Thursday, January 27, 2011

Book Club - God is Back #2 Winter 2011

In Part Two of the book (ch. 5-7), the authors look at religion in the United States. Here they see blending of other-worldly and this-worldly, and this is nowhere more evident in the competition between churches.
Across America churches now compete to provide "total service excellence." These pastorpreneurs don't just preach on Sundays. They don't just provide services for the great rituals of birth, death and marriage. They keep their buildings open seven days a week, from dawn to dusk, and provide a mind-boggling array of services: some megachurch complexes even contain banks, pharmacies, and schools. Counseling and guidance groups are routine. So are children's ministries. .... All this emphasis on customer service is producing a predictable result: growth. (pp. 185-186)
The trends identified by the authors can be viewed in many lights. Is it the secularization of churches? Or the sacralization of the secular? Yet, the authors claim that the rapid growth is "forcing churches to become yet more business-like and management-obsessed" (p. 187).

Overall, the authors identify how market forces are at play in many aspects of religious life, from the variety of religious choices available for religious consumers to the practices of religious leaders. Can you think of other ways that market forces are influencing religious life?


  1. When I read about mega churches, with all their religious (and secular) products and services, Wal-Mart inevitably comes to mind. I think some of the same market forces that allow Wal-Mart to thrive have also lead to and influenced mega churches. With their high fixed costs, and relatively lower marginal costs, mega churches are able to take advantage of economies of scale. The more members that the church gets, the lower its average cost per member will be. Additionally, economies of scale can be applied to the social network that comes with joining a mega church. With the same amount of time and effort, people will get more connections and resources from a mega church than elsewhere. They will also save time and possibly money by consolidating church, bank, pharmacy etc.

  2. Jiyoung Baek 51465092

    Churches nowadays do resemble the market and often do seem like a shopping mall or Costco, because of the many services they offer and the way in which they appeal to a huge audience. Churches often feature services not only on the day of sabbath, but everyday to fit the schedules and lifestyles of its patrons. Many churches offer Bible study groups to different age groups and marital statuses to widen appeal. In addition, services are offered even outside of the church such as bake sales and breakfast to boost its monetary collections.


Comments of economic content are welcome. Comments that deride or criticize others will be removed.