Ignatius Press Releases New Website and Trailer About Novel Featuring C.S. Lewis and ‘The Inklings’

November 30, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO, CA (MetroCatholic) -  The popular new book “Looking for the King: An Inklings Novel”, now has its own website: www.lookingfortheking.com

The website has many exciting features that “Looking for the King” fans will enjoy: interviews with author David C. Downing, biographies about the C.S. Lewis and famous Inklings, excerpts from the book and dramatic audio version, reviews and endorsements of the book, and a link to the Facebook page with current news and upcoming radio interviews.

A theatrical trailer for “Looking for the King” can also be viewed on the main page of the website. A media room with a complete press kit is also available at www.lookingfortheking.com

About the Author:

David C. Downing, PhD, is the R. W. Schlosser Professor of English at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania. He is the author of four award-winning books on C. S. Lewis: “Planets in Peril”, “The Most Reluctant Convert”, “Into the Region of Awe: Mysticism in C. S. Lewis” and “Into the Wardrobe: C. S. Lewis and the Narnia Chronicles”. Downing has also written short fiction for “Christianity Today” and other periodicals.

Basic Catholic Rules On Indulgences

November 29, 2010

Bridegroom Press
November 2010

“I remember indulgences from when I was a kid!” Many people mention this, and the people who do always have questions.

Where Has The Time Gone?
When we learned about indulgences twenty, thirty, forty or more years ago, we remember how the nuns explained it to us: doing an indulgence got us time off purgatory. We didn’t know exactly what that meant, but it sounded like a good deal.

God bless the nuns, but they either deliberately misled us because they didn’t think we would understand the real explanation, or they didn’t know the real explanation themselves. Prior to Vatican II, all indulgences had a certain amount of time associated with them - saying this prayer or doing that deed was worth 300 days, or 10 years or somesuch. But the time listed was never meant to refer to time in Purgatory. It was a little more complicated than that.

Long, Long Ago…
You see, in the very early Church, the first 300 to 400 years, the sacrament of reconciliation was not celebrated as commonly as it is now. In fact, it was unusual to receive it as often as once every five or ten years. Everyone who entered the Church came in as adults - while the Church was happy to baptize children if the parents wanted, She spent most of her time teaching pagan adults the Faith.
If I were a pagan adult who was interested in becoming Christian, I would probably take between three and five solid years of instruction, being taught every day, practicing the Faith every day, having the community watch me practice every day. Everyone knew my name, and I would learn everyone’s name myself. Only after the whole community had seen me prepare and felt I was ready, only then would I be permitted to enter the Church.

The Church took this long because the bishop and the community wanted to make sure I really understood what I was getting into. They also wanted to make sure that I understood all the responsibilities I was undertaking. They wanted to see a real conversion in the way I approached the world, a real hunger for baptism and the washing away of sins.

Penance IS Purgation
What’s this got to do with indulgences? Well, once I was finally permitted to be baptized, the power of that baptism combined with the pre- and post-baptismal instruction was supposed to make me so solid in Christ Jesus that I would never commit another mortal sin.

Sure, I would be tempted - that went without saying. But I was not expected to commit any more mortal sins. I was an adult, I was giving my word to God that I had left that life of sin behind me, and God gave me His grace to empower me so that I would no longer succumb, so why would I sin?

And if I did commit a mortal sin, then I needed to show real remorse for it in order to demonstrate to the community that I had no plans to repeat the experience. So, if I had gone to confession in the early Church, this is the kind of penance I might receive: “Well, you’ve made a good confession,” the bishop might say, “so I will give you a light penance. For the next two years, you are not permitted to attend Mass or receive the Eucharist. Instead, you will spend every Sunday walking around the Church, praying the penitential Psalms while we are celebrating Mass.

Then, for the two years following that, you may attend Mass through the Gospel reading, but when all the unbaptized are ushered out of the Church after that Gospel reading, you will go with them and again walk about the courtyard praying the penitential Psalms.”

“If you do this faithfully, then for the two years following that, you are permitted to be present for the consecration, but you must be face down in front of the community, reciting the penitential Psalms.

And if all of this goes well and you continue to show true and deep remorse, then following this, you may be admitted to the Eucharist once again. Go in peace, my son.”

An eight or ten year penance was not at all uncommon. For certain sins, like murder or participation in abortion, you might be  told to perform penance for the rest of your life, not permitted to receive the Eucharist again until you lay dying.

A VERY Sweet Deal
So, the time periods associated with the indulgenced prayers were not meant to be time off purgatory after death, rather, they were indications that the Church had remitted the normal, early penance of 300 days or ten years in exchange for your saying this one prayer. She was promising to release to you the grace you would otherwise have had to spend a decade in prayer to win. Obviously, this was a pretty sweet deal. There was only one problem.

No one understood or seemed to remember the connection between the early penances and the current time values associated with indulgences. Instead, the faithful were getting a fairly silly understanding of how Purgatory and indulgences worked. Ultimately, after Vatican II, the Church threw up her hands and said, “Never mind the time periods. Every indulgence is just partial or plenary now. You can either win back for the world some of the grace you took out of it (partial) or all of the grace you took out of it.”

What Indulgences Count?
This leaves an obvious question. What do we do with all those old holy cards we have that say we get 300 days off? The Church also answered that question.
Since indulgences are matters of particular law, no prayer is indulgenced unless the Church says it is. Every generation or so, the Church releases a new handbook listing all the indulgences for which She opens the treasury of heaven.
These indulgences are listed in the Handbook of Indulgences, and that Handbook (aka Enchiridion) supercedes all previous rules. So, if you have an old holy card or book (like a Raccolta) that lists indulgences, none of those prayers carry the indulgence described unless that prayer also happens to be in the latest list from Rome.

And even if the prayer you are looking at is in the latest list, it no longer carries the indulgence the old list said it had. Now, it has only the indulgence - partial or plenary - that the Church has most recently assigned it. Don’t worry too much, though. All of the prayers have been retained with at least a partial indulgence. It’s only the plenary indulgences that may have been altered in a significant way.

So, if you want to do an indulgenced work or pray an indulgenced prayer, you have to have the latest handbook (currently, a translation of the 1999 edition) or you can use the prayers and acts conveniently described in the latest edition of the Beauty of Grace, Calendar of Indulgences 2010. We’ve gone through the book and laid out the rules in an easy-to-use calendar, so you don’t have to worry about all the details in the book. You can find it at www.bridegroompress.com

We hope you like it. We certainly enjoyed putting it together. Now, go and get some purgatory time out of the way.

Steve Kellmeyer
Bridegroom Press

Giving thanks has life-changing impact, priest and psychologist says

November 26, 2010

Denver, CO  (CNA).- Fr. Charles Shelton –a Jesuit priest, psychologist, and the author of a new book on gratitude– says that the choice to live gratefully can help to improve virtually every aspect of a person’s life.

The multi-talented priest, a professor of psychology at Denver’s Regis University, recently published “The Gratitude Factor,” a book that examines the importance of giving thanks for one’s work, leisure, relationships, and other everyday experiences of God’s grace.

Fr. Shelton has made notable contributions to the field of “positive psychology,” a branch of the social science which studies the cultivation of virtue and well-being. “The Gratitude Factor” combines his work in the field with an emphatic focus on Christian spirituality, in the tradition of St. Ignatius Loyola.

Speaking to CNA on Nov. 20, he explained how the choice to live gratefully, even in the midst of difficulty, could profoundly change one’s experience of the world. Gratitude, he said, gives depth to the experience of joy, and profound meaning to less desirable tasks–  by “re-framing” both as important aspects of the life that one receives from God.

He stressed that gratitude, for Christians, comes most of all from understanding that “we are God’s sons and daughters, and Jesus’ brothers and sisters.” That “core experience” is “channeled, through our hearts, into various commitments” that allow believers to share God’s gifts to them with others.

“The more we can carve out some time to reflect on that (identity) in our lives,” he offered, “the more rich they become.” He described the fatherhood of God as a “centering point” for Christian gratitude, allowing the entire range of human experiences to be viewed as God-given responsibilities.

Jesus himself, Fr. Shelton observed, was grateful for every aspect of his human life: not only for his family, community and work, but also –as the priest explains in a profound passage of “The Gratitude Factor”–  for his suffering and death, which he accepted to give new life to humanity.

While some experiences naturally inspire a feeling of gratitude, others take work, patience and prayer to appreciate. Sometimes the benefit of a situation is completely hidden, requiring the attitude of faith. “Regardless of what happens, I would want to be a grateful person,” Fr. Shelton said. “You could weather anything, and draw from it, if you are grateful.”

But even when it comes to obviously good experiences, Fr. Shelton stressed that gratitude is a virtue that requires attention and effort to develop. His book offers a number of strategies for making thankfulness a part of life, including a “daily gratitude inventory” modeled on the Jesuits’ traditional
techniques for recalling God’s presence.

Besides making a person aware of God’s blessings, Fr. Shelton explained that gratitude helps people appreciate one another. The act of giving thanks, he noted, is always outward-directed. “Because it’s always an acknowledgment of someone else, or something else, by definition there has to be an openness (to others) … That’s just inherent in what the experience is.”

Since it is oriented toward others, the experience of gratitude can especially deepen bonds with friends and family. “The whole idea of bonding, and community, comes out of gratitude,” he reflected. “We see the gifts of others, we’re grateful for the gifts of others, and we all need the gifts of others.”

Fr. Shelton also affirmed that the gratitude-centered holiday of Thanksgiving, while not a liturgical feast in its own right, could offer Catholics in the U.S. a unique chance to prepare themselves for the season of Advent. Modern consumer trends have tended to eclipse that liturgical time, in favor of a “shopping season” filled with anxiety.

But Fr. Shelton noted that Thanksgiving was perfectly timed to help American Catholics rediscover Advent. An authentic Thanksgiving experience of gratitude, he said, could help Catholics begin preparing to receive the surpassing gift of Jesus’ arrival, rather than focusing on shopping.

“Studies show (that) people who feel grateful, don’t feel the need for as many material possessions,” he noted. “They don’t have to fill themselves up” to compensate for a perceived “deficit.” By using Thanksgiving to consider “the gifts God has given … through this year, up to now,” Catholics could more easily embrace “the idea of waiting” that should define Advent.

“It makes sense, psychologically,” he said. “Although this is a secular holiday … it does become, for American Catholics, a fitting end to the liturgical calendar – as we really reflect on what Thanksgiving is.”

Although the Church’s solemnity of Christ the King formally closes the liturgical year and signals Advent’s beginning, its moveable date always closely coincides with the civic holiday of Thanksgiving. Fr. Shelton reflected that the combination of the national and liturgical celebrations could enrich American Catholics’ experience of both.

“Having felt God’s gifts,” he said, “we can now prepare ourselves for the greatest gift,” –that of Christ’s birth –“which is coming.”

Former St. Jude Children’s Hospital Employee Gives Thanks by Giving Back

November 25, 2010

MEMPHIS, Tenn., (MetroCatholic) — Henry Matlock, a former employee of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, remembers the families that would accompany the hospital’s pediatric patients. Mr. Matlock recalls how St. Jude families remained close to their loved ones through treatments and the after effects that were sometimes difficult. Oftentimes, the parents and siblings lived hundreds or even thousands of miles away and would remain in Memphis for several weeks or months. Understandably, the parents would pray that their child’s health improved. At times, Mr. Matlock could see their faith wavering.

So once Mr. Matlock wrote his latest book, “Daily Deposits for the Soul: The Busy Christian’s Guide to Abundant Living,” it was no wonder he thought of those families again. The book is based on the principle that by spending just 15 minutes a day reading one bible scripture and exploring the true meaning behind the verses, one’s attitude and faith can be not only restored, but “deposited” into a repository where one will always have faith, even when things seem as though they are not going the “right” way.

Mr. Matlock is donating 20 copies of his book so the families can reflect and be uplifted, in hopes that they may develop their faith during their time away from home. “I want those families to remember that God will be there for them to guide them and be their strength while they are enduring this challenging time with their loved ones at the hospital,” he shares.

The purpose of the book is to guide busy readers to develop their faith by showing them how to make “deposits” in several different areas of their life including Mindset, Service, Spiritual Growth, Relationships, and Personal Growth using short chapters to make significant strides in their Christian walk. “St. Jude goes to great lengths in finding cures for childhood diseases. And I am grateful to be able to give the families something that, hopefully, will make their time away from home a bit easier.”

Henry Matlock is an ordained Christian preacher, board certified healthcare administrator and author of “Daily Deposits for the Soul: The Busy Christian’s Guide to Abundant Living.” Go to www.DailyDepositsForTheSoul.com for more information.

To schedule an interview with Henry Matlock, call at 870-489-8613 or [email protected].

His Eminence Edward Cardinal Egan to Launch Special Advent Series on SIRIUS XM

November 24, 2010

NEW YORK, NY (MetroCatholic) announced today that His Eminence Edward Cardinal Egan, the former Archbishop of New York, will return to The Catholic Channel to host an exclusive five-part radio series created by His Eminence and dedicated to the season of Advent.

The Spirit of Advent: In Scripture, Story and Song will debut Saturday, November 27 (9:00 – 10:00 am ET) on The Catholic Channel, SIRIUS channel 159 and XM channel 117, and will feature a new edition each Saturday during the Advent season plus a special finale airing Christmas Eve.

The program will replay several times each weekend, including Saturday (3:00 pm ET and 7:00 pm ET) and Sunday (8:00 am ET, 12:00 pm ET, 2:00 pm ET and 9:00 pm ET).

Cardinal Egan has designed this series of Advent specials to give listeners a deeper and richer perspective on the teachings and traditions of Advent, with the benefit of Cardinal Egan’s experiences from parish priest to Vatican scholar to head of the Archdiocese of New York, his extensive study of the scriptures, his talent for telling a tale or two, and his passion for celebrating Advent not only through words but also through music.  The series combines scripture with personal stories and powerful song to inform and inspire in a new way.

His Eminence will focus on the season’s anticipation of the birth of Christ through the scripture and music of each week’s liturgy, explaining the significance of the readings and discussing a particular song selection, and sharing his own memories and anecdotes from more than 50 years in the priesthood.  

A lifelong music enthusiast and accomplished classical pianist, the Cardinal will talk with his audience about the differences between Advent music and Christmas music, the lyrics and history of the hymns and why they are chosen for the mass.  Song selections will include Advent hymns like “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” and “Lead Kindly Light,” and joyous Christmas songs such as “Hark The Herald Angels Sing” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.”

Cardinal Egan said, “It is a joy for me to return to The Catholic Channel, particularly during this wondrous season of Advent.  It is my hope that our programs, The Spirit of Advent, will help our listeners better understand the longing that we feel as we anticipate the birth of Our Savior, which culminates in the great joy of Christmas.”

Cardinal Egan retired as Archbishop of New York in 2009 after nearly nine years in that position.  In 2006, he played an instrumental role in creating and launching the Catholic Channel on SIRIUS XM, where he hosted a weekly talk show, A Conversation with the Cardinal.  Cardinal Egan saw the channel as an important and unprecedented opportunity for the Church to utilize the modern medium of satellite radio to communicate directly with a nationwide audience.  

Today the Catholic Channel is a contemporary and effective way for the Catholic Church to deliver its message and teaching 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and serves as a forum that encourages people from all walks of life to call in and be a part of the daily discussion on faith and modern day life.

New biography captures the spirit of beloved “leper priest” Saint Damien

November 23, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO, CA (MetroCatholic)  - Ignatius Press has just released a new biography about Father Damien, the priest who is famous for his missionary work with exiled lepers on the Hawaiian island of Molokai, who is now finally Saint Damien. His sanctity took 120 years to become officially recognized, but between his death in 1889 and his canonization in 2009—amid creeping secularization and suspicion of the missionary spirit he so much embodied—Father Damien De Veuster never faded from the world’s memory.

What kept him there? What keeps him there now?

To find an answer, Belgian historian and journalist Jan De Volder sifted through Father Damien’s personal correspondence as well as the Vatican archives. With careful and even-handed expertise, De Volder follows Father Damien’s transformation from the stout, somewhat haughty missionary of his youth, bounding from Europe to Hawaii and straight into seemingly tireless priestly work, to the humble and loving shepherd of souls who eventually succumbed to the same disease that ravaged his flock. “The Spirit of Father Damien” is illustrated with many photos of Damien throughout his life that paint a vivid picture of his work and missionary spirit.

De Volder finds that—as spiritual father, caretaker, teacher, and advocate—Father Damien accomplished many heroic feats for these poor outcasts. Yet the greatest gift he gave them was their transformation from a disordered, lawless throng exiled in desperate anarchy into a living community built on Jesus Christ, a community in which they learned to care for one another.

De Volder says, “I have known Damien since my childhood, as has every Belgian. It struck me that, even in so secularized a country as Belgium, he’s still widely admired for what is seen as his humanitarian deeds for the leper-outcasts of his time. Yet, you cannot grasp the meaning of Damien’s self-gift without an understanding of his deep faith and obedience: he shows that love for the Gospel, love for the Church, and love for the poor belong together. And Damien’s witness has been so powerful that even today his story inspires many to live lives devoted to Jesus and the sick, the poor, and the weak.”

A Town Called St. Peter, A Place Where Catholics Can Live Their Faith in Peace, Unless Katie Couric Shows Up

November 22, 2010

CHICAGO (MetroCatholic) — In April of 2006, with the town of Ave Maria under construction in Florida, Tom Monaghan went on several national television news shows to generate awareness for this new town that would offer a new Catholic university.

In the early 1990s, Monaghan, the multi-millionaire who founded Domino’s Pizza, had been inspired to steer away from pride and lavish possessions. He sold his businesses and put hundreds of millions of his own money into developing a town called Ave Maria and Ave Maria University near Naples, Florida. His dream was to develop a Catholic university on a par with Notre Dame in a town where Catholics could live their faith.

It was a noble Christian effort, but when he stepped onto NBC’s Today Show, Katie Couric didn’t agree and attacked this mission.

“She went ballistic on him,” said John Ruane, author of the new satirical book on the news media titled, The Wizards of Spin. “I had watched her for years and never saw that side of her. She was basically attacking him on network television for trying to develop such a school and community, demanding that the drug stores in the town sell condoms.”

In 2008, Ruane was inspired to write his third book, while watching the on-air battle between Bill O’Reilly and Keith Olbermann. The Wizards of Spin is satirical fiction written for those who love to watch news and talk shows, and includes a chapter on Couric.

“I cover the Monaghan interview, but then write a fictional account with another millionaire Catholic forming the town of St. Peter on his island outside of the United States, where Couric had no voice or jurisdiction,” said Ruane.”In my opinion, Katie Couric absolutely showed her bias and abused her journalistic integrity. Using satire, I expose her arrogance and abuse of power in this story.

“This chapter also gave me the opportunity to describe the perfect Catholic community, which is what I believe Mr. Monaghan was trying to achieve.”

The chapter is titled, “A Town Called St. Peter” and is the only faith-based story in the book.

The Wizards of Spin, published by Second City Books, is available at Amazon.com. To contact the author directly for a review copy or interview, send an email to: [email protected].

Over 100 Catholic clergy attend exorcism training in Baltimore

November 17, 2010

Baltimore, Md. (CNA) — Despite the intrigue and attention given to the topic of exorcism, the primary work of the Devil lies in daily “temptation,” Bishop Thomas Paprocki said, following a successful exorcism training weekend hosted by the U.S. bishops in Baltimore.

The Conference on the Liturgical and Pastoral Practice of Exorcism took place Nov. 12-13, just before the bishops’ annual fall assembly. According to Bishop Paprocki, who chairs the Bishop’s Committee on Canonical Affairs, the program came about after an increasing number of inquiries from priests in the U.S.

Because only a “small number” of priests have undergone exorcism training, the conference was held “really to provide some guidance for bishops,” he said.

He explained that exorcism training falls under the jurisdiction of the canonical affairs committee because of the requirement in canon law that says a priest needs permission from his bishop to perform an exorcism.

Over 100 bishops and priests attend the two day conference, which Bishop Paprocki said they described as “very helpful.”

He went on to say that “the reality is that an exorcism is really rare. It’s really something rather extraordinary because possession – a person being possessed by a devil or demon – is also very rare.”

“Given the fact that possession and exorcisms are rare, people tend to think that that’s the only activity of the Devil,” and they mistakenly think that “if I’m not possessed, I don’t need to worry about the Devil,” he said.

However, it’s “quite the opposite,” he explained. “The ordinary work of the Devil is temptation and everybody has to face that everyday.”

“The ordinary response to dealing with temptation” can be found in “the ordinary means of spiritual life that the church offers: the Sacraments, going to Confession, receiving Holy Communion, saying prayers and devotions, the Rosary, blessings, Holy Water, things like that,” he said.

“And in fact, I would go so far as to say that the Sacrament of Penance is more powerful than an exorcism.

“An exorcism is a type of blessing in effect – it’s a sacramental – whereas the Sacrament of Penance is actually a sacrament,” the bishop explained.

“So if we live a good life, a good spiritual life that’s sound, we don’t need to worry about that.”

Bishop Paprocki smiled as he clarified that exorcism is ”sensationalized in the movies,” and that demonic possession “is not contagious.”

Usually it’s needed “because people have willingly and freely opened the door to the Devil, looking for that kind of involvement and enjoying the pleasures that the Devil has to offer,” he said.

“It’s a relationship – a relationship between a human person and a fallen angel – a devil.”

“Exorcism,” he explained, “is breaking that relationship,” and it “starts with the person renouncing Satan.”

Primarily, it “involves getting a person to renounce that relationship,” and “secondly, for a priest to intervene and invoke the power of Christ to break that relationship.”

Speaking on what determines the need for an exorcism, Bishop Paprocki said that “we use the principle that you have to exclude all the natural explanations before you resort to the supernatural.”

“That means getting a medial exam” and a “psychiatric assessment” first, he clarified. If a person is mentally unwell, bringing up the suggestion that he or she is possessed would undoubtedly make the situation worse.

“That’s why a careful screening and permission from the bishop is needed,” he explained.

Bishops Urged to Embrace Social Media in Order to Effectively Evangelize ‘Digital Continent’

November 16, 2010

BALTIMORE (MetroCatholic) — The Catholic Church faces an urgent call to evangelize the new “digital continent” of social media, according to a presentation to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) at their annual Fall General Assembly. Bishop Ronald Herzog of Alexandria, Louisiana, a member of the USCCB Communications Committee, delivered the presentation November 15.

“Although social media has been around for less than 10 years, it doesn’t have the makings of a fad,” said Bishop Herzog. “We’re being told that it is causing as fundamental a shift in communication patterns and behavior as the printing press did 500 years ago. And I don’t think I have to remind you of what happened when the Catholic Church was slow to adapt to that new technology,” he said, referencing the Protestant Reformation.

Bishop Herzog described the communication habits of young people today, which he noted have moved beyond email to the world of social media.

“If the Church is not on their mobile device, it doesn’t exist,” he said. “The Church does not have to change its teachings to reach young people, but we must deliver it to them in a new way.” He compared this outreach to evangelizing a new digital continent, and said the Church has serious challenges to overcome, noting, “Most of us don’t understand the culture.”

Bishop Herzog said the egalitarian nature of the Internet makes it particularly challenging to the Church.

“Anyone can create a blog,” he noted. “Everyone’s opinion is valid. And if a question or contradiction is posted, the digital natives expect a response and something resembling a conversation. We can choose not to enter into that cultural mindset, but we do so at great peril to the Church’s credibility and approachability in the minds of the natives, those who are growing up in this new culture. This is a new form of pastoral ministry.”

Bishop Herzog cited a survey of diocesan communications personnel conducted by the USCCB that saw great variation in the use of new media, with respondents expressing a desire to learn more about it and requesting training and additional resources. The most frequently requested resources were not additional dollars but staff who are trained in its use.

Christianity as Hobby: Jesus Not Worth $200 Million More a Year to Christians, While New Video Worth $360 Million in One Day to Gamers

November 16, 2010

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (MetroCatholic) — Christians in the U.S. have not organized to raise $200 million more a year needed to spread the good news of Jesus Christ around the globe.

Meanwhile, in 24 hours beginning November 9, 2010, gamers in North America and the United Kingdom spent a record $360 million on the new “Call of Duty: Black Ops” video game.

“The comparison suggests that gamers value a new video game more than Christians value Jesus Christ and his priorities,” observed Dr. John Ronsvalle. He is coauthor, with his wife Sylvia, of the new study, “The State of Church Giving through 2008.”

The Ronsvalles calculated that it would cost church members in the U.S. about $1 a year to raise the estimated $200 million more a year needed to engage all unreached people groups. “Engaging” means providing a basic point of access to the Gospel.

The new study, released in October 2010 by empty tomb, inc., cites the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee as the source of the $200 million figure.

According to the Ronsvalles, the Southern Baptist Convention’s emphasis on unreached people groups is more pronounced than in many other denominations. “It’s just that not even the Southern Baptists have organized to get the job done,” John Ronsvalle said.

The Southern Baptist Convention includes about 45,000 congregations. The additional cost for global evangelism would be about $12 per member per year.

Another group that places high priority on global evangelism is the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). The NAE also includes about 45,000 congregations. Spreading the cost across the combined total of 90,000 congregations would reduce the cost per member.

“Church members know how to organize for a goal,” the Ronsvalles note. They point to the successful $115 million building campaign for the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas.

“Yale law professor Stephen Carter has written about the dangerous trend in the legal structure to regard religion as a hobby rather than a core value,” said Sylvia Ronsvalle. “Data shows that church member giving as a percent of income has declined over four decades. Congregations are spending more of the donated money on themselves. The legal structure may only be reflecting what Christians themselves are doing: treating their religion more and more like a hobby rather than as a defining principle.”

The Ronsvalles also point to global physical need as another value important to Jesus Christ.

Church leaders have not organized to raise the estimated $5 billion additional needed annually to reduce the number of under-five child deaths around the globe.

This cost would be $28 more a year per church member, the Ronsvalles calculate. For church members associated with the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., the cost would be $119 more a year. Per Roman Catholic, the cost would be $73 more a year.

The new study cites United Nations data about 16 nations that are making no progress toward reducing child deaths. Using other available data on global Christianity, the Ronsvalles found that, on average, 84% of the people in 10 of these “no progress” countries self-identify as Christians.

“Christianity can only be redefined as a hobby if that’s the way Christians are treating their faith,” the Ronsvalles conclude from the giving and membership data they analyze. “If Christians are not willing to invest in their faith the way gamers invest in a new video game, perhaps the value of Christianity to church members is weakening even as a hobby.”

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