The new empty tomb edition poses a critical question for church leaders
What do denominational leaders want to do with $368 billion more a year?
That, empty tomb, inc.'s new book suggests, is a critical issue before the church in the U.S.
Unless church leaders use their imaginations, the multi-decade negative trends, in church giving as a percent of income and membership as a percent of population, will not be reversed.
The new book, The State of Church Giving through 2016, is the 28th in the annual series from empty tomb, inc., to be released October 15, 2018.
The first seven chapters explore giving and membership trends in the U.S.
As a percent of income, per member giving to churches declined by 28% between 1968 and 2016, the latest year for which data is available.
Also, a group of 33 communions, including some of the fastest growing denominations and the Roman Catholic Church, declined from 45% of the U.S. population in 1968 to 34% in 2016. With 96% of the variance accounted for in the 48-year data set, this group would represent 23% of the U.S. population by the end of this century. And, if they are in the same position as the proverbial frog in the pot of slowly boiling water, these communions could be 14% by the end of the next century.
Yet sources cited in the new book indicate that about 50% of the U.S. population still claims membership in Christian denominations, and about 70% still identifies as Christian.
Therefore, the authors propose, the potential for positive action is great, and at the same time a sense of purpose for the church in the U.S. can be fostered.
Chapter 8 discusses the implications of the data presented in the first seven chapters. As church giving and membership display downward trends, the authors cite sources describing additional trends in society as a whole. These include, among others, a decline in the percent of households donating to charity, addictions to opioids and social media, and an increased tendency to consider suicide among young people.
The book contends that church leadership has not provided a positive agenda for the affluence consuming American society. One critically urgent agenda highlighted in the new book is helping, in Jesus' name, to end the selective genocide of children under five who are dying around the globe. This selective genocide is a function of the children's locations, and the economics of their parents. These children are dying from conditions that are preventable in other parts of the globe at costs that are minimal. Tables that list 14 causes of death for these children in 40 countries are included. Although the church in the U.S. has links to a broad network of servant representatives on the front lines, not enough help is being sent to impact these deaths. By increasing assistance through their networks, churches could help reduce the death rate of these little children to target levels set by world leaders, saving an estimated 3,000 children a day.
The new book presents numbers that establish the potential for increased giving among those who identify as Christian in the U.S. For example, an analysis of remittances from the U.S. found that foreign-born people sent $116.8 billion internationally in 2016. If native-born church members in the U.S. had supported international ministries at the same level, there would have been an additional $368 billion sent globally through church channels. Given that an additional $5 billion a year is an estimated amount needed to reduce the under-5 mortality rate to target levels set by world leaders, the potential for good among church people is great.
Church leaders, the new book contends, need to move beyond a preoccupation with maintenance of their institutions. Their responsibility is to feed those who identify as Christians with a vision large enough to engage their imaginations.
Therefore, a key question that will help determine the future of the church in the U.S. is: What do denominational leaders want to do with $368 billion more a year?
The empty tomb book, authored by John and Sylvia Ronsvalle, retails at $40, and is available through Wipf and Stock Customer Service by phone at 541-344-1528 or [email protected]. The book is scheduled to be available through amazon.com.