These days, I look around me where I am, and I find a reasonable number of churches, but it’s hard to find a healthy one that shows signs of spiritual growth. The main story here is not the history of Christian conferences and events (shoot … there’s not even a stadium within 200 miles that could support a major Promise Keepers event … and no stadium to support the planned college baseball team, either, but that’s a story for another time).
The curiosity for me is the historical development of populations. I’m no sociologist or demographer. How is it that certain cities and regions burgeon, while others fade away or stagnate? And why do some churches grow and multiply numerically, while others struggle to keep doors open and bills paid? (This begs the question of why churches own property to begin with.)
The MLB Commissioner’s Office has no counterpart, thankfully, in churches I’m directly associated with–no headquarters exists to meddle and make extra-biblical policy. Yet (oh, man–I think I’m about to speak counter to my nondenominational heart) the oversight of, for instance, the United Methodist Church hierarchy could be one reason there’s a Methodist church building in every little down around here. There seems to have been a plan to perpetuate a network and serve communities, almost regardless of size and population.
As long as the rich get richer, the poor will probably stay poor. Dallas and Nashville and Atlanta churches will keep getting bigger until a) there’s a leadership scandal or b) Jesus returns; and rural congregations will, as a rule, stay poor.
One would have to study a while to figure out why major metropolitan areas such as Baltimore and Houston have such pathetic baseball records. By rights, their economies should be able to support superstar salaries that spawn stellar records. Sometimes, mismanagement and bad luck may play a part in poor performance. This happens in churches, too!
The Yankees and Phillies don’t deserve any more superstars, and the Bible Belt churches probably don’t deserve special favors, either. Hey, do I sound like a political liberal? I do struggle with capitalism a bit … on the one hand, it seems to me that those who work hard and make good business decisions should have be able to reap a few rewards, but on the other hand, I’m disgusted by the idea of the super-rich and believe they should bear more of the nation’s tax burden than they do. Both spiritually and economically, those who have a lot should, to some extent, help those who don’t have as much.