Postdenominational Christianity and the Coronavirus: Religious Field and Innovation in Mexico and the United States

    Receipt: July 18, 2020

    Acceptance: March 4, 2021


    Postdenominational Christianity has considerable changes in the styles of worship and in the organizational congregational structure, transforming the way in which their devotees relate to their beliefs, with the world around them and the way in which they experience Christianity. This article presents examples of Postdenominational Churches in Mexico and the United States in the context of social distancing as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 pandemic. Using these examples, we observe the innovation in the religious field that Postdenominational Churches represent and how they not only have online resources, but in certain cases, they are what we call semi-virtual Churches.

    Keywords: , , ,

    postdenominational christianity and the coronavirus: religious field and innovation in mexico and the united states

    Postdenominational Christianity has considerable changes in the styles of worship and in the organizational congregational structure, transforming the way in which their devotees relate to their beliefs, with the world around them and the way in which they experience Christianity. This article presents examples of Postdenominational Churches in Mexico and the United States in the context of social distancing as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 pandemic. Using these examples, we observe the innovation in the religious field that Postdenominational Churches represent and how they not only have online resources, but in certain cases, they are what we call semi-virtual Churches.

    Keywords: Emerging Christianity, Coronavirus, Postdenominational Churches, Religious innovation, Mexico, United States.

    To say that the coronavirus forever changed the lives of individuals and communities is no exaggeration; from the world's largest institutional and corporate conglomerates to the simplest domestic units, the daily dynamics of much of the population had to change as a result of the pandemic caused by the coronavirus. sarscorv-2: the need to maintain a healthy distance to reduce contagion triggered a social isolation never seen before in the 20th century. xxiThis situation not only negatively impacted the psychological state of people, but also the financial situation of many businesses (Torales, O'Higgins, Castaldelli-Maia and Ventriglio, 2020). While some well-known multinational brands have had to declare bankruptcy, such as Hertz, JCPenney or True Religion Apparel, a myriad of small and medium-sized businesses have had to close for good, leaving millions of families across the world without a steady income (Fernandes, 2020). Temples and places of worship and religious congregation were no exception; in the United States alone, in July 2020 there were already approximately 650 confirmed cases that ended up impacting an even larger number in the face of attempts to resist the isolation measures (Conger, Healy and Tompkins, 2020). In Mexico, the Undersecretary of Democratic Development, Social Participation and Religious Affairs indicated, since June 15, the procedure to follow to reopen places of worship in accordance with the rules of the new normality; thus, several congregations began to resume operations in a staggered manner and according to the traffic light established by the government of the Republic (Subsecretaría de Desarrollo Democrático, Participación Social y Asuntos Religiosos, 2020). This pandemic brought to the center of the debate not only the issue of the digitalization of everyday life but also, as the months of confinement progressed and social restrictions tightened, the issue of governmental reach into people's private lives and its interference in limiting individual freedoms such as freedom of worship and assembly. In this context, some companies and many other institutions were more prepared for the transition that occurred in remote interactions as a result of the virus; in the same vein, the religious field was affected due to the intrinsic face-to-face nature of religious congregations, which led different churches to cancel, limit or, in the best of cases, digitize the offer of their salvation goods; While a large part of the Judeo-Christian spectrum was affected by the coronavirus (Gatti, 2020), a series of evangelical-pentecostal, neo-pentecostal groupings, previously disposed by their immersion in the infrastructure of the spectacular nature of some mega-churches, as well as other congregations of a religious nature, have been affected by the coronavirus (Gatti, 2020), as well as other smaller post-denominational congregations, but at the technological and cultural forefront, managed to resist the social and economic blow of isolation due not only to their digital possibilities, but also to their capacity for innovation in the offer and execution of their religious services.

    Other authors have already dealt with the changes brought about by the pandemic in the field of religion (Betim et al.(Medellín, 2020), both on how the social sciences seek to work in this context, as Virginia García Acosta in personal communication with Renée de la Torre (2020), and how the "virtualization" of religious services in a wide range of churches of different denominations has been a fundamental point in the religious experience of people in the pandemic context (Medellín, 2020). In this article we take up the cases of four post-denominational churches in Mexico and the United States, which proved to be better prepared for the changes derived from this global catastrophe in terms of their structure and their way of doing things, beyond having a presence in social networks or having infrastructure for the virtualization of religious activities; relatively common elements in most religious and civil institutions in the wake of the pandemic. The selection of these churches was due to two reasons: 1) The origin of the type of postdenominationalism practiced by the chosen Mexican congregations was in Southern California; the U.S. church addressed in this article is particularly emblematic and influential for the cross-border region, and fully impacts in terms of philosophy and structure the postdenominational churches in Tijuana and Ensenada; 2) The Mexican congregations chosen are emblematic cases of postdenominational Christianity throughout the country, and in turn were influenced by postdenominational trends in Southern California (Ibarra, 2019). The ethnographic data in this article are derived from two investigations conducted between 2016 and 2020 in the Tijuana-San Diego-Los Angeles region and in the metropolitan area of Guadalajara, Jalisco; this is coupled with a series of data obtained during the pandemic of covid-19 in 2020 by observing the groups of the targeted churches on the main digital platforms: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram, as well as remote interviews with some key informants, including leaders, pastors and members.

    We decided to focus on post-denominational congregations because, unlike other denominations with robust media infrastructure, such as the mega-churches of the Assemblies of God or the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, which use this type of resources as an auxiliary in their evangelization process, the post-denominational churches addressed in this article emerge and grow within the digital and cannot be understood if this component is removed, as it is an integral part of their religious and cultural identity.

    What is post-denominational Christianity?

    Mexico has been a secular country since 1857 and the Law of Religious Associations and Public Worship of 1992 meant an opportunity to increase the visibility of the country's religious diversity, such that in 2020 there were already slightly more than 7,000 congregations of various denominations (De la Torre, Gutiérrez and Hernández, 2020). It should be mentioned that the Evangelical-Pentecostal universe is not monolithic and after several revivals during two centuries (Bastian, 2013; Cox, 2009; Creech, 1996; Dow, 2005; Ramírez, 2015; Robeck, 2017), this type of congregations managed to gain a foothold among the socially and economically vulnerable population, mainly due to their ability to provide support networks and sense of belonging (Garrard-Burnett and Stoll, 1993). With the increase in migratory flows, the network of Evangelical-Pentecostal influence increased in the country, thanks to the establishment of translocal and cross-border communities among the communities of origin, transit and destination; this is one of the reasons why the northern states and the southern states of the country have the largest concentration of Evangelical-Pentecostal Christians (Hernández and O'Connor, 2013; Odgers and Ruiz, 2009; Ramírez, 2003; Stephen, 2007). The drug problem also fueled the growth of Evangelical-Pentecostal groups in the region, as a large part of the rehabilitation centers are run by them (Odgers and Olivas, 2018). These elements are paramount to conceive the emergence and expansion of postdenominationalism in the country, since the first churches of this type appeared in southern California, taking advantage of the multiethnic and hyperdiversified composition of that state, which in addition to becoming the largest recipient of Mexican and Central American migrants also represented a bastion of progressive policies compared to other places in the United States; Taking advantage of these elements, the Jesus Movement, the Vineyard Christian Fellowship and Calvary Chapel laid the groundwork for making concessions in the traditionally conservative positions of Evangelical-Pentecostal groups, with the aim of appealing to young people in California during the 1970s (Ibarra, 2019; Shibley, 1996).

    As will be seen below, the most important postdenominational congregation in the southwestern United States is mosaiclocated in the city of Los Angeles; this church began reconfiguration processes in the 1990s and during the first years of the new century. xxiwhich allowed it to take advantage of the ethnic, social and cultural diversity of young people in Southern California (Marti, 2009); in the 2010s it entered a period of audiovisual renovation, taking advantage of the rise of digital platforms and the intersection between religion and culture. pop. This congregation ended up influencing two churches in northwestern Mexico: Ancla, in Tijuana, and Horizonte, in Ensenada, and a church in the center of the country, Más Vida, in Guadalajara (Ibarra, 2019; Gomes, 2020).

    Although non-denominationalism has been used to refer to Evangelical-Pentecostal churches that do not belong to established organizations, such as the Assemblies of God (Anderson, 2004), post-denominationalism breaks with this dynamic despite its closeness to these types of churches. Although there is no consensus on the definition of what a postdenominational church is, communities of this type assume that no Christian congregation possesses the absolute truth about the correct interpretation of the Gospel; instead of an attitude of confrontation with other confessions, postdenominationalism recognizes that all congregations of Christianity possess fragments of the true message of God (Deverell, 2005). Miller understands as postdenominational Christianity that which manifests considerable changes in its worship styles and in the organizational structure of its congregation, which transforms not only the way of experiencing Christianity, but also the way in which its followers relate to their beliefs and to the world around them (Miller, 1998). It is important to consider that post-denominational Christianity is not a movement, but a trend that urges religious groups to demonstrate a theological and cultural openness to other ways of understanding salvation (Placentra Johnston, 2012). This posture allows them greater freedom not only when interacting with other people and other congregations, but also greater room for maneuver in relation to modernization processes in worship, praise and evangelism. In practice, post-denominational churches are composed entirely of seekers (seekers) who used to be part of evangelical, Pentecostal, neo-Pentecostal or non-denominational groups, who were not satisfied with the offer of salvation and the internal dynamics of such congregations (Ibarra, 2019).

    Two fundamental elements that have taken root in the post-denominational churches studied have to do with non-discrimination of any kind and sensitization to difference (Strauss and Howe, 2000). In particular, there are four elements that mark the discourse of these congregations: the differentiation between core beliefs and secondary beliefsand the belief in the existence of a state of maturity in faith and take care not to be stumbling block for other people. The fundamental beliefs refer to the basic message of Christian salvation: the sacrifice of Jesus who took away the sin of all humanity and saved it by divine grace (Kimball, 2003). Secondary beliefs are the matters of form that each church has in its interpretation of the word of God (Ibarra, 2019): just as Pentecostals believe in the gifts of the Spirit, or Jehovah's Witnesses reject blood transfusions, the post-denominational churches addressed in this article think that Christians should regain dominion over the profane world, since it is a divine creation that has been feared for centuries (Ibarra, 2019). The idea about maturity in faith refers to the freedom of profane actions and activities that a person will be able to perform depending on how secure they are in their personal relationship with God; this element allows certain people who follow these churches to adopt liberal positions around issues and activities that a more conservative Christian would not be able to. In order to limit the degree of freedom that this perspective offers, the idea of not being a stumbling block describes the care that mature people in the faith must take so as not to affect third parties who may be having a struggle or a problem with elements of the secular world. Thus, the operationalization of maturity in faith is observed when people are confronted with ambiguous situations in traditionally Christian terms.

    Likewise, in the post-denominational groupings there is no debate with the forms, neither in the musical aspect, nor with the question of appearances or dress codes; neither have they had problems to keep their young people nor do they have conflict to integrate and make use of technological advances in communication (Ibarra, 2019), which prepared them to face the changes in interaction that derived from the restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. To demonstrate this assertion, the cases of four congregations and how they have adapted to the pandemic situation affecting the entire world will be presented.

    COVID-19 and post-denominational Christianity in the U.S.

    The most representative case of a post-denominational church that influences the other congregations of the emerging Christian movement in the world is mosaiclocated in the city of Los Angeles, California. Although mosaic has congregations in different parts of the state of California and two in Latin America, in Mexico City and Ecuador, its compound on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is the main headquarters and from where its senior pastor, Erwin McManus, preaches. Of Salvadoran origin, McManus began his ministry in a Baptist organization and, once he managed to assume the position of senior pastor in the 1990s, he began to propose changes with the intention of creating an inclusive church for ethnic minorities in California, using an approach of openness to what other Protestant and Evangelical-Pentecostal churches consider part of the profane world, making use of the artistic and cultural elements that characterized the people he intended to reach (Ibarra, 2019). By the first decade of the first century xxiIn the event, close to two thousand people from more than sixty ethnic-national backgrounds gathered at the mosaic. At its seven locations in the United States, about five thousand people attended weekly until before the quarantine caused by the covid-19 (Marti, 2009).

    mosaicas well as the congregations located in Mexico that will be addressed below, operate under the principles that Ganiel and Marti described when speaking of a deconstructed church: they are anti-institutional, transgress traditional ecclesial and theological boundaries, favor young leadership, value experimentation and creativity, and create neutral religious spaces that avoid resembling a traditional Christian temple (Marti and Ganiel, 2014). It is also important to mention that these collectives are headed and directed by. millennials, a generation that, culturally, has been identified by its tendency to abandon ideologies considered too moralistic, conservative, hypocritical or even too political (Ibarra, 2019; Marty and Ganiel, 2014). An important point to mention is that, even though these congregations are not focused on a public lgbtias are the so-called "churches for diversity" (Bárcenas, 2014), their openness to a varied public, in all its meanings, makes them frequented by people who may feel attacked or out of place in more traditional congregations.

    When the pandemic of covid-As a result, the different local and national governments were forced to close places of recreation and congregation in order to avoid an increase in contagion and death, most of the worship centers in Mexico and the United States suffered large drops in attendance. Although some congregations were able to gradually overcome the impossibility of meeting physically, adapting their resources to a more on-linechurches such as mosaic were prepared to offer their salvation goods without any problem, regardless of the distance. The reason for this greater adaptability has nothing to do, however, with the technical capacity and infrastructure already in place; after all, there are large Pentecostal and Neo-Pentecostal organizations that, despite having the resources and means to continue to operate at a distance, their engagement with their congregants has not been particularly strong (Bryson, Andres and Davies, 2020); thus, Assemblies of God megachurches barely manage to gather a couple of hundred people, likes and shares in their liturgical broadcasts, numbers that are a far cry from their weekly face-to-face attendance of five to ten thousand people, depending on the congregation. A multidimensional analysis to explain this discrepancy may indicate elements of class, ethnicity, age and gender, but the simplest indicator to address has to do with the generational issue, and the proportion in which "the generational", redundancy aside, determines the levels of engagement and presence on-line of the congregations.

    It is important to clarify that when we speak of the generational aspect we are not referring exclusively to the age aspect: to speak of the generational aspect we are not referring exclusively to the age aspect. millennials does not include all persons born between 1982 and 1996. Lo millennial is a sociocultural construct based on certain types of cultural consumption and certain types of behaviors and preferences in Western urban centers (Rouse and Ross, 2018; Winograd and Hais, 2011). Thus, a millennial integrates on a daily basis the use of digital networks and the use of communication and design technologies, as well as a varying degree of artistic and social skills, either formally or through self-learning. These types of people are the ones who make up the body of leaders and pastors of the churches mentioned in this article.

    Before the covid-19, mosaic in Los Angeles had an average weekly attendance of five thousand people, distributed among the three services offered on Sundays. As a result of the social distancing policies caused by the virus, mosaic temporarily closed its doors but continued, and increased, the offering of its religious services through its website and other platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. Currently, remote services are offered on Saturdays and Sundays, seven times a day and in three languages: English, Spanish and Portuguese. According to one of the leaders of mosaic we were able to interview from a distance, the transition to digital was not something new for the congregation:

    I'd be lying if I told you everything went smoothly, the truth is that we were already used to live streaming events through most social apps; what I personally feared was that our audience numbers would plummet once we went fully into lockdown; luckily, we have some of the most amazing people in the world and every time we live stream our services, the combined numbers between Facebook, YouTube and Instagram are pretty close to the five thousand people that usually come on Sundays; on top of that, there are an increasing number of visitors from other Latin American countries (K. Anderson, personal communication, June 20, 2020).1

    The fact that most of its attendees continue to interact through the different digital platforms tells us not only of a greater capacity for involvement based on the access they have to these networks, but also of an interest in continuing to frequent a community that transcends the religious aspect. In addition to this, mosaic has also been involved in the cultural-historical debates that have been in the eye of the storm at the time of this writing, following the murder of George Floyd, a person of African descent, by a police officer in the city of Minneapolis. mosaic has functioned as a platform for its pastors and members to speak out against racism and discrimination against different minorities in the United States, all from its digital platforms.

    covid-19 and postdenominational christianity in mexico

    The post-denominational churches in Mexico that were chosen for this article are part of a network of mutual collaboration that can occur in several ways: their pastors or leaders are friends; their pastors or leaders were fellow students in leadership schools, either within the country or in the United States. In northwestern Mexico there are two important cases: Anchor in Tijuana and Horizonte in Ensenada, both in the state of Baja California, but with branches in other cities such as San Diego, California, Monterrey and Mexico City. Although these churches come from a different historical background, the collaboration and doctrinal similarities between them ended up positioning them as two of the referents of post-denominational Christianity and the emerging Christian movement in Mexico (Ibarra, 2019). Both are relatively young congregations, no more than ten years old, and both are led by young pastors with a vision in agreement with the social and cultural dynamics of the generation millennialboth are inclusive churches in terms of diversity and sexual identities, with an identical stance regarding the interaction between the sacred and profane fields in the world; both Anchor and Horizon have a team of leaders and collaborators immersed in the dynamics of digital platforms, as well as the expertise necessary to take advantage of the benefits they offer. 

    Anchor and Horizon

    Ancla was founded in 2015 in the city of Tijuana and, before the quarantine, its main venue offered four services on Sundays, at the following times: 10:30 am, 12:30 pm, 2:30 pm and 6:00 pm. Until 2019, the congregation had approximately five thousand members, which caused that, given the small size of the main venue compared to the evangelical-pentecostal megachurches, every available schedule is crowded. As already mentioned, the freedom to interact with the world that is supported by the differentiation between fundamental and secondary beliefs and the maturity in faith make for a relaxed atmosphere within this congregation compared to other Christian churches, which is attractive to the younger generations; an important part of the effort to achieve this type of atmosphere has to do with the work of the Anchor media team, consisting of young people between the ages of twenty and thirty who have formal or informal education in the areas of marketinggraphic design and visual arts. Even in pre-pandemic times, the streaming of services and social events was part of the offer of this church, although its spectators were mainly people who could not attend personally due to the social distancing because of the covid-19; however, the bulk of the congregation took advantage of the existing infrastructure to continue meeting at a distance:

    It's funny, we had to adjust to the quarantine, but the truth is that we simply continue working as we had been doing, except without the face-to-face component ... yes there have been drastic and severe changes in our day-to-day, and I speak for myself, but not in the way we do church (M. Lopez, personal communication, June 28, 2020).

    Horizonte, unlike Ancla, has a longer historical trajectory, since it was founded in 1993, although with a different name and as part of the ministries of Calvary Chapel, one of the largest evangelical organizations in the United States. With the generational transition that occurs in the leadership of this community, the current senior pastor ends up establishing changes that lead the community not only to change its name, but also to renew itself and adopt a post-denominational approach, typical of the emerging Christian movement. Like Ancla, Horizonte surrounds itself with young talent and bets on visual arts and inclusiveness, which ends up positioning it as one of the most important references in Mexico for the emerging Christian movement (Ibarra, 2019). Thanks to the infrastructure and personnel capabilities, Horizonte also makes an almost imperceptible transition to the distance modality, a product of the pandemic, a situation that positions it at an advantage over other congregations that have had to invest in equipment and training for the effective use of digital platforms.


    Más Vida is headquartered in the city of Morelia, in the Mexican state of Michoacán. This church has 36 years of history and in the last ten years has acquired post-denominational characteristics and an organization similar to that of a company with massive reach and market logic. It is led by Pastor Andres Spyker and is presented in Mexico as an example to follow among post-denominational churches and the emerging Christian movement, not to mention that it is connected and in constant joint action with other churches in Latin America that have a similar level of outreach, communication strategies, doctrine and relevance in their respective countries. This church emerged 36 years ago as Vida Abundante in Morelia, with Andrés' father as founding pastor and general leader; from the change of leadership from father to son, the church acquired a new style, organization and proportion (Gomes, 2020).

    Más Vida has cultural influences pop globalized and with a level of organization centered on technology. Since its origins, long before the health contingency, the usual logistics of the church was that the senior pastor together with the media team recorded the preaching in a meeting on Saturdays and then broadcast it on Sundays of each week on the screens present in the different headquarters of Más Vida and in its social networks. With the health contingency, the change was that now the recording of the preaching began to happen without an audience and to be transmitted only through the church's social networks. The discursive production in these preaching sessions resembles that of a session of stand up comedysimilar to those that proliferate on Netflix or YouTube, with certain elements of coaching. Since before the pandemic, and as with the churches mentioned above, the integration of social networks in the daily activities of Más Vida is one of the key characteristics to understand the success of this congregation among the younger generations (Gomes, 2020).

    For example, in mid-March 2020, Pastor Andres Spyker announced through his Twitter account the cessation of face-to-face activities and the adoption of a 100% strategy. on-line to prevent the spread of the virus. In this regard, Más Vida, as well as Ancla and mosaicis a church that acts on the basis of modern communication strategies, not only in terms of a virtualization of the religious service, but also with the aim of generating trends in line with the cultural, media and aesthetic expectations of its parishioners; this includes not only creating certain types of  hashtags or titles that encompass an entire position or stance on a given subject, such as the use of the hashtag 1TP3Online meetings to give instructions to church members without having to resort to large press releases, as would be the case with less integrated institutions in the church. workflow  of digital media, but also in the creation of a visual style in line with the urban stylistic trends of the millennials. It is not for nothing that this type of congregation boasts of lookbooksThe latter example is not directly related to the management of the pandemic, but it does show a clear difference between this type of church and the rest of the evangelical-pentecostal congregations that, although they do not have to deal directly with the pandemic, it does show a clear difference between this type of church and the rest of the evangelical-pentecostal congregations. Although this last example is not directly related to the management of the pandemic, it does show a clear difference between this type of churches and the rest of the evangelical-pentecostal congregations that, although they have modern audiovisual resources, lack an aesthetic-cultural integration around young people. millennials.

    Taking this into account, the planning of meetings in Más Vida goes through a completely secular process, in which the same leaders and media directors, all part of the same generation, mold a product and a pleasant and satisfactory experience for their attendees, which they can reproduce at the same level in different places and contexts without losing the essence or the basic component of salvation (Gomes, 2020). It is from these types of minds and meetings that strategies such as those used by mosaic regarding implementing "churches" in bars and other non-traditional spaces (Ibarra, 2019). This is achieved, in part, by the integration of digital technologies, the diverse platforms on-line and a expertise and knowhow around visual and acoustic productions, in sync with the generational expectations of their audiences; elements that, while used prior to the pandemic, facilitated the transition of Más Vida and other post-denominational churches during the quarantine. The goal of replicating the same form in multiple locations, without losing the essence of the meetings, is achieved in Más Vida, Ancla and mosaic in the same way that Starbucks manages to sell the same product in different environments and contexts with the same "Starbucks".look & feel"This includes working with the five senses of the people. This is an element of utmost importance that separates this type of congregations from the rest of the evangelical-Pentecostal churches of denominational and non-denominational cut, as well as from those large neo-Pentecostal megachurches with thousands of pesos in resources but without a generational core of creatives capable of innovating not only in the way the Gospel is transmitted, but also in the ways of deconstructing the divine message (Ibarra, 2019).

    Among the actions that Más Vida generated to convey calm to its members during this period was the creation of a media strategy led with the hashtag of #MasVidaEnCasa, which, having positioned itself as the trending topic among some youth circles in Guadalajara, facilitated the coordination and integration of various strategies aimed at encouraging the fact that the quarantine time would be a time to grow, to be connected with others and to enjoy the online activities of Más Vida. In this sense, the hashtag accompanied not only the dissemination of images, memes and short videos on how to cope with the situation, but also important information regarding the meetings on-lineThese meetings are scheduled for Saturdays at 18:00 and 20:00, and Sundays at 09:00, 11:00, 13:00, 18:00 and 20:00. The meetings for infants, entitled Vida Kidswere conceived as a 15-minute segment in each of the above-mentioned time slots. In addition to this, online classes were offered on Mondays at 18:00 and a daily prayer meeting broadcast from 06:00 to 23:00. The youth meetings, known as prismThe meetings were scheduled every Friday at 19:00, as well as a prayer meeting on Wednesdays at 18:00.

    Another aspect of the strategies implemented in times of covid was the creation of the "Love does not stop" campaign, focused on the elderly, which had the purpose of offering support to people who might need help to buy food, basic products and medicines, or for those who needed prayers or simply virtual companionship. Another important campaign was "Generosity does not stop", encouraging church members, in addition to helping with donations in kind and through actions, to also be willing to "continue being faithful" through their tithes and offerings, by means of digital payments in the site Web of the church. This is a very important point in the sense of establishing a separation with respect to other Evangelical-Pentecostal and Neo-Pentecostal congregations: the tithe tribute, both in Más Vida as well as in Ancla y mosaicThe church has a very particular characteristic among its followers, since they are willing to pay this percentage not only because it is a divine mandate established in the Scriptures, but also because they feel satisfied to be part of a community where they not only satisfy their spiritual needs, but also their recreational, social and leisure needs. It is in this sense that post-denominational churches tend to see themselves as "communities" of individuals with common interests, rather than as purely religious organizations.

    Regarding the pandemic situation, we can see that Más Vida, Ancla y mosaicand many other post-denominational churches, not only had an advantage in terms of infrastructure over other Evangelical-Pentecostal congregations, or even over the social, economic and political power of the Catholic Church, but they also possessed the expertise to take advantage of digital platforms and new creative audiovisual strategies in a more efficient and natural way, a situation that left them better positioned to face the changes derived from the pandemic of covid-19, even when there are Evangelical-Pentecostal and Neo-Pentecostal churches that, in terms of membership and gross revenues, have been able to deploy their technological and IT infrastructure to make up for the lack of face-to-face meetings (Campbell, 2020; Serrão and Chaves, 2020).

    The biggest change from quarantine has to do with the sensory. More Life, Anchor and mosaic are churches that are characterized by creating "atmospheres" in their meetings from auditory, visual, olfactory and even tactile sensations. We can see an example of this in an instagram post from Más Vida Guadalajara, where they use the strategy of remembering and emphasizing what their members do not have when participating in a digital way, such as the lobby of the church, the terrace, the desserts, the entrance, the bathroom mirror, coffee served in the church, the tejuino and the potatoes they sell outside. Doing this creates an aggrandizement of materialities that members do not have access to due to the situation, which highlights the tools of sensory forms that these types of churches use (Meyer, 2018).

    Social action has been another of the lines of action in which Más Vida has worked in the context of this world crisis: through the institutional project church set out to launch the campaign Love does not stopwith the objective of supporting 5,000 families with a food pantry every month in each of the cities where they have a headquarters, and more than 15,000 food pantries were delivered between May and July 2020. In the Guadalajara headquarters, for example, more than 350 kg. of food were delivered in one week to families in vulnerable situations, according to the information presented in their social networks. The idea that the members of this church are a family that should help each other, and the principle of generosity that is always worked in these churches, were the foundations to create this type of campaign. Another key point was to constantly remind the members of their participation in the achievements of the institution, especially the philanthropic ones, and that none of this would be possible without them.


    As we have argued thus far, the global context of the coronavirus caused dramatic changes in the way religious communities practice their religiosity and how religious institutions seek strategies to present themselves in this context to their faithful. In general, neither religious nor civil institutions were fully prepared to live under the terms presented by the global pandemic. However, within this group we present the example of three churches in Mexico and the United States that, because they had certain infrastructural and, above all, generational characteristics, were better prepared to continue their activities, even with the challenge of "healthy distance".

    Anchor, More Life and mosaicThe postdenominational churches have the competitive advantage of being able to experiment with Christianity in a different way from other Evangelical-Pentecostal churches, especially in relation to a more sensorial style of worship and a more sensory audience. millennial immersed in a culture pop globalized (Ibarra, 2019). This could lead us to think that being a group that practices a more sensory religiosity, it would have then encountered more, and not less difficulties to carry out its activities and offer its salvation goods; however, the reality is different. The churches discussed in this article are also characterized by integrating an organizational configuration similar to that of an entrepreneurial enterprise, a startup, with a strong use of networks and digital technologies, as well as an extensive use of the latest fashionable trends in visual and acoustic design. This means that even before the global pandemic context, the churches in question already possessed modality resources. on-line and already had, in addition, a engagement in social networks, organized and maintained by community managers designated as if it were a brand.

    Both Ancla and Más Vida and mosaicalready had the streaming of the church's services and events as part of its basic repertoire. And just like other congregations in the Evangelical-Pentecostal, Neo-Pentecostal and Catholic universe, most of the spectators were people who could not physically attend the ceremony in person. The added value of this type of service in post-denominational churches has to do with the priority and type of use given to digital networks, whose objective is for these platforms to accompany and enhance the overall experience of belonging to such communities. Thus, with the social distancing brought about by covid-19, congregations that already had such practices and infrastructure did not suffer as much in adapting to the context of the covid-19 as well as others. The presence of these churches in social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, with community managers competent and trained in the administration of communities on-linealready made a big difference before the covid-19. It is important, however, to emphasize that the ease of deploying an offer of salvation through digital networks is not, in itself, the key element that differentiates these congregations from others; the difference lies in how they are on-line.

    Christianity in the American continent is historically known for looking to the media as a way to make its message massive; in its time it was the printing press, then radio, then television and more recently the internet (Bowler, 2018; Rocha, 2017). With this in mind, churches such as Anchor, Horizonte, Más Vida, and mosaic do not seek to have radio programs that those who are not their followers do not want to listen to, but they seek to present themselves in such a way that anyone would be interested in listening to them, even those who are not of their confession. To achieve this, they use secular influences in their musical and discursive productions (Gomes, 2020). This characteristic is added in the context of covid-19, in which the presentation on-line of these churches is not something boring for the spectators, not something rushed or poorly done, but quite the opposite: it is something professional, planned and done so that people can have a satisfactory interaction and that leads them to connect with the transcendental in a non-face-to-face way.

    Despite the fact that, at least in the United States, only 30% of citizens attended their respective religious ceremonies virtually, and 18% of adults worshipped virtually for the first time (Cooperman, 2020), the race to find the most effective ways to capture the attention of different social and generational groups will shape the dynamics of the religious field and markets; Nevertheless, there will continue to be a clear competitive advantage for post-denominational churches because of the structural makeup of their work teams and their liberal philosophy of interpreting Scripture and interacting with the secular world. Thus, the way of being on-line of these churches is what separates them from the rest of the Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, Pentecostal and Neo-Pentecostal congregations: it is not simply a matter of having a presence on the web or in the smartphones of people; in 2020 it is an indispensable minimum for any organized religion in the main cities of the planet. The plus, the added value that post-denominational churches add to the religious field has to do with a sensory innovation carried out by small teams of creatives, no more than five or six people, with a deep understanding of the needs of their generation and with an action plan based on the creation and management of content to meet the expectations and needs of their peers. Taking this into consideration, it is not surprising to witness a higher level of participation and engagement among the users and followers of these types of congregations, even under the social restrictions imposed by the pandemic of covid-19. Once the contingency is over, a more detailed evaluation of the forms of action and their consequences can be made. To conclude, it is important to mention that there is another series of elements worth analyzing with respect to the post-denominational churches that, although they are material for another article, it is important to mention them: unlike other types of congregations where there is a theological exegesis to explain and justify the appearance of the pandemic in different terms, the preaching in the post-denominational churches did not vary much. By this we mean that, despite the inevitable mention of the contingency, most of the time it was done in terms of asking about the state of health of the people affected, whether they were members or people close to them. There were, however, no attempts at divine justification for conceiving of the illness of the covid-19 as a kind of scourge or punishment to humanity, for the simple fact that for the churches studied, the profane world is also part of the divine creation and God does not punish in terms of enjoying the world, but he does command his children to reappropriate everything that was abandoned for fear of contaminating the plane of the sacred (Ibarra, 2019).


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    Carlos Samuel Ibarra is an anthropologist trained at the Escuela Nacional de Antropología e Historia-Unidad Chihuahua (2006-2010), has a master's degree in social anthropology from the Escuela de Antropología e Historia del Norte de México (2013-2015) and a PhD in cultural studies from the Colegio de la Frontera Norte. His doctoral dissertation addresses emerging Christian movements and processes of religious deconstruction in the northern border of Mexico.

    Edson Fernando Gomes holds a master's degree in Science and Culture Communication from the iteso (2018-2020) and a graduate in Social Sciences from the University of Brasilia (2013-2017), his research interests encompass contemporary forms of Christianity, contemporary Protestant Christianity, organizational communication and the use of communication strategies in religious institutions.

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    EncartesVol. 6, No. 12, September 2023-February 2024, is an open access digital academic journal published biannually by the Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social, Calle Juárez, No. 87, Col. Tlalpan, C. P. 14000, México, D. F., Apdo. Postal 22-048, Tel. 54 87 35 70, Fax 56 55 55 76, El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, A. C.., Carretera Escénica Tijuana-Ensenada km 18.5, San Antonio del Mar, No. 22560, Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, Tel. +52 (664) 631 6344, Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Occidente, A.C., Periférico Sur Manuel Gómez Morin, No. 8585, Tlaquepaque, Jalisco, Tel. (33) 3669 3434, and El Colegio de San Luis, A. C., Parque de Macul, No. 155, Fracc. Colinas del Parque, San Luis Potosi, Mexico, Tel. (444) 811 01 01. Contact: Director of the journal: Ángela Renée de la Torre Castellanos. Hosted at Responsible for the last update of this issue: Arthur Temporal Ventura. Date last modified: September 21, 2023.