NEWS PROVIDED BY
empty tomb, inc.
April 19, 2023
CHAMPAIGN, Ill., April 19, 2023 /Standard Newswire/ -- As church membership and giving trend downward in the U.S., Mission Match offers a tool for churches to counter the trends.
Contents summary of this press release:
- Church member giving as a percent of income and membership as a percent of population trends begun in the early 1960s continued downward through 2020.
- Theologians and preachers reflecting on the church did not prevent the downward trends:
• Bernard Iddings Bell (1942 quotes from The Atlantic provided)
• John Wesley (1789 quote provided)
• Karl Barth (1963 TIME magazine quote provided)|
• Others listed
- empty tomb's Mission Match is designed as a tool to help reduce, in Jesus' name, the rate of under-age-five child deaths in 40 countries, while hoping to reverse the downward trends among church members.
The 32nd edition in empty tomb's The State of Church Giving series finds membership and giving trends continued through 2020, the first year of the COVID pandemic. However, these trends began long before 2020. Although various church theologians have reflected on the condition of the church in the U.S., a strong downturn has been evident in church support since the 1960s.
As far back as 1942, Bernard Iddings Bell asked in The Atlantic, "Will the Christian Church Survive?" Bell, labeled on a cover of a 1944 TIME magazine, America's "brilliant maverick," had a degree from the University of Chicago, served as president of St. Stephens' College (now Bard College) while he also served as head of Columbia University's philosophy department, and lectured at Harvard, Oxford, Yale, Columbia, Chicago and Princeton, as well as many of the cathedrals in England.1
In the 1942 article, Bell identified general trends in the church which became broadly visible in the 1960s, according to empty tomb research.
Among Bell's comments in The Atlantic in 1942:
"... the Church was more and more regarded as a polite confraternity of occasional pious individuals, which had little or no social function except to lend a tone of respectability to a culture secularistic, man-centered, man-devised."
"Without a complete rediscovery of its own function, the Church is hardly likely to matter any more tomorrow than it mattered yesterday, or than it matters at the moment, which is just about not at all."
"... Christians have been too willing to come to terms with, and even to flatter, an essentially godless world."
"The function of the Church is, with complete conviction of the divine inevitability of what Christ reveals about life, to resist all lesser, carnal interpretations of life — resist them in love but with firmness and consistency, convinced that thus it may persuade natural man, turn him to the right-about, save him from conceit and folly and cupidity and from the destruction these engender."
"... the great mass of Christian people remain complacent, unaware both that the position of the Church in contemporary society is humiliating and that the cause of that humiliation is their own timid compromise with a secularism inconsistent with tenets the holding and advancement of which are the Church's chief reason for being. It is their ineffective protest which has brought the Church into its present disrepute. For the world at large their failure has been little short of tragic. For years that world has been hearing and heeding the assured and strident cries of the hawkers of pottage, while the trumpets of God have sounded faith, obscure, confused." 2
Bell wrote some two hundred years after the Industrial Revolution began to spread affluence in broader and broader circles throughout many societies.
On the other hand, in 1789, John Wesley, preached the following just a few decades after the revolutionary and far-reaching introduction of the steam engine, and two years before his death in 1791:
Of the three rules which are laid down on this head, in the sermon on "The Mammon of Unrighteousness," you may find many that observe the First rule, namely, "Gain all you can." You may find a few that observe the Second, "Save all you can." But how many have you found that observe the Third rule, "Give all you can?" Have you reason to believe, that five hundred of these are to be found among fifty thousand Methodists? And yet nothing can be more plain, than that all who observe the two first rules without the third, will be twofold more the children of hell than ever they were before.3
The mid-twentieth century was benefited by theologians trying to make sense of the world impacted by the change produced by common affluence. Reinhold Niebuhr, H. Richard Niebuhr, Karl Barth ("... take your Bible and take your newspaper, and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible"4), Martin Buber, and Paul Tillich also worked to explain the interaction of the church with the changing world.
On a more individual level, Billy Graham continued the crusades model with remarkable effect in the new television era, recording many decisions for Christ, preaching his last crusade in 2005.
Yet the trends in the decline in giving as a percent of income to the church, and membership as a percent of U.S. population, that began in the early 1960s have continued almost uninterrupted through 2020.
What is to be done?
empty tomb's Mission Match is working to develop a movement to counter the world's selfie preoccupation through a counter-demonstration of love. Mission Match is based on the idea that the church ought to be promoting Jesus' core values, including loving the neighbor as oneself. One part of that is to declare a core and defining conviction: No child under age five should die anywhere in the world from a treatable cause.
This year, over 1 million children will die because they lack access to simple treatments.
The church must declare, "This will not be, because Jesus loves the little children of the world."
The church in the U.S. continues to have one of the best distribution networks in the world, but that structure is underutilized.
Christians have incomes that allow them, along with the rest of the U.S., to spend an average of $144.90 on chocolate5 (a total of $48 billion) a year. The 2021 $430.9 billion soft drink revenue in the U.S.6 works out to $1,297 per person. Meanwhile in 2020, the average gift to a church was $959 in 2020, the latest year available.
With an estimated $16 billion more a year needed to help, in Jesus' name, make treatments available for little children, there's no question that church people in the U.S. have the resources to make an impact on these child deaths.
empty tomb's Mission Match is focused on 40 countries that were behind the goals for reducing the rates of child deaths as of 2015.
At this early stage, Mission Match is working to develop a model that can be expanded to impact these reduction rates.
Congregations can apply for matching contributions from $500 to $3,000, in $500 increments, for the new or expanded medical mission projects. Projects might include, for example, providing a portable ultrasound machine, helping to train midwives who will go into rural areas, or rebuilding a maternity clinic in a country ravaged by civil war.
The list of 40 countries is available at missionmatch.org on the 40 Countries page.
A church can find the application process at missionmatch.org on the Church Application page.
The first step to convince a world that it is wrong to disrespect the church is not to complain to the world. The first step is to act on Jesus' agenda for loving a hurting world.
1 "Bernard Iddings Bell"; Wikipedia; n.d.; <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernard_Iddings_Bell>; p. 1 of 2/8/2023 1:39 PM printout.
2 Bernard Iddings Bell; "Will the Christian Church Survive?"; The Atlantic; October 1942; <https://theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1942/10/will-the-christian-church-survive/306720/?utm_source=msn>; pp. 3, 4, 13 of 2/5/2023 2:35 PM printout.
3 John Wesley; "Causes of the Inefficacy of Christianity"; Wesley's Sermons – Sermon 116; <http://www.godrules.net/library/wsermons/wsermons116.htm>; p. 4 of 10/29/2019, 10:28 AM printout.
4 "Barth in Retirement"; TIME; 5/31/1963; <https://content.time.com/time/subscriber/article/0,33009,896838,00.html>; p. 1 of 4/18/2023 9:11 AM.
5 "31 Current Chocolate Statistics (Market Data 2023)"; Dame Cacao; 2023; <https://damecacao.com/chocolate-statistics/#9>; p. 2, 29 of 4/17/2023, 9:23 AM printout.
6 Chris Kolmar; "15+ U.S. Beverage Industry Statistics : Refreshing Trends, facts, and Stats"; Zippia; 3/6/2023; <https://www.zippia.com/advice/us-beverage-industry-statistics/>; pp. 1, 2 of 4/17/2023 9:33 AM printout.
SOURCE empty tomb, inc.
CONTACT: Sylvia Ronsvalle, 217-356-9519, firstname.lastname@example.org