Here you will find a list of religious perspectives and their descriptions. To view the organizations that identify with the term, click on the term title.
Note, however, that no individual, ministry, or church fits perfectly into these neat little boxes. There are always nuances of interpretations and relationships that impact what people are really like, so take these descriptions as they are: broad generalities.
Churches that practice liturgical worship follow a liturgy or a well-structured order of specific elements each time they gather in worship. Some common liturgical elements are these: communal prayer, scripture reading according to a denominational calendar, moments of verbal confessions, passing the peace, eucharist, music, homily, and the recognition of the church year.
Traditional Worship churches use the styles of music that have persisted for the majority of Christian history. The songs are usually classic hymns or songs written in the same style as classic hymns, and the instrumentation is usually with a piano, organ, or even a symphonic band.
Contemporary Worship (also called Modern Worship) churches employ the use of modern instruments and song styles in their worship gatherings. Classic Christian hymns may be sung but usually with updated styling.
Blended Worship churches attempt to employ both the Traditional Worship style and the Contemporary Worship style in the same worship gathering or from gathering to gathering while keeping the two styles distinct from each other. Hymns still sound like hymns, and contemporary songs still sound like contemporary songs.
Instrumental churches freely make use of musical instruments in their worship gatherings.
Non-instrumental churches disallow the use of musical instruments in worship music relying solely on the a cappella singing of the congregation in music.
Psalms Only churches restrict their worship singing to the songs actually contained in the Bible.
Egalitarian churches support full equality of men and women at all areas of church ministry and leadership.
Complementarian churches like egalitarian churches support the equality of men and women throughout society; however, they take literally the passages in the New Testament which indicate that men and women were created to complement each other in special ways specifically in home and church life. Most complementarian churches will have places of leadership open to both men and women but also reserve some areas of leadership (such as pastor or elder) for men only.
LGBT Open churches are those churches which freely allow people to participate in the life of the church regardless of sexual orientation or practice. However, they do not condone the LGBT lifestyle.
LGBT Affirming churches are those churches which freely allow people to fully participate in the life of the church regardless of sexual orientation or practice. Furthermore, they fully affirm the sexual expression of those who identify as LGBT.
(By using the term Catholic Church we are referring to the Roman Catholic Church.) The Catholic Church teaches that it is the full expression of the true church founded by Jesus Christ, that its bishops are the successors of Christ's apostles, and that the Pope is the sole successor to Saint Peter who has apostolic primacy. The Catholic Church maintains that the doctrine on faith and morals that it presents as definitive is infallible.
The character of this branch of protestant Christianity is captured well by several historic slogans: emphasis on “scripture alone” as the only authority for life and faith, on “grace alone” as the only hope for salvation , on “faith alone” as the only necessary condition of man toward salvation, on “Christ alone” as the only mediator between God and man, on “glory to God alone” as the supreme reason for everything we do. Reformed churches believe God is sovereign over every part and aspect of created reality, from politics to geology. Therefore, Reformed churches proclaim the need for the Kingdom of God to influence all areas of life. That is why Reformed churches frequently also establish Christian schools.
Mainline Protestant churches are churches that trace their heritage to one of the key original North American denominations (American Baptist, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist). However, there are many Baptists, Presbyterians, etc. that would not consider themselves mainline. The distinguishing factor is that Mainline Protestant churches generally do not identify with the evangelical, fundamentalist, or charismatic movements of 19th and 20th century North America, and are generally socially progressive or even liberal.
There are a large number of denominational groups that would not consider themselves mainline protestant. Evangelical Covenant, Evangelical Presbyterian, Southern Baptist, and Evangelical Free are just a small selection of this larger group. Each denomination in this group operates with its own unique perspective, so this is simply a catch-all term for churches and ministries that are connected primarily to one denomination but don't fit in the Catholic or Mainline camps.
Non-denominational churches are not free of all church associations. In fact, some non-denominational churches maintain strong relationships with church networks such as "Acts 29" or "Converge." However, non-denominational churches are generally free participants in their networks, able to leave at any time for any reason. They are free from the direct control or influence of their group. In this sense, most "Christian" Churches and "Baptist" Churches among others can be considered non-denominational, but because of the strength of their networks (e.g. Southern Baptists, Acts 29), the use of the term non-denominational might be disingenuous. Those churches might prefer to use the term "Inter-denominational" or "Free" to refer to themselves.
Inter-denominational or "Free" churches generally use the term either because they voluntarily maintain multiple affiliations to multiple church networks or because they are part of a network of churches that is strong enough to be considered a denomination but that doesn't actually operate with the authority of a denomination.
Churches in the Restoration Movement usually refer to themselves simply as "Church of Christ" or "Disciples of Christ" or "Christian Church" and frequently use the term "non-denominational" as a defining characteristic.
Largely Supports the Doctrinal Statement of the National Association of Evangelicals:
- We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.
- We believe that there is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
- We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and in His personal return in power and glory.
- We believe that for the salvation of lost and sinful people, regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential.
- We believe in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit by whose indwelling the Christian is enabled to live a godly life.
- We believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost; they that are saved unto the resurrection of life and they that are lost unto the resurrection of damnation.
- We believe in the spiritual unity of believers in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Also largely supports the key approach of Evangelicals:
- Conversionism: the belief that lives need to be transformed through a "born-again" experience and a life long process of following Jesus.
- Activism: the expression and demonstration of the gospel in missionary and social reform efforts
- Biblicism: a high regard for and obedience to the Bible as the ultimate authority
- Crucicentrism: a stress on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross as making possible the redemption of humanity
Fundamentalist churches uphold the following doctrines they consider to be "fundamental":
- The inerrancy of the Bible
- The literal nature of the Biblical accounts, especially regarding Christ's miracles and the Creation account in Genesis
- The Virgin Birth of Christ
- The bodily resurrection and physical return of Christ
- The substitutionary atonement of Christ on the cross
However, many who support these points would now use the term "evangelical" to refer to themselves. Those who continue to use the term Fundamental generally also uphold the following convictions:
- Dispensational understanding of scripture
- Christian separation from the world
- Political and social conservatism
Liberal churches generally use this term to communicate that they are convinced that the Word of God is to be taken as our guide for life, but that it must be understood and applied in light of the ancient context and the modern context. Specifically, liberal churches do not feel the text of scripture is always to be taken literally or even be applied directly; rather, the scripture is to give us general, overall guidance for life.
Baptistic churches affirm baptism only for people who have made a conscious decision to follow the teachings of Christ and know what they are doing by being baptized. These churches generally consider infant baptism to be a misnomer that should more properly be called "dedication" or "christening." Baptistic churches do not perform, and do not recognize infant baptism as Christian baptism. Additionally, most baptistic churches would also uphold full immersion in water as the proper (or at least preferred) method of baptism.
Covenantal churches believe that being part of God's family is something that can be partially passed along from parent to child. These churches encourage infant baptism to be followed up by eventual confirmation when children are old enough to make the faith their own.
Churches that follow the cessationist perspective believe that the "sign gifts" of the Holy Spirit identified in the New Testament (speaking in tongues, interpreting tongues, immediate healing, words of knowledge, prophetic utterances, and perhaps discernment) are no longer active today. These churches believe that the sign gifts were specifically for the time period before the completion of the New Testament and then "ceased" operating once the New Testament was completed.
Charismatic Churches generally believe that the gifts of the Holy Spirit described in the New Testament are all still active today. Specifically for charismatics, this includes the gifts of speaking in tongues, healing, words of knowledge, and prophecy. Charismatics will freely exercise these gifts in many different church contexts, praying in tongues during a worship gathering, holding special services of healing for people in the congregation, etc, and this behavior is largely similar to the pentecostals; however, charismatics believe generally that these "sign gifts" are a privilege for believers but not necessarily expected of believers. Some believers have them and some don't. Some churches may exercise them all the time and others only rarely. Many evangelical churches may share this last belief, but charismatic churches would encourage both private and public expressions of these gifts.
Pentecostal Churches generally believe, like the charismatics, that all the gifts of the Holy Spirit described in the New Testament including speaking in tongues, healing, words of knowledge, and prophecy are active today. However, unlike charismatics, some who identify as pentecostal believe that speaking in tongues is the primary evidence of the Holy Spirit's presence in a person's life. A person who doesn't have any evidence of the Holy Spirit may not be a true Christian. As a result, pentecostals may place a greater emphasis on the exercise of these gifts in their gatherings.
The LDS Church (or the Mormons) teaches that Joseph Smith was God's true prophet to recover the true church of Jesus Christ on earth after the other churches had adopted various forms of apostasy. Mormons uphold the teaching of both the Bible and the Book of Mormon as well as the teachings of Joseph Smith and his successors.
Expositional Teaching refers to a method of biblical instruction that aims to communicate the original intent of the author of a passage of scripture as a whole unit of thought. The expositional teacher might use stories and illustrations, and the expositional teacher might go "deep" into textual details, but the primary intent of an expositional lesson is to help the hearers learn the overall intent of a passage and how to apply it.
Topical Teaching refers to a method of biblical instruction that aims to communicate what the scripture teaches on specific topics. Frequently, the topics will be practical issues like raising children, managing money, or handling frustrations, but they may also be theological issues like understanding heaven, understanding salvation, or understanding the nature of God. Topical is not necessarily more or less biblical.
Verse-by-Verse Teaching refers to a method of biblical instruction that aims to address every relevant issue brought up by every individual verse in a passage of scripture. The verse-by-verse teacher might use stories and illustrations, but the primary intent of the verse-by-verse teacher is to help the hearers learn everything God intends them to know from a passage of scripture.
KJV stands for the King James Version of the Bible. KJV churches support the King James Version as the only valid English translation of the Bible.