Mar. 1, 2021
LA MIRADA, CALIF. — Brad Christerson, Biola University professor of sociology, recently released the new book The Rise of Network Christianity: How Independent Leaders are Changing the Religious Landscape and made national news.
The book, published by Oxford University Press, focuses on Christian groups led by independent leaders that are increasing in size in comparison to the many denominations that have decreased in participation in recent years.
“I'm interested in the Christian groups that are growing now, at a time when a lot of churches and denominations are losing members,” said Christerson. “Pentecostal/Charismatic Christianity is the fastest growing Christian movement in the United States and the world.”
Christerson co-authored The Rise of Network Christianity with Richard Flory, senior director of research and evaluation for USC’s Center for Religion and Civic Culture. Christerson was involved in the Pentecostal/Charismatic research initiative at USC's Center for Religion and Civic Culture, a Templeton Foundation funded project, to find out why the Pentecostal/Charismatic Christianity movement is growing so fast. The book is based on some of the team’s findings.
“We found that the fastest growth in the U.S. is among what we call ‘Independent Network Charismatic’ (INC) groups,” said Christerson. “Based on our research, we believe that INC Christianity is significantly changing the religious landscape in America. It is likely to influence the way people practice the Christian faith in the future."
INC groups involve independent Charismatic leaders who are organized by networks instead of official denominations. According to Christerson, in this network form of governance there is no institutionalized oversight so these leaders can experiment with extreme supernatural experiences and unorthodox beliefs.
“This is attractive, particularly to young people, who want a direct encounter with the supernatural and a faith that they think can change the world,” said Christerson.
Examples of INC groups would include Bethel in Redding, Calif., International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City, and Harvest International Ministries (HIM) in Pasadena, Calif.
The Rise of Network Christianity: How Independent Leaders are Changing the Religious Landscape is available for purchase on Amazon.
Christerson is a professor of sociology at Biola University. He has written extensively in the areas of religion, race, ethnicity, and globalization. He has also authored Growing Up in America: The Power of Race in the Lives of Teens (Stanford University Press, 2010) and Against All Odds: The Struggle of Racial Integration in Religious Organizations (2005, New York University Press).
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