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Evangelical Economics

Michael S. Hamilton’s Christianity Today article from 2000, “We’re in the Money,” is a fascinating and devastating read even a decade after it was written. Hamilton demonstrates that Evangelicalism’s financial upturn has coincided with an evangelistic “recession.” The bottom line: whereas pre-1930s ministries scrimped, saved, and spent for the sake of worldwide evangelization, ministries from the 1940’s onward have boomed financially, yet diverted attention away from evangelism, usually toward such causes as social issues, political activism, and “services to the already-converted.” It’s a troubling critique of American Christianity of all stripes. Give it a look.

(HT: Robert H. Gundry, Jesus the Word according to John the Sectarian)

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3 Responses

  1. Hamilton could be too narrow in his focus, comparing two factors among a host of others that could have influenced our current passivity. Following his approach could we not just as easily conclude that a pre-1930s over-emphasis on evangelism led to a dumbing-down of the teaching necessity of the whole counsel of God so that post-1940s ministries would sustain a healthy balance? We also need to take care that we don’t suffer the pendulum swings, mindlessly rushing to opposite extremes to provide correction. In other words, evangelism and wealth is a false dichotomy. Moving to one or the other is more a sign of weak-minded than weak-heartened Christians.

  2. Hey, Dan. Good thoughts, as usual.

    I agree that it would be sloppy to make a cause-effect argument with arbitrarily selected data. I didn’t think he did that, however. He noted (among other things) that we’re more inward focused in our ministry spending, whereas our forebears were more overwhelmed with the urgency of missions. (And I include myself in the “we.”) I think he’s right, though that doesn’t mean that the answer is to swing all the way back, as you noted. At any rate, I think he provides a helpful critique. Ministry spending may not be a thermostat, but it’s at least a telling thermometer.

  3. What?! Are you saying I should read the article before I comment?! How insane!

    Actually, I was in a hurry this morning and didn’t give it the look you said we should. Didn’t mean to cast rocks where none should be thrown. Obviously I was commenting more on something from my own dark past.

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