Bad times draw crowds

The New York Times reports this morning a fact that churches across the country already know: bad times draw crowds into church--especially evangelical churches:

The sudden crush of worshipers packing the small evangelical Shelter Rock Church in Manhasset, N.Y. — a Long Island hamlet of yacht clubs and hedge fund managers — forced the pastor to set up an overflow room with closed-circuit TV and 100 folding chairs, which have been filled for six Sundays straight.

In Seattle, the Mars Hill Church, one of the fastest-growing evangelical churches in the country, grew to 7,000 members this fall, up 1,000 in a year. At the Life Christian Church in West Orange, N.J., prayer requests have doubled — almost all of them aimed at getting or keeping jobs.

Like evangelical churches around the country, the three churches have enjoyed steady growth over the last decade. But since September, pastors nationwide say they have seen such a burst of new interest that they find themselves contending with powerful conflicting emotions — deep empathy and quiet excitement — as they re-encounter an old piece of religious lore:

Bad times are good for evangelical churches.

. . .

A recent spot check of some large Roman Catholic parishes and mainline Protestant churches around the nation indicated attendance increases there, too. But they were nowhere near as striking as those reported by congregations describing themselves as evangelical, a term generally applied to churches that stress the literal authority of Scripture and the importance of personal conversion, or being “born again.”

Read it all here.

Comments (4)

NYT - "an old piece of religious lore: Bad times are good for evangelical churches."

As the NYT goes on to write, it's not just lore -- the macroeconomist David Beckworth has examined the effect empirically. Evangelical growth jumps 50% in recessions. If you're interested in learning more details you can follow up, here:
http://macromarketmusings.blogspot.com/2008/12/religiosity-and-business-cycle-in-new.html

Evangelical Churches: "Hey, 'merka! You've tried all those other money-making schemes---now, try the Prosperity Gospel!"

[Yeah, a bit of a stereotype, but...]

JC Fisher

JC Fisher,

Yeah, stereotypes are easier to laugh at. While TEC is losing two average dioceses a year in ASA (not counting the people who left Quincy, San Joaquin, Pittsburg, and Ft. Worth), it is much easier to poke fun at other people and play stereotypes than doing the hard work of trying to figure out why we are losing members so rapidly.

There is a strong correlation between living a moral life and financial prosperity. In fact, you can read the entire book of Judges and see that happen. It is often said of the Quakers that they went to California to do good and ended up doing well.

In any crisis, many people are drawn to God because they realize that they can't do it by themselves.

Instead of poking fun at the "properity gospel" (which I agree is a pervsion and a heresy), we should be reaching out peopel with the Good News that God's love doesn't depend on financial, emotional, material, or any other type of success.

YBIC,
Phil Snyder

stereotypes are easier to laugh at

So are numbers games, apparently, Phil.

Now, since we agree

the "properity gospel" (which I agree is a pervsion and a heresy), we should be reaching out peopel with the Good News that God's love doesn't depend on financial, emotional, material, or any other type of success.

let's just work for what (or Whom) unites us?

JC Fisher

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