While working on an unrelated research project, I recently came across some data published by the Hartford Institute of Religion Research. Though the information was five years old, it still seemed highly relevant today. In essence, the data showed that non-denominational churches are now the second largest Protestant group in America. Only the Southern Baptist Convention is larger.
Here are some of the fascinating nuggets from that study:
- There are more than 12 million people who affiliate with non-denominational churches.
- The research found at least 35,000 non-denominational churches in America.
- Non-denominational churches are in 88% of the counties in the United States.
- Non-denominational churches are one of the top five largest religious groups in 48 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
In light of the growth of these churches, I conducted an informal Twitter poll and asked why people are moving to non-denominational congregations from churches affiliated with denominations. Here are the top eight responses in order. There is obvious overlap in some of the responses.
- Denominational churches have a negative reputation. Some respondents used the phrase “negative brand” to communicate this reason.
- Denominations are known more for what they are against than what they are for.
- There is too much infighting and politics in denominations.
- The denominational churches are too liberal. From what I can tell from these respondents, they are current and former members of mainline churches.
- There is a general waning of institutional loyalty in institutions such as denominations.
- Denominations have inefficient systems and organizations. They are too bureaucratic.
- Some of the respondents could see no perceived benefit to belonging to denominations.
- Denominations are not good stewards of their financial resources.
Click here for more.
Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Prior to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism. He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.