The Free Online Dictionary defines denomination as:
1. A large group of religious congregations united under a common faith and name and organized under a single administrative and legal hierarchy.
2. One of a series of kinds, values, or sizes, as in a system of currency or weights
3. A name or designation, especially for a class or group.
Cash has denominations, stamps have denominations and yes, non-denominations have denominations. So many people categorize themselves as non-denominational. This label for churches has become a category in and of itself. What do they mean? It can mean a lot of different things. Maybe their church doesn’t belong to one of the mainstream, mainline denominations. Maybe they don’t like organized religion. Many non-denominations are organized. Some people call themselves non-denominational so they can remain as free agents floating around forming and absorbing a belief system as they go.
Acts 6 is an interesting chapter in the growth and maturity of the first century church. It is important to understand that the apostle Paul was not yet on the scene; at least he is not named. It is also important to note that large numbers of people had listened to the apostles; first about 3000, then 5000. People who had come in to Jerusalem for Pentecost decided to stay and see, some decided to go and tell at home.
With those who stayed and lived in Jerusalem in Acts 6, we start to see somewhat of an organizational structure developing. In the first few verses do we can detect a combination of a denomination with a little bit of a hierarchy developing and a non-denomination flavor in which autonomous people were involved in helping to make some structural decisions. A new denomination was forming or was it? Was it a new synagogue? This question is an interesting one to follow throughout the book of Acts and into the seven church epistles to see what God had in mind.
Those early disciples of Jesus Christ certainly were passionate individuals that made the choice to get together with other passionate individuals, to learn from those who had been with Jesus Christ and accept the life of a new administration where each individual had been hot-wired to God. Of course the Sadducces and the high priest were crashing in indignation all over the place. The new Christians were emboldened by the spirit of God residing in their hearts that they assertively declared all that they had seen and heard.
A new administration was taking root. Stephen in his brillant sermon in Act 7 declared:
Acts 7:48-50 Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? Hath not my hand made all these things?
The disciples had met the Messiah, some personally and some through the teachings of the apostles. The new church was to be God’s church based on the cornerstone of Jesus Christ and filled with the spirit of God. The written Word was not available like it is today. Actually some of the Word was being newly laid down and it was quite a departure from the Judean religion of that day. The church was not static and its leaders were bold, believing and growing. In the very next chapters of the book of Acts there was a ‘scattering abroad’ of the disciples to other regions of the world at that time and the conversion of Paul. Things continued to grow in a dynamic way. Looking at the big picture of Acts in its entirety, it is really hard to stick a label on what was happening.