Why, when traditionally organized religious groups are seeing declining membership and participation, are networks of independent churches growing so explosively? Drawing on in-depth interviews with leaders and participants, The Rise of Network Christianity explains the social forces behind the fastest-growing form of Christianity in the U.S., which Brad Christerson and Richard Flory have labeled "Independent Network Charismatic." This form of Christianity emphasizes aggressive engagement with the supernatural-including healing, direct prophecies from God, engaging in "spiritual warfare" against demonic spirits--and social transformation. Christerson and Flory argue that macro-level social changes since the 1970s, including globalization and the digital revolution, have given competitive advantages to religious groups organized as networks rather than traditionally organized congregations and denominations.
Network forms of governance allow for experimentation with controversial supernatural practices, innovative finances and marketing, and a highly participatory, unorthodox, and experiential faith, which is attractive in today's unstable religious marketplace. Christerson and Flory hypothesize that as more religious groups imitate this type of governance, religious belief and practice will become more experimental, more orientated around practice than theology, more shaped by the individual religious "consumer," and authority will become more highly concentrated in the hands of individuals rather than institutions. Network Christianity, they argue, is the future of Christianity in America.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Brad Christerson is Professor of Sociology at Biola University.
Richard Flory is senior Director of Research and Evaluation at the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at the University of Southern California.
"This is an important book because it illustrates very well what some sociologists have argued for some time: globalization does not mean the end of religion but rather globalization introduces new forms including networked religion."
- Michael Wilkinson, Pneuma
"This book is an important introduction to a form of Christianity you've likely never heard of - but need to And while the publication date of this book (March 2017) limited the opportunity to draw parallels with Trumpism, the volume offers insights into a religious mindset and posture that could partly explain the rise of a populism eagerly awaiting a strongman savior."
- James K. A. Smith, Los Angeles Review of Books
"Well-researched and well-executed...Christerson and Flory have offered us a valuable piece of the overall puzzle depicting changes in the organization of Christianity."
- Christopher P. Scheitle, Sociology of Religion
"The authors' aims are clearly defined and unpacked throughout the book. They substantiate their claim that [Independent Network Charismatic] Christianity is a rapidly growing sub-group in neo-Charismatic Christianity and argue that it will influence mainstream Christian practices in years to come. Their discussion of networks in the religious economy is useful in understanding the influence of INC Christianity in the changing religious landscape of America."
- Shaun Joynt, Reading Religion