One Danger in Rising Nondenominational Numbers

There’s a potential danger here that needs attention: downplaying doctrine

The trend of Christians increasingly concentrating in churches that tend to place less emphasis on doctrine is, thus, worrying. But the truth is that all churches suffer from this challenge to one degree or another, especially in America. We are an anti-doctrinal people, and the numbers show that as well.

 

While denominations are shedding members, nondenominational churches are growing. “[T]oday, 6.2% of all adults (and 13% of Protestants) identify with nondenominational churches, up from 4.5% of all adults (and 9% of all Protestants) in 2007,” according to Pew’s recent Religious Landscape report.

A related trend identified a few years ago by Duke University sociologist Mark Chaves is that Christians are “increasingly concentrated in the very largest churches.” Many of these are nondenoms. In fact, “most of the top 100 largest churches in the United States are now nondenominational,” says Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research.

A number of cultural and economic factors roll into these trends, includingconsumerism. Larger churches have more resources to attract and retain members, difficult as that can be.

As an acquisitions editor with Thomas Nelson I was privileged to see the inner workings of several megachurches by their pastors and their teams. Many of these operations are organizational wonders, staffed by earnest and top-quality people. It’s impossible to walk away unimpressed.

But there’s a potential danger here that needs attention.

Downplaying doctrine

One of the things I also saw was a downplaying of doctrine. Not just doctrinal distinctives pertaining to denominational affiliation, which you would expect. But most doctrine. That is especially true for teachings that may come off as divisive, are difficult to understand, or lack a readily apparent and practical application to daily life.

I’m not the only person to notice this.

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