We hear of multi-million dollar – correction a multi-trillion dollar bailout both in Canada and in the United States. Wall Street received a $700 billion bailout while one Wall Street investment broker has defrauded his clients of literally billions of dollars. Car markers are being bailed out instead of letting capitalism take it natural course forcing them into bankruptcy and thus giving them an opportunity to reappear in a new and more viable form. Yet, little has been said on the news media (at least the ones I watch and read) about how this economic downturn that is now being officially called a depression (not recession) is effecting the local church. Until now, that is.
These statistics are for last November – by the Barna Group – and so are a bit old and things may be considerably worse. The title was “Economy Takes Toll on Giving to Church”. The simple statistics… One in 5 (20%) of United States households had cut back their givings
22% of Americans has stopped giving to churches and religious centers
19% cut their giving by up to 20%
17% cut their giving by half (50%)
This is fairly normal. For many – and it has been said often over the years – the Church is the last thing added to the list of monthly expenses or obligations when things are going well and the first thing to be removed when things are going poorly. They are going poorly for many.
Overseas it is much worse. In some nations that I am in touch with regularly there are no bailouts for companies – they just close their doors. The economy is not getting a kick-start by the government (which may be a good thing because it does not seem to be working). There are no social structures like Employment Insurance, welfare, low-cost housing, support for single moms and battered wives. Each man, woman and child is on their own.
Knowing what is happening elsewhere due to the world-wide economic conditions makes one less likely to complain here. And, at least for me and the church I attend, to increase what we are giving so as to be able to help those we know working for the Kingdom of God overseas in nations that being hit far harder than anything we have seen here so far.
So, this is a time to give more – not less; a time to cut back on some of the extras (yes, we really do have a lot of extras we could do without) so we can give more to those who don’t have the basics yet. We should be increasing our giving to the work of the Kingdom and to missions overseas as now is a good time to get the Gospel of Jesus Christ out there where it will be heard and seen – and this takes people and money. As others are cutting back, we who believe that God is our source and not the economy, should not be giving less – at the least we should maintain our previous level of giving and, at best, increase it as we trust God.
In the midst of this economic downturn – depression, mess, disaster – we are hoping people will be more open to hearing some Good News. We are hoping that as the god called “money” fails people and security and comfort are no longer taken for granted by many – that people will be open to hearing what Jesus has accomplished for them on the Cross of Good Friday and be being bodily raised from the dead that first Easter Sunday.