The fastest growing Christian movement in the United States aims to bring the rule of God to earth, CRCC fellow Brad Christerson told BBC World Service in a radio documentary on “INC Christianity.” INC Christianity is the term he and CRCC’s Senior Director of Research and Evaluation Richard Flory coined in their book on the movement. In The Rise of Network Christianity: How Independent Leaders are Changing the Religious Landscape, Christerson and Flory identify this movement as “Independent, Network, Charismatic” Christianity. As Christerson explains in the BBC documentary:
It’s a loose coalition of leaders, who often refer to themselves as apostles and who are very popular and known for being able to work miracles, to access supernatural powers, to heal people, to get divine revelation from God directly, and to cast out evil spirits. They have power that people think can trickle down to them, so they’ll put on conference or ministry schools where people want to be around of them.
The documentary includes audio from conferences and videos, as well as interviews with participants. While religious affiliation is falling in the United States, the charismatic leaders are attracting many young people to their events. Christerson explains why:
I think people are really hungering for the super natural, that direct connection with the divine. And particularly young people. When you’re young, you want meaning in your life. You’re searching for meaning, you’re looking for adventure, you’re looking for excitement, and these groups offer that in ways that traditional organizations can’t. You’re not going to church and listening to a sermon necessarily, or being encouraged to go to a Bible study. They’re out healing people; they’re out getting revelations from God. The way that they pitch it also is that they’re involved in a cosmic battle between good and evil to transform the world.
Christerson also discusses how this movement has exerted influence politically, backing politicians such as Donald Trump, Rick Perry and Sarah Palin and making them more popular among Christians. “It’s a trickle down Christianity, they put Christians at the top of the different sectors of the society and that’s the way that society is transformed,” he says.
The structure is unlike evangelical Christianity in that it does not focus on building organizations, Christerson says, likening INC Christianity to Apple, which focuses on innovation and outsources its production, as opposed to giant companies that do it all, like IBM. “You have people who are innovative people in accessing the supernatural, creating these ideas and putting these ideas out there, but they are not building organizations to do the daily work of congregation building.”
The documentary also covers the importance of the internet to the spread of this movement, and Christerson’s thoughts on its future, along with the thoughts of one of the movement’s leaders.