It is very difficult for any organised church when its giving level falls below what is needed to maintain its staff, services or buildings. It can happen to any church, and is most likely when the congregation level dwindles. In the established denominational churches, we might see buildings or land sold, or congregations combined, or ministers going part time. I have no idea what the situation is at CCC Oxford Falls of course, but understand they are merging some of their ministry colleges into a single entity. That could be another kind of cost cutting measure.
I haven’t yet seen a local megachurch crumble financially, but am beginning to wonder if we will, given this global credit crisis, and the potential pressure this may place upon congregations. Whether the congregation dwindles due to disillusionment when prosperity teachings don’t seem to work in the middle of a recession, or just doesn’t give as much because of the increased financial pressure they are under, the result could be the same.
Megachurches must surely have huge expenses. Buying buildings, fitting out buildings, maintaining or renting buildings; staff, furniture, phones, vehicles, advertising, you name it. Some have inherited debts from building campaigns – or possibly from failed investments or failed church plants. At least their interest rates are falling.
Will we see a version of a margin call in these churches when bills cannot be paid, especially in churches that have debt? Is it possible that congregation and giving levels will fall below some critical amount and huge losses must then be incurred? With a focus on youth, how will they keep enough mature earners to survive? People’s spending abilities apparently peak in their late 40’s to early 50’s, en masse. One thing is for sure – it would be very difficult to sell a megachurch building in a hurry to raise funds, and people have put their hearts and lives into raising those buildings – to sell one would feel like a travesty.
How will the teaching change – if it changes – under that kind of pressure? Will it become completely money focussed, or will it change its focus to value other kinds of prosperity, such as relational riches including those found in our relationship with our Father and each other. Or will they just get more miracle offering speakers in for fundraising.
Its a huge potential problem for any church that relies on numbers to maintain a single enormous facility. If they fail, what are the consequences for a prosperity based mindset? Are churches in hired halls or houses who keep their debts and ongoing running costs down to be commended rather than looked down upon for their apparent lack of material success?