From the Cincinnati Enquirer, we learn that God isn’t taking care of His earthly representatives very well, at least not financially.
As the new coronavirus has put a halt to most in-person church services across the country, [Pastor Billy] Bruns is looking for a new job outside of the church. Bruns, 37, has been a full-time pastor for eight years, and he takes pride in that. But he is worried about the lasting impact the pandemic could have on his church — and his family… In a very pastoral way, Bruns never sounds too panicked, but he is realistic. If his congregation stops donating, he won’t get paid.
Bruns has been reduced to looking for a job that’s got nothing to do with religion. He’s not alone. I haven’t been able to find numbers, but scores of pastors are surely in the same situation. During the COVID crisis, more than half of all churches have seen donations plummet, as I wrote two weeks ago. The “State of the Plate” survey released by the National Association of Evangelicals showed that 22 percent of 1,000 polled churches reported that giving had declined by 30 to 50 percent; almost one tenth said they’d seen a drop of around 75 percent.
This could go one of two ways. Either church donations will bounce back over time as the world, including America’s $1.2 trillion faith economy, finds its way back to a semblance of normalcy; or some level of financial hardship for churches is permanent. If believers warily eye the growing pile of corpses as well as the incalculable financial damage all around them, they may well be tempted to ask God a fair question: “What have you done for me lately?”
America was already de-churching. COVID-19 could well accelerate the trend.
Back to Bruns:
On a recent chilly Thursday, the heat in the church was turned off — even as Bruns worked inside. It was his birthday, and he was writing his sermon and creating a YouTube page for the church. It has 10 subscribers. “It’s a strange time to be looking for a job,” he said… There is one potential opening at a local school he hopes will be posted soon. He checks online every week.
I feel no Schadenfreude, mainly because I think of the pastor’s kids. Every family should have safety and security, starting with plenty of food on the table. My fingers are crossed that job-hunting clergymen, especially those with families, find useful jobs, and soon.
All the same, I find it satisfying to think that a lot of religious authorities probably would’ve predicted that a severe crisis would loosen congregants’ purse strings. They were wrong. When it comes down to it, religious people are more likely to spend their money on Amazon groceries and local restaurants’ takeout meals, than on the so-called “spiritual food” that yapping pastors and other holy rollers keep insisting is indispensable.
When Americans have to tighten their belts, even the godly ones drop church giving without much of a second thought. That’s bad for pastors, but a win for common sense.
(Image via Shutterstock)