By Mark A. Taylor
“We in the Christian churches are radicals,” Marshall Leggett told a group gathered for the daylong Congress of Elders hosted at Central Christian Church, Carmel, Indiana, October 2. “We are radically congregationally governed.”
In his closing session message, he expounded on a long list of answers to the question, “What’s RIGHT with us?” The freedom enjoyed by independent congregations in our nondenominational family was one of them. Leggett said, “I don’t know anyone who wants to change that.”
Indeed, it would seem that churches from many different backgrounds are walking away from denominational labels, if not denominational government. A survey of Outreach magazine’s special issue devoted to America’s 100 largest and 100 fastest-growing churches underscores the trend.
Almost half, 49, of the 100 Largest Churches listed there call themselves nondenominational, and only 18 of the 100 included a denominational label in the church name (12 are Baptists).
Among the 100 Fastest-Growing Churches, 58 say they are nondenominational. Only 8 of the 100 wore a denominational label; 6 of these are Baptists.
While some congregations affiliated with our fellowship have chosen generic labels, (examples: Christ’s Church, New Hope Church, The Crossing), 7 of 10 on Outreach’s “largest” list call themselves Christian Church, and 10 of 17 on the “fastest-growing” list do the same.
(Interestingly, most congregations from our fellowship in the Outreach report designated themselves as “Nondenominational,” not “Christian Churches.” How many of our church leaders now view “Christian Church” as a denominational label?)
Leggett echoed what many church watchers have noted: denominational loyalty (like most institutional loyalties) has never been lower. For a movement like ours that from its beginning has called believers to be “Christians only,” this is good news. Never in recent history have our churches been better positioned to enjoy significant growth.
This may be why so many Christian churches are among the largest and the fastest-growing congregations in America*.
*According to Outreach only churches with weekend worship averages above 5,500 were on their largest-churches list. Last year, Christian Standard listed two congregations of that size not included on the Outreach list: Crossroads Christian Church, Corona, California, (2009 morning worship average: 7,694) and Canyon Ridge Christian Church, Las Vegas, Nevada (2009 morning worship average: 5,819).