What the church does often is unannounced and unpretentious; and just as often, unnoticed and underappreciated.
In fact, the unusual ways we find the church quietly blessing society is at times even a bit surprising.
In more than 60 years of ministry, I’ve never heard or read of an attempt to translate the ministries of the church into economic value, so I was intrigued when I read some research on it by the University of Pennsylvania.
The study of 12 Philadelphia churches concluded these churches brought $50,577,098 to the city in annual economic benefits.
Researchers further calculated one of the urban congregation’s services to the poor saved the city an average of $140,000. Imagine how many times a month those services are repeated in most cities. Now that’s good for the city budget.
Statistical documentation shows active church participation results not only in spiritual enrichment, which is expected, but also in:
Better physical and mental-emotional health (Yale University study).
At least eight years of extended life (University of Texas study).
Fathers rank higher “in most every category” (University of Virginia study).
Children excel in education and sports (Gallup Poll).
Inventions are rooted in the life and influence of the historic church.
As Dr. Dinesh D’Sousa put it, “The invention of invention.”
And, by the way, annuities also are a benefit of the church. The concept was invented by the Lutheran Association of America.
More than 100 para-church social agencies such as World Vision, Habitat for Humanity, Food for the Hungry and Samaritan Purse span the globe daily to alleviate pain and suffering. All are rooted in the church.
We must never forget a major reason for the founding of our nation was to guarantee freedom of religion. If we ignore encroachments upon it, we do so at our peril.
To be sure, the sins of the historic church, with its crusades and compromises, are real and regrettable.
Regardless of religion, race, age or gender — and in spite of her imperfections — the church always is among the first responders when disaster strikes anywhere around the world.
Only moral timidity and fear of accountability hinder many folks and associations from recognizing what British Prime Minister David Cameron called, “the enormous contribution” Christianity has made to his nation and ours.
Commentator Teresa Neumann recently wrote: “Dicing the church seems to be chic these days. Granted, it isn’t perfect; I submit there are no other establishments peopled by humans that are superior to the church. ... Despite all the maddening complexities of church life that sometimes gets under our skin, I can’t imagine the world without it. Can you?”
A world without the moral influence of the church would be one where lying, cheating, stealing, foul and abusive language would be common practice. Addiction to drugs, alcohol, porn, prostitution, promiscuity, spousal and child abuse would be rationalized as would be taking the life of infants and the infirmed, the aged and the ignorant. Bigotry, bullying and bashing would be applauded in that world where fear and bondage would dominate.
The influence of the church is a major deterrent to preventing these vices from swelling into a savage society. It’s time we celebrate the interdenominational church with renewed vigor and focus intently upon its values.
The Rev. Guy BonGiovanni is director of Life Enrichment Ministries Inc. in Canfield.