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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