Question: "What does it mean for a church or organization to be interdenominational?"
Answer: The terms nondenominational and interdenominational are closely linked and are often used interchangeably. The subtle difference is that the nondenominational organization refuses affiliation with any particular Christian denomination while the interdenominational organization celebrates the strengths of many denominations. Many parachurch organizations, such as mission agencies, schools, or rescue missions, are interdenominational, drawing from many different denominations for their staff, students, or volunteers.
An interdenominational church strives to incorporate different practices from various denominations. An example would be the manner in which the church observes the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23–26). A church may observe it monthly but may also have the elements available weekly in a private room for those whose conviction is to observe it every time the church meets.
An interdenominational church is an autonomous entity and does not ascribe to any denominational structure for leadership or accountability. Most strive to base their doctrines upon the non-negotiables of Christian doctrine, such as the Bible’s infallibility (John 17:17) and Jesus Christ’s being the only way to salvation (John 14:6). The goal of this type of church is to attract people who have negative associations with denominational names. An interdenominational church desires to break down denominational walls in an effort to reach the lost and the floundering who may never attend a church with a denominational name.
One of the strengths of an interdenominational church is that it is free to follow the direction of the Holy Spirit without constraints of governing bodies who may not take into account the needs of a local congregation. An interdenominational church can focus on the central issues of the gospel without becoming sidetracked by minor issues that cause division and strife. It allows for varying interpretations and traditions that do not detract from the central mission of glorifying God and reaching people (Matthew 28:19–20). As one interdenominational pastor stated, “We try to focus on the ninety percent of things that all born-again Christians agree on, and let the rest be a matter of personal conviction.”
Some weaknesses of an interdenominational church are its lack of oversight by a larger governing body and the lack of support in difficult times. Denominations can provide accountability that is often not present in interdenominational churches. However, wise pastors create boards and/or pastoral networks to which they regularly report in order to hold themselves accountable. Denominations can also come to the rescue when a local body is going through challenging times, either financially, spiritually, or morally. When a denominational pastor leaves or causes problems, denominations usually have an interim pastor ready to step in and keep the flock together while the church regroups. Interdenominational churches often do not have a strong leader in the wings, and sometimes the church folds when the pastor leaves.
Another weakness of an interdenominational church or organization is the possibility of veering from truth in an effort to incorporate everyone. Ecumenism is, by definition, interdenominational. There is the danger of trying to become all things to all people to the extent of watering down scriptural truth. Denominations usually have stated doctrinal positions, and anyone choosing a particular denomination is also choosing its beliefs and practices. Without such predetermined doctrinal statements, interdenominational churches face the possibility of deviating from orthodoxy at the whim of the leadership.
It is important to remember that the Body of Christ is interdenominational. We may choose labels for ourselves and others—and such labels have their place—but Jesus never assigned denominational tags. He said, “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away” (John 6:37). The Body of Christ is made up of “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord” (Acts 2:21), and the gospel of salvation by grace through faith unites believers, despite our differences. Heaven will forever be interdenominational, as “every nation, tribe, and tongue” (Revelation 5:9) will worship the same Lord in harmony together forever.