Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Has An Economic Earthquake Arrived?

Back in 1991, the late Larry Burkett wrote The Coming Economic Earthquake. One of his concerns was with America's very large national debt and our eventual inability to pay the interest on the debt. Right now, the official national debt stands at 9.7 trillion dollars, which includes treasury bills and bonds, but if you include promises to pay Social Security/Medicare/government pensions, the debt stands at 55 trillion. I have recently looked back at his book and found some interesting information:

Before the Great Depression:

Banks were pressured to make loans. (23)
People thought they could become wealthy by borrowing money, and loans were easy to get. (26)
Seventy percent of Americans lived in rural communities and supported the farming industry; only 20% were needed on the farms due to greater efficiency. (41).
Saving rate declined from 12% of income to less than 4%. (43)

During the Great Depression:

There was panic in the stock market, and many people wanted to sell their stocks. (24)
Many people lost their life savings, and the number of unemployed people grew. (25)
By 1932, more than 5,000 banks had closed their doors, leaving nothing for depositors. (26)
It became impossible to get a loan. (26)
People bought land, businesses, etc. for a fraction of what they were worth. (26)
Hoover did not intervene to repair the economy. There was no government bailout under Hoover. (26-27)
Forty percent of available workers were unemployed. (41)
The middle class virtually disappeared. (41)
FDR raised the status of the federal government to that of the “great provider,” and this set the stage for the next economic disaster in America. (28)

Results of Great Depression Policies:

Banks became more vulnerable to defaults by borrowers. (37)

Burkett also indicated that there are usually 60 years (plus or minus 6 years) between Great Depressions. If you add approximately 60 years to the end of World War II, you have our present time. It's a bit frightening, isn't it?

I believe that the basic cause of our present problems is greed. Remember the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12:

18 "Then he said, `This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 `And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry."' 20 "But God said to him, `You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?' 21 "So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God." (NASB)

Have we been building bigger barns that we do not need? Notice these figures from the National Association of Home Builders that show the average square footage for a new single-family home per year:

1950 – 983 square feet
1970 – 1500 square feet
1990 – 2080 square feet
2004 – 2,349 square feet

People have been buying large homes that they cannot afford, and they have defaulted on their mortgages in many cases. Why did they do such a foolish thing? Greed. I am not a fan of Karl Marx, but Burkett used a quote from Marx to make a point about how greed could destroy our country:

“A democracy is not a form of government to survive. For it will only succeed until its citizens discover they can vote themselves money from the treasury, then they will bankrupt it.” (34)

Let's pray for our country. Life as we have known it may be about to change dramatically.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Interesting News about Megachurches

An article by Cathy Lynn Grossman about declining attendance in megachurches appeared today at the USA Today website. Some quotes follow with my comments:

“After decades of soaring growth, the phenomenon of Protestant megachurches — behemoths of belief where 2,000 to 20,000 or more people attend weekend worship — may be stalled.”

I’m not sure what all the reasons are for this stall. One explanation may be that an overall downward growth trend for churches in America has caught up with the megachurches.

“Experts see more troubling concerns than slowing growth: No measurable inroads on overall church attendance and signs that many churchgoers are spectators, not driving toward a deeper faith.”

Bingo. Evangelism will not be very effective if a large percentage of our people are mere spectators who are not growing spiritually.

“ ‘The megachurch story is not really about growth, it's about shifting allegiances. People want to feel good about who they already are,’ says Philip Goff, director of the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture at Indiana University in Indianapolis. ‘If church is too challenging or not entertaining, they'll move on.’ ”

If Philip is correct, then biblical churches are not going to experience much growth. A biblical church greatly challenges its people and will not compete with the world’s entertainment standards. Plus, churches are in the transformation business. Radical transformation occurs with conversion and spiritual growth. Some churches say, “God loves you just as you are.” Churches should say, “God loves you in spite of how you are.”

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Honoring Brother Harold Griffin

This past Sunday, we gave Harold a plaque to honor him for 76 years in the ministry. He is 91 years old. It's amazing that so many people drop out of the ministry so quickly. According to the Schaeffer Institute, 80% of seminary and Bible college graduates leave the ministry in the first 5 years of their ministry. According to the Hartford Institute, in the 5 years prior to the year 2000, 75% of churches experienced some degree of conflict, and in the 2 years prior to the year 2005, 57% of churches experienced conflict. Men like Harold deserve to be honored for their endurance. I've heard it said that the pastor is like a cork in a bottle, and when the bottle is shaken in a time of conflict, the pressure is on the pastor to leave. In these days there seems to be more pressure than ever in most churches. I'm thankful that we have not yet had any conflict in our little mission church. (Click on the photo for a closer view.)