What Is A Denomination?

By Greg Gwin

How do you define a religious “denomination”?  We use the term frequently, but we seldom stop to really consider what it means.  Think about it this way…

1 – A denomination is something bigger than a single, local congregation.  Typically, a denomination consists of many smaller local groups that are scattered over a large geographical area.   Many are nation-wide, and some of the best known denominations are world-wide in scope.  So, a religious denomination is an organization that is obviously larger than a local church.

2 – Now then, ask someone who is a member of a popular denomination this question:  Do you think that all “Christians” are members of your particular denomination?  His answer will be (with a few exceptions) “No!”.  Clearly then, most denominationalists believe that their denomination is smaller than the sum of all “Christians” in the world.  This “sum total of all Christians” is what we normally refer to as the “universal” church.

If these overvations are accurate, then we have a strong argument against denominationalism – BY DEFINITION!  A denomination is bigger than a local church, but smaller than the universal church–and the Bible never depicts such a thing.  It never describes an organizational unit of the church which is larger than a local congregation.  The local church is organized with elders, deacons, and saints (Philippians 1:1).  Furthermore, beyond the local congregation, it never denotes any association of Christians that is smaller than the universal church.  The universal church’s only organizatioin is in the headship of Christ (Colossians 1:18).  The Scriptures do not define any worldly structure for the universal church.

Therefore, we must conclude that religious denominations have no place in God’s plan.

About the Author