Monday, July 31, 2006

Anti-church bias of cities

Churches Putting Town Out of Business - Los Angeles Times

At the link is an article about Stafford Texas - a small town of seven square miles and 19,227 souls that wants no additional churches because it wants more tax revenue. This is a very common problem today. But it is an error of perception rather than a real problem.

City fathers who see tax money as more important than anything else often see any number of churches as too many. In Stafford they are crying out about 51 churches. But that is only one church for every 377 people. In a Texas town like Stafford it is easy to guess that more than half of the people attend church. That could make Stafford churches a bit crowded. According to Wes Roberts, for the 350,000 churches in North America, the average attendance around 110 - 135 people. To look at a radically different sample, the Anglican Diocese of London has 479 churches attended by 71,400 people - an average of 149 people per church - much closer to what the number must be in Stafford. There are not a bizarre number of churches in Stafford for the population.

Besides, the city fathers complain about the wrong thing. They claim that most of the people attend church in Stafford are from outside of town. But why is that bad? While all these people are in Stafford is it not likely that they stay for lunch at local restaurants, by gas at local stations, see local specialty stores for return later in the week, and thereby spend far more money and pay far more sales tax than the 19,227 residents of Stafford are even capable of doing? Should not the city be happy it has a way to lure non-citizens into the city limits to spend their cash there? Besides, Stafford has no property tax, So they are not losing taxes because the land is occupied by exempt non-profits. If there are not enough businesses for the demand maybe the city fathers should open some new businesses instead of trying to chase out new potential customers.

But even more important is the influence of churches. If Christianity is true, peoples eternal life and their earthly discipleship is more important than almost anything else. Data will show that people who regularly attend church commit fewer crimes, are healthier, and happier. Well churched towns have less of a need for social services. So cities should want Christian churches, not despise them.

The problem with Stafford is, like much of secular liberal America, they do not see things as they really are. If they did they might be praying for a few more churches.

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