Presbyterian vs. Protestant: What is the main difference?

The other day, a member of my congregation asked me if a Presbyterian family that was new in town would join our Protestant church since they also identify as Christians. As a pastor, I felt as though I was at a crossroads because I acknowledge that there are parallels and contrasts between the two groups. Nonetheless, after giving it much thought and making wise discernments, I ended up welcoming them aboard with open arms, tremendous warmth, and a freshly baked chocolate cake to top it up for being new members to our church. Therefore, I decided to share my insights and understanding from a theologian’s perspective regarding the topic ‘Presbyterian vs Protestant: What is the main difference?’

Presbyterians are members of a denomination within the broader Protestantism movement with varying church rules and emphasize church governance through a body of elders. Protestants are Christians that neither subscribe to the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Churches nor follow the teachings of the Pope or the religious leaders of the Catholic Church. They refer to the movement that emanated from the Reformation in the late Medieval church and encompasses various denominations with a reformed mindset.

In this article, I will unpack the differences between Presbyterians and Protestants and much more. Join me as I delve into this informative subject matter.

Presbyterian vs Protestant: Difference in definition

Presbyterian vs. Protestant
Presbyterian vs Protestant. Image source: Freepik


Presbyterianism refers to a segment of the Reformed convention within Protestantism that began in the 16th century. Presbyterian churches acquire their identity from the Presbyterian way of church government presided over by delegated assemblies of elders. Presbyterianism forms a church government founded on laws established by presbyters or elders. The presbyters that govern the church are categorized in a pecking order of courts, the utmost being the general assembly. They are voted in by the members of the congregation for fixed durations in a system aimed at upholding the equality of all Christians. Presbyterianism equally refers to a denomination i.e., the Presbyterian Church.


Protestantism refers to a branch of Christianity that is segregated from the Roman Catholic Church and adheres to the theological tenets of the Protestant Reformation. It is a Christian religious movement that was established with the objective of reforming the Catholic Church from apparent oversights, misconducts, and inconsistencies. Protestantism commenced in the early 16th century in northern Europe due to a reaction towards medieval Roman Catholic canons and traditions.

What’s the Difference between Presbyterian and Protestant?

Parameters of Comparison




Believe that children born as Christians ought to be purified, and they do not believe in redemption.

Believe in redemption but also assert that there are various other ways of saving.


John Calvin and John Knoxx directed Presbyterianism during the 16th century.

Martin Luther led the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century


Presbyterians are another type of protestant Christians with a slight variation in traditions and belief systems. This means all the Presbyterians are Protestant Christians by default.

Protestant Christians is the general umbrella. Hence, not all Protestants ought to be Presbyterians.

Governing bodies

Have various church elders, and they elect them to teach in their churches

Are not very keen on church traditions


Stems from the Greek word for “elder,” and the term refers to a system of church government that is premised on the office of elders.

Stems from the word “protest,” and the term recognizes Christians affiliated with the Protestant Reformation


Presbyterianism is the term for a Protestant belief system of Calvinism. There are various Presbyterian denominations, for instance, the Presbyterian Church of America, Presbyterian Church USA, etc.

Protestantism is not the term of a denomination. It is an often-utilized informal title for Christian belief systems with the same convictions, for instance, the Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, Baptists, Assemblies of God, etc.


The Presbyterians create a church government comprising of elders that preside over local churches. Elders in a designated geographical region create a presbytery. The presbyteries in a designated region create a synod. The national-level organization is referred to a general assembly.

There is no official organization to Protestant Christianity in general, i.e., they do not have a single leader. Numerous Protestant churches collaborate for the sake of societal causes and evangelism.

Differences in the beliefs between Presbyterian and Protestant

Presbyterian vs. Protestant
Beliefs between Presbyterian and Protestant. Image source: Pixabay

Confession tradition

Presbyterians adhere to the tradition of assertion or confession within their churches, while in Protestantism, the assertion tradition is not mandatory and should be conducted privately.

Distinguishing doctrines

Presbyterian churches strongly emphasize God’s sovereignty and predestination to be keynote doctrines in their belief systems. Presbyterians believe in the principal tenets that encompasses the five slogans of scripture, Jesus Christ, grace, faith, and glory to God only. On the other hand, Protestant churches emphasize an exclusive understanding of the Bible.


Presbyterianism characteristically involves a more formal style of worship that involves prayers, hymns, and sacraments, whereas numerous Protestant denominations have a more informal way of worship.

What are the similarities between Presbyterian and Protestant?

Presbyterian vs. Protestant - What is the main difference?
Similarities between Presbyterian and Protestant. Image source: Pixabay

Highest origin of jurisdiction

Both Presbyterians and Protestants believe that the greatest origin of command is granted to Bible teachings only and that it is superior to all other things.

Jesus Christ

Both Presbyterians and Protestants believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of the true living God who died for humanity’s sins, and resurrected on the third day, and ascended to Heaven. In addition, both groups believe that Jesus Christ will return soon and will establish the Kingdom of God here on earth for His believers.


The principal doctrine of salvation in both Presbyterians and Protestants is that it is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

Holy Book

Both Presbyterians and Protestants believe in the inspiration and authority of the Bible as the main and conventional Holy Book.

Relation to Roman Catholicism

Both Presbyterians and Protestants have no formal relationship with Roman Catholicism. In addition, both conflict with Roman Catholicism on various noteworthy theological issues, such as the supremacy of the papacy, but agree on other doctrines, such as the Holy Trinity of God being God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.


Both Presbyterians and Protestants partake in the Lord’s Supper or the Holy Communion to commemorate the life and teachings of Jesus Christ as they share bread and wine.

What do Protestants think of Presbyterians?

Protestants view Presbyterians as being Christians who belong to a subdivision denomination within Protestantism with some variations in their culture, traditions, and belief systems. Presbyterians usually follow the gospel of Jesus Christ and mostly illustrate their faith through humanity and social justices like all Christians. This means that all Presbyterians are Protestants, but not all Protestants are Presbyterians. Therefore, Protestants think of Presbyterians as fellow Christians with distinct church traditions and a system of elders.

Do Presbyterians and Protestants use the same Bible?

Presbyterian vs. Protestant
Presbyterians and Protestants Bible. Image source: Pixabay

Yes, Presbyterians and Protestants use the same Bible. The Holy Bible is used in both groups as the main book of authority. The Bible can be in all versions as there are no exceptions from either group as to which version is to be utilized or not be utilized during their church services.

Which one is more popular between, Presbyterian and Protestant?

Protestantism is more popular than Presbyterianism because there are 800 million Protestant Christians in the world, whereas there are around 75 million Presbyterians globally. This renders Protestants a more popular group between the two as a reformed segment of Christianity that spread throughout the globe as a foothold that influences the social, cultural, political, and economic spheres of its followers’ lives.

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