It's Time for the Church to Stop Letting Hollywood Have All the Good Lines, Says New empty tomb, inc. Book

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Church giving and membership slid between 1968 and 2017. Meanwhile, loneliness and depression increased in the U.S. The State of Church Giving through 2017 documents the giving and membership patterns, and suggests the church show a “can-do” attitude to close, in Jesus’ name, the Promise Gap. That’s the difference between the target reduction in the global Under-5 Mortality Rate promised by world leaders, and the actual U5MR. Such a positive agenda for affluence can provide hope both for the two children dying each minute in the Promise Gap, and to the church and society in the U.S. that are hungry for adventure.

As the book describes it, the Promise Gap ‘…conjures a mental image of a narrow road entering the darkness between two tall cliffs, along which small children are herded by Disease and Poverty, never to return.’

It's time for the church to stop letting Hollywood have all the good lines.

So says the 29th edition in empty tomb, inc.'s State of Church Giving series.

The new edition documents the overall slide in giving as a percent of income to churches, and in membership as a percent of U.S. population, between 1968 and 2017, the latest year with available data.

Given the religious demographic of the U.S., with 70% of the population self-identifying as "Christian," the trends describe a broad range of denominations with a Christian identity.

The first five chapters of the new book look at giving and membership patterns from various perspectives.

Chapter 7 considers giving among Americans in general. In its analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey, the authors found that Americans report 69% of their charitable contributions went to "church, religious organizations." Among the Under-25 age cohort, who gave the least, of those who gave, they reported 81% of their donations went to "church, religious organizations."

It's in chapter 6 that the focus changes from the downward trends to potential giving.

And in chapter 8, the authors explore what a "Can-Do" attitude can do. Examples from secular achievements, such as the Victoria Falls Bridge connecting Zambia and Zimbabwe, and church impact, such as changing Western culture from might is right to might for right, are presented.

In chapter 8, the book contends that the church has, in the past, been a source of hope for the culture. However, for many decades, the church has not provided leadership for people who feel the hint of eternity that God has placed in their hearts (Eccl. 3:11).

Social developments cited include an increase in deaths from despair (drugs, alcohol, and suicide), increased anger and depression, and what some experts call an epidemic of loneliness.

The new book suggests that the church recover its roots by offering a positive agenda for the affluence that otherwise will consume people. Progress charts and data regarding decreasing the Under-5 Mortality Rate (U5MR) among children are presented. The goal is summarized as closing, in Jesus' name, the Promise Gap.

The "Promise Gap" describes the difference between the target reduction in the global U5MR and the actual rate. The book proposes focusing on the 40 countries that were behind in reducing their U5MRs to target levels. The proposed goal is to help them reach their target reduction rates by 2025.

In the meantime, two children under age five who are caught in the Promise Gap die each minute from causes that experts say can be addressed. As the book describes it, the Promise Gap "…conjures a mental image of a narrow road entering the darkness between two tall cliffs, along which small children are herded by Disease and Poverty, never to return."

The church has global distribution networks, communication systems, and a mandate from the Founder. Yet, people's attitude toward the church is too often "boredom."

People are hungry for vision, the book states, noting that the five movies in the U.S. with the highest gross incomes, as of mid-2019, were all action adventure with heroes who take on fierce opponents: 1) Star Wars: The Force Awakens; 2) Avengers: Endgame; 3) Avatar; 4) Black Panther; and 5) Avengers: Infinity War.

Why, the book asks, with the True Super Hero, is the church not seen as tapping the spark of eternity in people's hearts? Why does Hollywood address the hunger for engaging the eternal spark better than the church? The book concludes:

"It's time for the church to show what the true Super Hero, with the help of faithful sidekicks, can do. It's time for the church to stop letting Hollywood have all the good lines."

The State of Church Giving through 2017: What a Can-Do Attitude in the Church+$16 Billion Can Do in Jesus' Name for the Children Dying in the Promise Gap, the 29th edition (October 2019) is available from Wipf and Stock Customer Service by phone at 541-344-1528 or orders[at]wipfandstock.com. For more information, contact empty tomb at (217) 356-9519.

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Sylvia Ronsvalle
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