Is the church in recession or just on recess?

AP’s Rachel Zoll provides us with Religious life won’t be the same after downturn, the latest mass media update on how we Christian orgs are all faring amidst this recession:

  • Faith Communities Today’s David Roozen is projecting 320,000 to 350,000 congregations in economic distress in 2010. That’s around 1 in every 7.
  • The Association for Christian Schools International reports the closure or merger of 200 Christian schools, up 50 from last year.
  • 80 seminaries who are members of the Association of Theological Schools have seen their endowments drop by 20%.

My question: Was this something done to us…or something we did to ourselves?

Bishop Noel Jones, pastor of City of Refuge in Los Angeles, in MinistryToday:

We have endured 25 years of health, wealth and prosperity preaching, and the prophets should have told us that we were going to be in this kind of situation and circumstance since they have such ‘prophetic’ words. What happened is the church has capitalized the gospel and we have preached Americanism for gospel, and ultimately we ended up crashing because there is no credulity and authenticity in the whole presentation. The only people who were making any real money were those who were expostulating the theology that left the psychology that debilitated the minds of those who were involved. The debilitation is that everybody expected to bring an offering in church and just get rich though nobody participated and partnered with God. Because at the end of the day nobody receives a check in an envelope postmarked from heaven. It’s your participation that makes it happen. … The ministry and the preachers have taken so much money from the church and lived lavish lifestyles. We need to put something back. We need to equip our people. As James puts it, very explicitly, ‘Faith without works is dead.’ We co-create, we perpetuate God’s creation by functioning responsibly. So what everybody was talking about as God’s blessing was people living on credit. And the Bible says that the borrower is subject to the lender. So Christian America simply joined the capitalistic bandwagon and-in the name of God-articulated a theology that has no credulity.

Ring the bell. School’s now in session.

About Pastor Foley

The Reverend Dr. Eric Foley is CEO and Co-Founder, with his wife Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, supporting the work of persecuted Christians in North Korea and around the world and spreading their discipleship practices worldwide. He is the former International Ambassador for the International Christian Association, the global fellowship of Voice of the Martyrs sister ministries. Pastor Foley is a much sought after speaker, analyst, and project consultant on the North Korean underground church, North Korean defectors, and underground church discipleship. He and Dr. Foley oversee a far-flung staff across Asia that is working to help North Koreans and Christians everywhere grow to fullness in Christ. He earned the Doctor of Management at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland, Ohio.
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4 Responses to Is the church in recession or just on recess?

  1. Matt Bates says:

    I always appreciate the provocative curriculum, but in this case, color me unconvinced, Professor Foley!

    Here’s why:
    1. Jones’ opening gambit “we have endured 25 years” is a sweeping universality that I’m not sure I agree with.
    2. The lack of historicity is troubling. The American church went from healthy to sick in 25 years? And nothing from the previous 2,000 years is relevant to our situation now?
    3. Jones conveniently diagnoses the problem in such a way that uniquely places him to hold the cure. “The problem is bad preaching, and as a good preacher, have I got the cure for you.” Doesn’t this make you suspicious? “The ailments and illnesses of this community are entirely attributable to tired blood! Step right up folks for your bottle of ‘Jones’s Tired Blood Elixir’!”
    4. He equates spiritual health with financial well-being in a way that contradicts the main thrust his argument. Christian schools are closing, seminary endowments are down, therefore, he suggests, we have been unfaithful. He’s using “American capitalistic” metrics of success/failure as evidence of a spiritual problem he blames on the American capitalism.
    5. Blaming America and capitalism is a populist message in the current culture. He’s not really taking a risky prophetic stance here is he?
    6. His general perspective of a top-down view of church (the problem is with the leadership) mirrors a corporate model, where what really matters is what happens in the Board room, and is highly debatable. Reception theory suggests that the rest of us in the pews, for better or worse, have more agency than he credits us for.

    Other than that, I completely agree!

  2. EFoley says:

    Batesy, I don’t actually take tremendous exception to your comments. I found the quote from Jones interesting and helpful in that it underscores the principles of equipping and participation, two TG hallmarks.

    I don’t read him to say that spiritual health and financial well-being are interchangeable in the way you’ve suggested, though I’m certainly open to the possibility that your reading may be more accurate than my own. What I note in the scriptures is that God does seem to have this habit of making sure human beings have some skin in the game when it comes to miracles, whether that be five loaves and two fish, throwing the net on the other side of the boat, or baking a loaf of bread for a prophet.

    But more than anything, I just have to ask: “sweeping universality”??? I’m not sure I’m aware of any other kind of universality, come to think of it… 🙂

  3. Matt Bates says:

    Mopping universalities.

  4. Pingback: Big time blow for TG: Pennsylvania governor approves bake sale crutch for churches « Transformational Giving

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