Friday, May 16, 2008

Cooper on the "Church in an Age of Scarcity"

Jordon's got a great post on some of the realities which the church in North America will be facing soon/today in light of the end of cheap and available oil. It's a huge post (well worth the read in its entirety), but I've posted some of my favorite questions/ideas below.

When faced with higher heating costs, much higher fuel prices, and more money to go to food, will the cash go to paying the churches bills or their own bills?

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Even in a church of people committed to tithing (which Barna reminds us is a rarity), 10% of a reduced income is still less. Add on top of that rising food and fuel costs, we may have a lot less to give above and beyond.

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Will people drive at $1.50 a litre, $1.75 a litre, $2.00 a litre? ....Will the small Baptist church at the end of the street look more attractive then the regional megachurch on the outskirts of town?

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[Steve Collins] was re-imagining church interiors as public spaces again in the city, the local church as a third space, a place to work, rest, and pray and being surrounded by spiritual resources as opposed to something that was open from 10:30a to 12:30p on Sunday's.

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Of course the other alternative would be to start weaning ourselves off our addiction to church buildings.

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I don't have a problem with highly educated and well taught clergy but the process to get them to this point is expensive and this is paid for by one of three methods. 1) Rich parents 2) Marry rich (this idea was suggested to me in college) 3) Student loan debt. All three of these funding options have advantages and drawbacks but the most popular option is often student loans which tends to make hiring clergy expensive. I am not badmouthing clergy but if we stick with the current method of church leadership, the economics will need to be rethought out and since our current best idea is debt financing, I doubt there is a pile of money out there to fix the issue. Either we figure out a way to make private education a lot cheaper, we accept the fact that only wealthy churches get qualified church leadership, or we rethink ways to develop leaders.

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I think the church has a tremendous opportunity during this period of change. Of course a lot of things we think are sacred cows will be turned into black angus burgers but c'mon, it isn't as if we did that well during the age of abundance anyways. While managing to start a bunch of megachurches, we also managed to usher the church into a very long period of decline and irrelevance and that was after spending billions and billions on church growth. As we enter into a new age of global warming, scarcity, and perhaps conflict over resources, maybe the church adapt a little better this time.

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