“Have non-denominational church growth strategies had negative side effects on democratic norms and community involvement? ”
An unmistakable reality in American religion is the decline in attendance for traditional denominational churches, alongside the dramatic rise in the percentage of Americans who identify as “religious nones.” Yet, non-denominational Christianity runs counter to this narrative, with hundreds of churches being planted every year that see impressive levels of sustained growth. Despite that fact that nearly one in ten Americans identify as a non-denominational Protestant, social science has been content to lump this group into the same category as evangelical Protestants without real theoretical or statistical justification. There are reasons to believe that this movement may represent something entirely new in the Christian landscape with unintended consequences for civil society and democratic norms. Because of data limitations we do not know if these new churches are creating more racially inclusive communities. We know little about their social theologies. We suspect most are leader-driven rather than lay governed, so they may have distinctive views about religious authority. Moreover, there may be fewer opportunities to develop organizational experience. To fill these gaps in knowledge, this project will focus on an original survey of 1,000 Americans specifically constructed to understand how non-denominational church goers differ from denominational Christians.