Washington, DC, now fertile ground for nondenominational Christianity

America’s capital city is proving to be highly receptive to nondenominational evangelical churches, Daniel Silliman writes in Christianity Today magazine (July/August). Nondenominational churches have been expanding across the U.S. for years now, but the number of these congregations established in recent years has been unique. Silliman writes that although Washington has been considered a “swamp” for church planters, in recent years the city has become “fertile ground for nondenominational church growth. Between 2010 and 2020, the number of these independent congregations in DC more than doubled, from 61 to 145. And the estimated number of people attending them rapidly outpaced DC population growth. By 2020, more than 60,000 District residents were finding their way to nondenominational pews…” There are successful new denominational churches, such as the Evangelical Free Church-based Redemption Hill, and even growing nondenominational churches, such as The District Church, that acknowledge the wider traditions to which they may belong, such as Baptist or charismatic ones.

Worship service at District Church in Washington (source: District Church).

But the reason for the high rate of nondenominational church growth in the nation’s capital seems to be largely about public image and evangelism. The high rate of non-affiliation among the local population makes it easier to describe the congregation and its place in the city without reference to denominational traditions and theology. Silliman adds that the images of January 6 protestors holding “Jesus Saves” signs left a bitter taste among DC residents and left evangelical pastors having to explain how they were different. Aside from this, nondenominational churches in DC, whether conservative or progressive, have to reach out to people who work for and against different administrations and see the value of a nonpartisan approach. Silliman cites the example of The Table Church, whose pastor was influenced by the emergent movement and blends Eastern Orthodox theology, Jesuit spirituality, and work on decolonization. The pastor, Tonetta Landis-Aina, says she values the pragmatism and freedom of a nondenominational congregation “to be open and affirming and name theological diversity as accepted and allowed.”

(Christianity Today, https://www.christianitytoday.com)