational church.
Mary Mother of Jesus
The non-denominational church holds Mary in high regard as Jesus’ mother. They admire her humility and obedience in allowing God to use her. They do not teach, however, that Mary was sinless, that she is a co-mediator, or that she went straight to heaven without dying physically. On the other hand, the Catholic church believes that Mary was sinless, that she went to heaven without physically dying, and that she can mediate for Christians as Christ Jesus did.
The Catholic Church believes in the baptism of small children to cleanse them of original sin, whereas the non-denominational church believes that an individual should be baptized after they are old enough to understand what salvation means, accept Jesus as their savior, and make a choice to follow Jesus throughout their lives.
Catholics take communion, also known as the Eucharist, very seriously; one must even attend particular classes before being able to partake in it; it is not just a ritual that is observed; it is only for a select few who have passed the classes.
The non-denominational church, on the other hand, takes communion as a reminder of Christ’s death. For the non-denominational church, anyone who is born again is allowed to partake and no special classes are offered. One is also usually urged to repent of any sin or release any burden or grudges held in the heart before partaking as it is deemed sinful if you take the Body of Christ and His blood with sin in your heart.
The Catholic Church frequently preaches that the Bible is God’s inspired word; nevertheless, they have extra books in the Bible that are not included in the Bible used by non-denominational Christian denominations; these books are known as the Apocrypha or deuterocanonical books.
The human leader
The Pope is renamed the Vicar of Christ by the Catholic Church. The Pope is seen as the earthly leader of the church, a role that is frequently associated with the Apostle Peter in Catholic theology. This is not the case in the case of the non-denominational church. They, like the Protestant church, do not recognize any person as the vicar of Christ, nor do they recognize the pope as the earthly head of the church.
Catholics reject the idea that salvation may be attained by simply committing one’s life to follow Jesus Christ; they hold that salvation is a little more nuanced than that. A person must accept Christ as Savior by faith, be baptized according to the Trinitarian formula, receive further grace by partaking in Catholic sacraments, particularly the Eucharist, and then pass away without having committed any unconfessed deadly sins to be saved. If someone follows all of the above, they will be saved and granted entrance to paradise, most likely following a protracted term of purgatory.
Catholics who have lived spotless, pure, and virtue-filled lives are frequently canonized after death. Those who remain on Earth pray to the saints and seek benefits through the saints, who are thought to have extraordinary powers. This is not the case in the non-denominational church, which does not canonize anyone. They respect different people’s contributions and well-lived lives and try to emulate that kind of life, but they do not pray to them or go asking for blessings. For non-denominational believers, prayer is only through Jesus Christ.
The subject of Eschatology
The Catholic Church holds a millennial view, as recorded in Revelation 20:1–6. where the non-denominational church is considered to be dispensational or perennial.
For Catholics, God is a trinity, with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit being entirely God, whereas non-denominational Christians subscribe to trinitarian doctrines and beliefs.
Sacrament Vs Ordinance
Marriage, adult and infant baptism, ordination, penance, anointing, and the Eucharist are all referred to as “ordinances” in the Catholic church. while the non-denominational church considers traditions like the Lord’s Supper and baptism to be sacraments. These, however, are not channels of grace for them.
How does the Catholic Church view non-denominational churches?
As we have already mentioned in the text, the Catholic church has various areas of criticism for non-denominational congregations that are essentially spiritual disparities. The non-denominational church is thought to be unrooted in scripture and only uses it as a guideline.
They further claim that non-denominational churches’ teachings revolve mostly around moralism and strive to encourage individualism rather than bringing people and communities together, spreading the gospel of independence, doing it alone, and self-reliance. When it comes to certain topics of faith that the Catholic Church takes pretty seriously, the non-denominational church is more casual and carefree when it comes to certain matters of faith that the Catholic Church takes quite seriously.
Catholics believe that the Bible has been in existence since time immemorial and should not be subject to any changes, especially when it comes to the delivery of messages from the Bible. It is believed that the teachings in the Bible are correct and meant for teaching that leads one to amend their behavior and conduct. The Bible’s interpretation is also seen as a duty of the priests, not the Catholics themselves; this is to preserve the word and not have different interpretations of it from everyone. The Bible is implied to be difficult to understand, and thus the Catholic Church leaves the interpretation bit to those deemed holy, like the priests and nuns that have dedicated their lives to the work of the church.
The Catholic church, on the other hand, regards the non-denominational church as being careless with the word or the scriptures. The Bible is typically the primary emphasis or guideline for correction, instruction, and chastisement; however, church bishops and pastors are permitted to preach and teach other than scripture. This has been a source of dispute, causing strife, because many preachers may speak from their understanding or just quote a text and preach something opposite to what the scripture implies.
Another issue that commonly arises is the Catholic Church’s perception of non-denominational churches. The Catholic church takes communion very seriously; in fact, lessons are created for their faithful to attend before ever partaking in communion; one must pass these classes to partake in communion.
Communion is viewed by Catholics as a type of gathering and community, and it is a sacred activity that permits someone to partake of the blood, soul, body, and divinity of Jesus. The Catholics believe that communion, or Eucharist, as they call it, has been downplayed in the non-denominational church.
This is because the non-denominational church does not regard communion as sacred, but rather as a memorial of Christ’s death. There are also no specific lessons outlined to educate the faithful in non-denominational churches on how to take communion and its importance. Anyone is allowed to partake of the bread and the blood as long as they are born again, have no sin or bitterness in their hearts, and repent before taking communion.
Salvation and Jesus Christ
In the non-denominational church, salvation is a one-time event, and the Christian born-again believer is then charged with the burden of working out their faith to grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ. This is stated in the Bible in Romans 10:9, where it is said that if one accepts Christ and declares Him to be their savior, they will be saved for all eternity.
However, this is a source of anguish for Catholics, who believe that Jesus already had salvation, which might suggest that he was rescued for the benefit of everyone else. For Catholics, knowing the love of Jesus Christ is more significant and seen as a higher vocation. They have no faith in one-time salvation.
When it comes to the non-denominational church, Jesus Christ is the single mediator, which conflicts with Catholic beliefs. They think that Mary, Jesus’ mother, is a co-mediator with Jesus and that the Catholic faithful can also pray via her and have their prayers answered or escorted to paradise. This is in stark contrast to the denominational church, where Mary is revered as Jesus’ mother but is not given any mediatory functions as a direct link to God.
Does going to a non-denominational church go against one’s catholic beliefs?
Yes, many people think this to be true, particularly those who are devoutly Catholic. Because of the differences in doctrines between the Catholic church and the non-denominational church, attending a non-denominational church is regarded as a betrayal. As many Catholics have argued, one can attend celebrations such as dedication or baptism if invited by a friend or family member.
Attending service every Sunday and foregoing the Catholic liturgy is deemed wrong. Missing mass is considered exceedingly disrespectful, and one is not meant to miss it. Because faith is a personal decision that one makes on their own will, you should think carefully as an individual and decide whether or not it is right for you.
You should be aware that things are done differently at the non-denominational church; the preaching is very different, the music is different, and the church is more into dancing, clapping, and jumping during worship, so you should consider whether this will be an acceptable environment for you. The services may also last longer than your usual mass. Overall, you must evaluate whether attending a non-denominational church is contrary to Catholic principles; so far, it is not stated in the Bible or Catholic teachings that it is.
Should Catholics Go to Non-Denominational Bible Studies?
Faith is a very personal decision and journey for each individual, and it should be left up to them to decide. It is considered, however, that Catholics should not attend Bible studies led by non-denominational churches because the teachings differ, particularly when it comes to rites and traditions. Because of the many variances in doctrine, this may cause a lot of confusion for those who do not understand.
It may also drive people to question their denomination a lot, which may lead to doubts and perhaps leaving faith entirely. If you are a Catholic and decide to attend one of these Bible studies, you should be aware of the difficulties that may arise.
You must understand that in a non-denominational Bible study or church, the Bible is the sole binding authority, as opposed to the Catholic Church, whose authority is derived from the apostles and the church. There is no special interpreter or interpretation of the Bible, but the Catholic Church has exclusive authority over Bible interpretation. Anyone can understand and even interpret the Bible on their own with the help of the Holy Spirit; nonetheless, Catholics think that the Bible is difficult to understand.
People are indeed entrusted with reading and understanding the Bible on their own; the Bible is read and interpreted in church for Catholics. As a Catholic, you must also enter this Bible study with the understanding that one or two persons may wish to convert you to a non-denominational faith. They may desire to evangelize to you to bring you to salvation and away from your denomination by pointing out what is wrong with it based on scripture, because everything in any non-denominational is based on scripture and must be demonstrated or supported by scripture.
Once you have put all this into consideration, you can make a sober decision as to whether going to a non-denominational Bible study is the best thing for you as a Catholic or not. It should be a personal choice that comes from your convictions.
As a devout Christian, I have always been passionate about the Christian faith. This inspired me to pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology in college. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Since I am dedicated to spreading the word of God, I am actively involved in the Church. Additionally, I share his word online and cover diverse topics on the Christian faith through my platform. You can read more about me on the about us page.