I have come across these terms many times but didn’t really come to understand the difference between the two.

Is it that a non professing Christians stopped believing in Christianity or is it that they have some other view from mainstream Christianity?

  • I'm not familiar with the term "non-professing Christian". Can you share the context of where you have seen it? Aug 16, 2012 at 17:51
  • @BruceAlderman, It's quite common.
    – Pacerier
    Jun 11, 2015 at 8:02
  • @Pacerier I've still not heard the term outside of this question. And when I googled it, this question was not just the first result, but the only result on the first page that used the entire phrase "non-professing Christian." What does it mean? Jun 11, 2015 at 18:27
  • @BruceAlderman, Which country are you from? There're more than 5000 results here.
    – Pacerier
    Jun 13, 2015 at 8:19
  • @Pacerier Maybe the problem is that I searched without the quotation marks. But still, 5000 results is pretty small for Google. Compare this with "non-profit Christian" or "non-denominational Christian", both of which (with quotes) have over 300,000 results. Jun 15, 2015 at 17:09

2 Answers 2


The word professing means "to declare openly". So a "professing Christian" is one who declares their faith openly. This leads to the conclusion that the opposite of a professing Christian is one who does not announce his or her faith. They may believe and practice their Christianity in private.

Christianity Today recently divided Christians into five categories: Active, Professing, Liturgical, Private and Cultural. Page 4 of the article gives the characteristics of each type. (Not all would consider every one of those five to be true Christians).

Not all those who profess Christianity necessarily actually adhere to its beliefs. This has led some to adopt the term "professing Christians" for those who outwardly declare their belief while not actually adhering to it. There is some support for this usage in the dictionary definition given above. In that case "professing Christians" are contrasted with "true Christians", meaning those who practice their belief as well as declaring it. True Christians (in this usage) may also actually profess their faith.

  • 1
    So, it is possible to read professing as "merely professing".
    – TRiG
    Aug 15, 2012 at 15:16
  • Somewhat. It's not the normal usage. Aug 15, 2012 at 15:21
  • Non-professing might also be the cultural Christian. They call themselves Christian if asked, but don't attend any church, nor let any religion interfere with their life. Aug 15, 2012 at 21:09
  • 1
    @thursdaysgeek If they call themselves Christians, doesn't that make them professing Christians? Aug 16, 2012 at 14:34

The distinction is not between professing christians and non-professing Christians, but between professing Christians and non Christians. The idea of professing is using your mouth to say words that identify you as a Christian.

The term professing Christian is often used in contexts where the actual status of a persons faith or beliefs are in doubt. A person might claim to be a Christian in name, but if it is not a genuine confession of the heart, their life might not show any evidence of their faith being lived out. When somebodies life does not show any evidence that they actually believe what they profess, this label might apply.

Bob is a professing Christian, but you'd never know it from his behavior at work.

Confusingly, it can also have a different more positive connotation. This usage is more rare and you will have to listen to contextual clues in the conversation to know if it is used this way. Some people will use this term as a way to affirm something positive about a person's beliefs, specifically that they are open and honest about them.

Bob is such a great neighbor. He's a professing Christian and has such a caring family.

The alternative is that somebody who does not profess even to be a Christian probably does profess to be something else. Whatever they claim to be, that is their profession. A person could be a "professing Buddhist" or "professing Atheist" as well.

  • 1
    I was of the perception that there exist this term of non professing Christians, who are Christians but are not attached to any Church, Christians Groups or left the Church/Groups to which they belonged earlier and still profess their faith in Christianity as independent individuals without participating in any Church/Group services or activities. Aug 15, 2012 at 8:57
  • @JoaoRodrigues: I suppose such a usage is possible although I have never heard it used that way. In that case it would mean whatever the person saying it meant, but the term itself doesn't have a very widely understood definition. Are you sure you aren't mixing this up with the term "confessional"? There is such a thing as "non confessional".
    – Caleb
    Aug 15, 2012 at 9:57
  • 2
    I think you present a false dichotomy; surely, by the terms used in your answer, a non-professing Christian could be one who is privately Christian, but is not able to (or does not choose to) announce this. I'm not sure that makes them non-Christian. Aug 15, 2012 at 11:20
  • 2
    @MarcGravell: My point is that the usage of these terms in everyday language isn't necessarily tidy. You could argue linguistically that I drew a false dichotomy, but I tried to describe the most common real life usage. It's also worth nothing that mainstream Christianity doesn't recognize a "private Christian" in the sense of there being no verbal acknowledgement of the belief. They may not be in the fellowship of a church, they may be loners, they may not announce it to everybody they know, but if they identify as Christian when pressed for their beliefs, that makes them professing.
    – Caleb
    Aug 15, 2012 at 11:28
  • 1
    @Caleb I don't think you are using the normal sense of "professing". If someone tells precisely one person that they are a Christian, and that person never tells anyone else, does that make them a "professing Christian"? That would be far from the normal usage. Aug 15, 2012 at 15:29

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .