empty tomb seeks 10 churches, $250 mil. in 2019: close promise gap, solve 'demographic cliff'

By ignoring the new reality of affluence, the church in U.S. has largely accepted the role of cultural wallpaper, resulting in downward trends

For the past 32 years, empty tomb research analysis has pointed to downward trends in church giving and membership. Now, surveys by Gallup, the University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center General Social Survey, and Pew all have found declines in church membership and/or Christian self-identification.

Recently, David Heim, retiring editor of Christian Century, referred to the downward trends, particularly in the mainline Protestant church, as a "demographic cliff."

empty tomb wants to take action to help reverse those declines. The proposal is that a vision of addressing a critical need that should not be tolerated — children under age 5 dying from preventable causes — will help the children and at the same time revitalize the church.

To reverse the declines, empty tomb is looking for two things in the closing weeks of 2019.

First, empty tomb invites 10 historically Christian congregations to apply for up to $3,000 each in a Mission Match® Matching Contribution. The $3,000 will match funds that the congregation raises for their mission project from donations received from people in the congregation. These churches will do mission projects they design to help close, in Jesus' name, the Promise Gap: the difference between the actual Under-5 Mortality Rate and the target reduction rate promised by world leaders. As a result of this gap, 1 million children under age 5 are dying each year around the world. Ten churches are invited to be in the vanguard of a congregation-based movement to close this gap.

Started in 2002, Mission Match now has narrowed its focus to projects that help close, in Jesus' name, the Promise Gap in 40 countries. The projects might provide supplies needed on the frontlines to help prevent the deaths, support workers who bring medical expertise, and/or on-site facilities.

Second, empty tomb is looking for $250 million even yet in 2019 to help jumpstart an expanded congregation-based movement in the U.S. to close the Promise Gap by 2025.

Beyond the demonstration project of 10 congregations, this $250 million will expand the effort to mobilize more congregations to stop the deaths of 1 million Promise-Gap children under age 5. People choosing to provide this money to help the dying children might have to forego setting a record for a Central Park South penthouse ($240 million) or buying a Cézanne oil painting ($250 million).

Starting in 2021, the goal is $16 billion. The annual enterprise-level budget of $16 billion total will be raised through a combination of wealthy individuals and a popular movement among $50 donors throughout the U.S., and the mission project funds raised by congregations.

The $16 billion a year that is needed starting in 2021 is less than the U.S. chocolate budget ($22 billion, 2018). And people spend more than twice that $16 billion amount (in fact, $38 billion, 2019) on self-storage units in the U.S. to stockpile all the stuff they're buying.

In 1958, Harvard economist John Kenneth Galbraith recognized growing affluence and coined the phrase "uncorrected obsolescence" to describe economic theories that did not take that affluence into account.

As a consequence of ignoring this new reality of affluence, the church has largely accepted the role of cultural wallpaper, resulting in downward trends.

Lacking a positive agenda for this affluence, fewer people identify with the church, or Christianity as a whole. A recent Pew survey found those in the U.S. who self-identify as Christian declined to 65% in 2019, compared to 77% in 2009.

Both for the sake of the children and the sake of the church in the U.S., the time to act is now.

Congregations can apply for Mission Match Matching Contributions, up to $3,000 each, at missionmatch.org for projects designed to help close, in Jesus' name, the Promise Gap.

In addition, an amount of $250 million in 2019 can provide the seed capital to launch an initiative to expand the congregation-based effort nationally.

A more detailed press release can be found at "empty tomb Seeks 10 Churches and $250 Million in 2019" press release.

The causes of death in the 40 countries are outlined in empty tomb's 29th edition in the series, The State of Church Giving through 2017: What A Can-Do Attitude in the Church+$16 Billion Can Do, in Jesus' Name, to Help the Children Dying in the Promise Gap (October 2019). The book is available from Wipf and Stock Customer Service by phone at 541-344-1528 or [email protected]. For more information, contact empty tomb at (217) 356-9519.