The triumph of evangelical Christianity is profoundly reshaping many aspects of American politics and society. Historically, much of the U.S. political and business elite has been mainline Protestant. Today, President George W. Bush and more than a dozen members of Congress, including House Speaker Dennis Hastert, are evangelicals. More important, the Republican Right has been fueled by the swelling ranks of evangelicals, whose leaders tend to be conservative politically despite their progressive marketing methods. In the 1960s and '70s, prominent evangelicals like Billy Graham kept a careful separation of pulpit and politics -- even though he served as a spiritual adviser to President Richard M. Nixon. That began to change in the early 1980s, when Jerry Falwell formed the Moral Majority to express evangelicals' political views. Many of today's evangelicals hope to expand their clout even further. They're also gaining by taking their views into Corporate America. Exhibit A: the recent clash at software giant Microsoft.
As they thrive, though, there are growing tensions, with some mainline Protestants offended by their conservative politics and brazen marketing. "Jesus was not a capitalist; check out what [He] says about how hard it is to get into heaven if you're a rich man," says the Reverend Robert W. Edgar, general secretary of the liberal National Council of Churches.
Especially controversial are leaders like Osteen and the flamboyant Creflo A. Dollar, pastor of World Changers Church International in College Park, Ga., who preach "the prosperity gospel." They endorse material wealth and tell followers that God wants them to be prosperous. In his book, Osteen talks about how his wife, Victoria, a striking blonde who dresses fashionably, wanted to buy a fancy house some years ago, before the money rolled in. He thought it wasn't possible. "But Victoria had more faith," he wrote. "She convinced me we could live in an elegant home...and several years later, it did come to pass." Dollar, too, defends materialistic success. Dubbed "Pass-the-Dollar" by critics, he owns two Rolls Royces (NasdaqNM: RYCEY.PK - News) and travels in a Gulfstream 3 jet. "I practice what I preach, and the Bible says...that God takes pleasure in the prosperity of his servants," says Dollar, 43, nattily attired in French cuffs and a pinstriped suit.
Some evangelical leaders acknowledge that flagrant materialism can raise the specter of religious hucksterism à la Sinclair Lewis' fictional Elmer Gantry or Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. "Our goal is not to turn the church into a business," insists Warren, the founder of Saddleback megachurch in Lake Forest, Calif. After The Purpose-Driven Life made him millions, he repaid Saddleback all the salary he had taken over the years and still lives modestly. Cautions Kurt Frederickson, a director of the Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif.: "We have to be careful when a pastor moves into the CEO mode and becomes too market-oriented, or there might be a reaction against megachurches just as there is against Wal-Mart."
Many evangelicals say they're just trying to satisfy demands not met by traditional churches. Craig Groeschel, who launched Life Church in Edmond, Okla., in 1996, started out doing market research with non-churchgoers in the area -- and got an earful. "They said churches were full of hypocrites and were boring," he recalls. So he designed Life Church to counter those preconceptions, with lively, multimedia-filled services in a setting that's something between a rock concert and a coffee shop.
Once established, some ambitious churches are making a big business out of spreading their expertise. Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill., formed a consulting arm called Willow Creek Assn. It earned $17 million last year, partly by selling marketing and management advice to 10,500 member churches from 90 denominations. Jim Mellado, the hard-charging Harvard MBA who runs it, last year brought an astonishing 110,000 church and lay leaders to conferences on topics such as effective leadership. "Our entrepreneurial impulse comes from the Biblical mandate to get the message out," says Willow Creek founder Bill Hybels, who hired Stanford MBA Greg Hawkins, a former McKinsey & Co. consultant, to handle the church's day-to-day management. Willow Creek's methods have even been lauded in a Harvard Business School case study.
Hybel's consumer-driven approach is evident at Willow Creek, where he shunned stained glass, Bibles, or even a cross for the 7,200-seat, $72 million sanctuary he recently built. The reason? Market research suggested that such traditional symbols would scare away non-churchgoers. He also gives practical advice. On a recent Wednesday evening, one of his four "teaching" pastors gave a service that started with 20 minutes of music, followed by a lengthy sermon about the Christian approach to personal finances. He told the 5,000 listeners about resisting advertising aimed at getting people to buy things they don't need and suggested they follow up at home by e-mailing questions. Like Osteen, Hybel packages self-help programs with a positive message intended to make people feel good about themselves. "When I walk out of a service, I feel completely relieved of any stress I walked in with," says Phil Earnest, 38, a sales manager who in 2003 switched to Willow Creek from the Methodist Church he found too stodgy.
So adept at the sell are some evangelicals that it can be difficult to distinguish between their religious aims and the secular style they mimic. Last December, Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Tex., staged a spectacular Christmas festival, including a 500-person choir, that attracted 70,000 people even though the cheapest ticket was $20. Throughout the year, some 16,000 people take part in its sports program, which uses eight playing fields and six gyms on its $100 million, 140-acre campus. The teams, coached by church members, bring in converts, many of them children, says Executive Pastor Mike Buster.
Gushers of Cash
Kids are often a prime target audience for megachurches. The main campus of Groeschel's Life Church in Edmond, Okla., includes a "Toon Town" of 3D buildings, a 16-foot high slide, and an animatronic police chief who recites rules. All the razzmatazz has helped Life Church quadruple its Sunday school attendance to more than 2,500 a week. "The kids are bringing their parents to church," says children's pastor Scott Werner.
Such marketing and services help to create brand loyalty any CEO would envy. Willow Creek ranks in the top 5% of 250 major brands, right up with Nike (NYSE: NKE - News) and John Deere (NYSE: DE - News), says Eric Arnson. He helped develop a consumer-brand practice that McKinsey then bought and recently did a pro bono study for Willow Creek using that methodology.
Other megachurches are franchising their good name. Life Church now has five campuses in Oklahoma and will expand into Phoenix this fall. Pastor Groeschel jumped the 1,000 miles to Arizona after market research pinpointed Phoenix as an area with a large population but few effective churches. Atlanta's Dollar, who is African American, has pushed into five countries, including Nigeria and South Africa.
All this growth, plus the tithing many evangelicals encourage, is generating gushers of cash. A traditional U.S. church typically has fewer than 200 members and an annual budget of around $100,000. The average megachurch pulls in $4.8 million, according to a 1999 study by the Hartford Seminary, one of the few surveys on the topic. The money is also fueling a megachurch building boom. First Baptist Church of Woodstock, near Atlanta, for example, has just finished a $62 million, 7,000-seat sanctuary.
Megachurch business ventures sometimes grow beyond the bounds of the church itself. In the mid-1990s, Kirbyjon Caldwell, a Wharton MBA who sold bonds for First Boston before he enrolled in seminary, formed an economic development corporation that revived a depressed neighborhood near Houston's 14,000-member Windsor Village United Methodist Church, which he heads. A former Kmart now houses a mix of church and private businesses employing 270 people, including a Christian school and a bank. New plans call for a massive center with senior housing, retailing, and a public school.
For all their seemingly unstoppable success, evangelicals must contend with powerful forces in U.S. society. The ranks of Americans who express no religious preference have quadrupled since 1991, to 14%, according to a recent poll. Despite the megachurch surge, overall church attendance has remained fairly flat. And if anything, popular culture has become more vulgar in recent years. Still, experts like pollster Gallup see clear signs of a rising fascination with spirituality in the U.S. The September 11 attacks are one reason. So is the aging of the culturally influential Baby Boom, since spirituality tends to increase with age, he says. If so, no one is better poised than evangelicals to capitalize on the trend.
[b]Capitalize on the trend.[/b]
House of prayer? or?
| 2005/5/18 13:38||Profile|
| Re: Days ARE Evil|
The Feds inching up interest rates ... Credit/money supply is tightening ... Dollar's in trouble ... Blind Representatives and Congressmen fooling themselves into thinking China, who along with Japan buys our debt, has more to lose that the U.S. in a mutual trade war ... US bonds falling in value ... US stock market staggering ... Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae in trouble ... Financial Analyst scared to death that the Housing bubble may pop ... Enron, World Com and now the Stock securites Exchange have relegated both GM and Ford's investment paper to junk bonds ... United Airlines just dumped all their pensioners, other airlines will soon follow, as will GM and Ford, and the government agency that's supposed to assure pensions up to half their value is itself $23 billion dollars in debt ... Social Security is a joke ... These are but the beginning of the woes of the aging Baby Boomers of the American middle class ... Gas price increases ... Future fuel shortages due to increasing demand (China) and not enough refining capacity ... Etc ... etc ... etc ... and the list not only goes on but is added to negatively with each passing day ... But so much of the American Evangelical Church is rolling right along in the same blind oblivion as every one else caught up in the delusion of American prosperity while completely ignoring the fact that we're nationally in hock now way past our eyeballs ...
Guess there's soon gonna be a whole lot of empty mega-church real estate for sale, at cents on the dollar, amongst such other usless edifices/facilities to the god of mammon in financially depressed times like Specialty Stores and Shopping Malls ... How will the business man/pastor swing all the debt he's swallowed when half his congregation suffer financial loss? ... How will the false prophet/entrepreneur continue their extravagant lifestyle as the American cash cow becomes as lean as those of Pharoah's dream? ...
A day of economic reckoning is shortly upon us for our God is a jealous God who warns us to have no other gods before Him, because in His so great a love for us He will eventually topple whatever and whoever it is that we have set before Him ... And as usuall the more the watchmen sound the alarm, the more determined folk become in ignoring it ... So much sadness that's even now past the horizon in it's coming toward us, dust cloud so evident ... So many modern day Americans, and alas so sad even saints, can't believe that they will ever experience such OT archaic language as "weeping and gnashing of teeth" ... But i can tell you that that's what many saints are doing right now who had all their hopes and trust tied to the likes of such man made institutions as Enron, World Com, United Airlines and the like ... And the same will be true for many as they watch their man inspired mega-churches dry up and topple ...
Extreme wealth produces boom towns ... Extreme poverty produces ghost towns ... So sad that even we Christians have sucumbed to the madness and folly of satan's "fool's gold" ... But bless God He always has the perfect plan and answer to snatch His own back to His reality ... Amen
| 2005/5/18 16:04||Profile|
IN HEAVENLY PLACES WITH JESUS
I read the posts you put up on the megachurches and their pastors/methods etc. Interesting. It does beg the question, are these houses of prayer or are they temples filled with money changers? One thing is for sure though, when the prosperity gospel is revealed for the fraud it is, we will see truly where people have their treasure.
| 2005/5/21 19:10||Profile|
IN HEAVENLY PLACES WITH JESUS
I watch CNN and listen with interest at the financial news. Everyone seems all smiles about everything, Fannie May and Freddie Mack were briefly mentioned as being worried that the housing bubble would burst. of course noone came across as believing that it would happen. Noone ever talks about how much in debt we are or how dangerous that is or that the economy is in trouble. I guess we can see now that it is beginning to crumble. For those whose hearts are tied up to their wealth there shall indeed be much weeping and gnashng of teeth and anger directed to those who lead them astray...aka BEEF.
the old saying does ring true, great pride always comes before a great fall. I think it is going to be a sudden collapse of the economy. Without wealth to distract us, perhaps we can begin to focus on God more.
| 2005/5/21 20:26||Profile|
Santa Clara, CA
| Not under the law|
Really think this is much appreciated and seldom mentioned, a very informative and thought provoking thread, always. So, thanks brother.
One thing that rose to the top, what of all the financiers of all these mega-churches? Maybe the bigger question is, would these behemoths even exist if it wasn't for making an old covenant requirement subtly binding upon the believers?
| 2005/5/21 23:18||Profile|
IN HEAVENLY PLACES WITH JESUS
| Re: Not under the law|
what old covenant requirement is that? :-?
| 2005/5/22 0:46||Profile|
Santa Clara, CA
| Re:Not under the law|
what old covenant requirement is that?
[url=http://www.sermonindex.net/modules/newbb/viewtopic.php?viewmode=flat&order=0&topic_id=1788&forum=36&post_id=&refresh=Go]Tithing is not a Old Testament Law ! [/url]
[url=http://www.sermonindex.net/modules/newbb/viewtopic.php?viewmode=flat&order=0&topic_id=4824&forum=40&post_id=&refresh=Go]Standing Fast in Christian Liberty [/url]
| 2005/5/22 7:12||Profile|
IN HEAVENLY PLACES WITH JESUS
oh ok so tithing is more of sharing rather than donating to a church?
| 2005/5/22 7:22||Profile|
US army 'let down dead NFL star'
Tillman joined up six months after the 11 September 2001 terror attacks
The family of NFL star turned soldier, Pat Tillman have expressed anger at the US army's handling of his death.
"After it happened, all the people in positions of authority went out of their way to script this," his father told the Washington Post.
Tillman died in Afghanistan in 2004 and for weeks afterwards, US army officials said he was killed by enemy fire.
They are said to have known he had been accidentally shot by US troops, but failed to inform his family of this.
Tillman's parents said they believe the military concocted the story that their son had been killed in a hail of enemy fire to stimulate national pride.
The fact that he was the ultimate team player and he watched his own men kill him is absolutely heartbreaking and tragic. The fact that they lied about it afterwards is disgusting
"They purposely interfered with the investigation, they covered it up. I think they thought they could control it, and they realised that their recruiting efforts were going to go to hell in a hand basket if the truth about the death got out. They blew up their poster boy," Patrick Tillman Senior said.
Tillman turned his back on a contract with the Arizona Cardinals American football team, worth $3.6m (£2m), when he joined the US army six months after the 11 September 2001 attacks.
He enlisted in the US Rangers alongside his brother Kevin - a former professional baseball player with the Cleveland Indians - and both were subsequently despatched to Afghanistan as part of the US war on terror.
"Pat had high ideals about the country, that's why he did what he did. The military let him down. The administration let him down. It was a sign of disrespect," his mother Mary Tillman said.
Tillman died on 22 April 2004 when his US Rangers patrol was hit by gunfire as it passed along a canyon road in Khost province, south of Kabul, at twilight.
Fans flocked to pay tribute to the star when he died
The 27-year-old was hit by a hail of bullets, which army officials quickly claimed came from the enemy - a story they stuck to for weeks afterwards.
But according to a recent US military investigation, army chiefs were informed that Tillman's death was the result of "friendly fire" within days of his death, but chose not to reveal this fact to his family or friends.
The true details of his death were not made known until 29 May 2004, weeks after a televised memorial service in which fans paid tribute to the man hailed as an "American hero".
"The fact that he was the ultimate team player and he watched his own men kill him is absolutely heartbreaking and tragic. The fact that they lied about it afterward is disgusting," his mother said.
Tillman's uniform and body armour were burned the day after he was fatally shot.
At the time, officials claimed his uniform had been burned because it presented a biohazard. However, investigators now say his clothes should have been preserved as evidence.
The military investigation, led by Brig Gen Gary Jones of the Army Special Operations Command, was carried out at the request of Tillman family, who wanted to know why the uniform was burned and why information was withheld.
End of article......
Is. 30:28 His breath is like an overflowing stream,
Which reaches up to the neck,
To sift the nations with the sieve of futility;
And there shall be a bridle in the jaws of the people,
Causing them to err.
| 2005/5/24 13:04||Profile|
Retirement funding needs a major overhaul, now
May. 31, 2005 12:00 AM
The traditional notion of retirement took a body blow recently. United Airlines dumped its pension plan, the largest such default in U.S. history.
It won't be the last.
The corporate pension system is staggering. We need to shore it up before it collapses.
Many companies have been underfunding their retirement plans for years. With the added pressure of a weak stock market and low interest rates, the shortfall is estimated at $450 billion.
The government agency that insures pensions, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., is reeling, too. With the United default, it has deficit of nearly $30 billion.
If struggling companies keep bailing out of pension plans, the PBGC will face financial catastrophe.
There are just three possibilities for dealing with the losses, says Bradley Belt, executive director of the PBGC. The companies that participate in the insurance program will have to make up the difference. Workers will take severe cuts in benefits (there's already a limit on their paychecks when the PBGC takes over a plan). Or taxpayers will be left holding the bag.
Stiffing workers is neither fair nor acceptable.
Sure, companies have been phasing out the "defined benefit" plans, which providing a regular retirement check for life. Only one out of five workers now has that once-standard benefit.
But there's still a huge number of Americans - an estimated 34 million - who have made their retirement plans counting on the promised pension.
A full-scale rescue by taxpayers is equally unacceptable.
When the federal government is deep in debt, we would be hard-pressed to come up with the resources. And the pension liabilities dwarf the size of the fiasco that occurred when the savings-and-loan industry went belly-up.
We must find ways to keep the pension system functioning.
In some cases, that means companies will freeze current benefits and shift to a different type of pension, based not on fixed payouts but on the amount of money contributed to the plan. Northwest and Continental airlines are negotiating such an arrangement with their unions, according to news reports.
Congress needs to clarify the rules for companies seeking to switch from traditional plans to other systems.
Regulations must be tighter for funding pension plans, preventing companies from deliberately contributing too little money. Congress should also remove the disincentives for putting in extra funding when times are flush.
We must also strengthen the PBGC. Premiums need to be higher for participating companies and should take into account the relative riskiness of their pension plans. The Bush administration has proposed an increase of nearly 60 percent in premiums.
Some argue that an across-the-board premium increase puts an unfair burden on responsible companies that have properly funded their pension plans. And it would be counterproductive if the rate increase were so high that it prompted companies to pull out of the pension system, shrinking the support for the PBGC.
On the other hand, the current rate for premiums was set in 1994. An adjustment is certainly in order.
The biggest adjustment, though, is for workers.
Even the most effective job of stabilizing pensions is no more than temporary life support. The traditional security of a company-sponsored retirement plan, with a dependable monthly paycheck, is gone.
And Social Security, as we know, is in real need of an overhaul.
The bottom line: Save like crazy.
End of Article,
If one continues to read the headlines, every where you hear the same news. Social Security is broke, Private Pension Plans are broke, don't rely on them.
Whether it is the Social Security system or the private pension plan system our government is responsible for these problems. Our leaders tax us at a greater rate than is required for Social Security funding. The excess money they receive, they spend on other things.
Our government has made the laws which allow the private corporations to not fund their own obligations to those that work for them. Our government has an agency which is to secure the pension benefits should the private corporations fail to fulfill their obligations to their workers. This agency is no longer solvent. So again the tax payers bail out private and public plans.
My question is why do so many people place their faith in the governments of men?
| 2005/6/2 12:18||Profile|