A report was just released from the Barna Research Group. Among other things, the new data from Barna shows, based on the most recent stats from a random sampling of more than 1,200 adult respondents across the country, that one of every five households has decreased its giving to churches or religious organizations in recent months.
What does this mean for the future trend of ministry today? Simply this.
For the compromised church, the church living large in the land of Laodicea, this trend could be the beginning of bad times. And I mean, real bad times.
Think about it, the entire modern, mega-church movement was born on the back of unbridled prosperity and rabid consumerism. Only in the land of plenty can masses be coaxed into attending a religious service (or show) where personal accountability and individual relationships are neither fostered nor encouraged. How could they be? How do you build a lasting relationship with someone you really don’t know? With someone you only meet on Sunday? Maybe?
When one group is ushered into the auditorium, like docile cattle, as another quickly exits, where is the format for building relationships, for bearing one another’s burdens, for… well, anything other than… “Here’s your playbill, enjoy the show, pay for your ticket on the way out.”
People become little more than the proverbial ships that pass in the night, totally unaware of each other’s presence. They are like commuter traffic at rush hour. All going in the same direction, they suppose, yet totally disconnected from those in the other cars. A wave, a smile, an occasional nod and relationship building is done. How sad.
Over time, they end up serving the machine, the monster, the professional troop on stage and never each other. Or the Lord, for that matter.
Odds are you won’t even sit next to the person you sat next to last week. So even the patented, “Hey, how are you? Just fine, and you? Great!” type of deep conversation cannot build from week to week.
But what happens when the casual Christian, the core base of most mega-churches, has to sacrifice in order to attend? Oh, one’s true priorities will always rise to the top. Vacations and designer jeans will win, church and non-profits will lose. After all, “Why should we give to the church? We don’t really know anybody there, do we?”
Nope. You really don’t. And that’s been OK with them, thus far.
But as giving declines, tough decisions must be made. Business decisions. Management decisions. Cuts and budget readjustments. Cost and benefit analyses. And they must be made by men who haven’t had to make tough decisions in the past and, quite honestly, are ill-equipped and ill-trained to make them.
“We’ve never had to cut back before? What are we to do?”
“We’ve always budgeted expenses, not income. I thought people would always give.”
“Whaddaya mean no Christmas bonus this year? That’s unfair. It’s not Christ-like!”
“Yada, yada, yada… whatever.”
Enough said. I’ll let you be the judge of what the future may bring.
Just think, the days of unbridled consumerism may soon be over.
I sure hope so. Don’t you?
* Just in case you were wondering, Bad Day at Black Rock is the title of a 1955 movie with Spencer Tracy and Robert Ryan. It’s a great little film. If you saw the movie, you’d understand why I chose it for the title of this post.