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SAUL GONZALEZ, correspondent: Philadelphia is a city rich in landmarks, from independence hall, to the Ben Franklin Parkway, to its works of playful public art. The city of brotherly love is also home to an extraordinary variety of imposing and historic houses of worship scattered across its neighborhoods. But many of these grand buildings sit long closed and derelict, with broken windows, locked doors, and for sale signs on them. Other churches, both closed and open, are in simply terrible condition.

Take the 19th Street Baptist Church in South Philadelphia. Built in 1874, it was partly designed by Frank Furness, one of the city’s most celebrated architects. Wilbur Winborne is 19th Street's pastor.

Endangered-Churches-post01REVEREND WILBUR WINBOURNE (19th Street Baptist Church): It's almost like a version of “This Old House” where you look at a house that's been in a state of deterioration and we need a lot of people and a lot of resources to come and try to help and get this house of worship back on its feet again.

GONZALEZ: “This Old House” times a hundred?

WINBOURNE: Times a hundred! Yeah,“This Old House” times a hundred!

GONZALEZ: Look inside the church, and you can see why the congregation can’t hold services in the main worship space and why the church needs upwards of 3 million dollars in renovation work done.

(to Reverend Winbourne) How did your church get in the shape that it’s in?

WINBOURNE: Well years of neglect. It’s not having the resources that we needed to have. So between neglect, lack of resources and help, this is what we have.

GONZALEZ: And although this church’s condition is extreme, religious leaders and architectural preservationists say too many other historic churches in Philadelphia and other American cities are in similar shape.

Endangered-Churches-post02bBOB JAEGER (Partners for Sacred Places): I think it is fair to say that this is a national crisis. It really is a national crisis.

GONZALEZ: Bob Jaeger is president of the organization Partners for Sacred Places; it’s a Philadelphia-based national non-profit dedicated to protecting America’s historic, and endangered, houses of worship.

JAEGER: Congregations have shrunk so much and budgets have shrunk so much that it’s hard for congregations to keep up with their buildings, to take care of their buildings, to take good care of them or use them well. Unless they do something creative and bold many of them will close or merge in the next ten, twenty years.

GONZALEZ: In Philadelphia alone, with an estimated eight hundred houses of worship, Jaeger estimates between one to two hundred churches are at risk of closing. That’s already happened to North Philadelphia's Ascension of our Lord Roman Catholic Church. It shut its doors permanently in 2012 after years of financial troubles. But even as its fortunes declined, the church remained a crossroads of community life in this largely poor African-American and Latino neighborhood, says resident Jeff Johnson.

JEFF JOHNSON: This church, man, I used to go to this church when I Endangered-Churches-post03was young. It’s wasted space. They should open it back up and do something with it. Right?

GONZALEZ: Bob Jaeger says even people who never step inside a house of worship should recognize the loss to a neighborhood’s sense of community when a church, synagogue or temple closes.

JAEGER: You may love the architecture. You may love the fact that it houses a concert or recital every month. You may love the fact that kids in your community go to day care. You may love the fact that homeless are sheltered there in the wintertime. You may not be a member but you can say this is a place that matters.

GONZALEZ: To save churches on the brink, staffers at Partners for Sacred Places help negotiate deals on behalf of houses of worship so that they can earn extra income by inviting other tenants to share their spaces, renting them out to social service organizations and art groups.

That’s what Partners for Sacred Places helped to do for Philadelphia’s massive Shilo Baptist Church. Like so many other houses of worship in this city, it’s crumbling and dilapidated. Small children's pools have been set out to catch rainwater from leaking ceilings, and the church’s congregation is now so small they rarely use the main worship space because of the cost of heating it.

Endangered-Churches-post04But on the church’s second floor there are sights and sounds of new life. To earn extra income, the church has rented out this massive space to “JUNK,” an avant garde dance and performing arts group that tours the country.

BRIAN SAUNDERS (Junk): Junk brings a lot of energy wherever we go.

GONZALEZ: Junk’s artistic director Brian Saunders fell in love with the space the first moment he saw it, knowing it would be perfect for his high flying performers. But Saunders also had doubts about whether a risk-taking secular theater group could share a sacred space with a church congregation.

SAUNDERS: Junk is certainly known for pushing boundaries, so the idea of how we were going to be able to find common ground inside a church sounded challenging. But when we sat down at the table….we shared more in common than we knew.

GONZALEZ: Church and performers also realized they could help each other. “Junk” needed offices and a big, affordable rehearsal area space in the city; the church needed the sense of life and extra income Junk’s presence and rent would bring in. Reverend Edward Sparkman is Shilo’s pastor.

Endangered-Churches-post05REVEREND EDWARD SPARKMAN: It is bringing in about $30,000 of extra income a year, which we did not have before we started this.

GONZALEZ: And that $30,000 matters?

SPARKMAN: Oh, yes! You can’t maintain this building without the additional income. And we realize that now.

Bob Jaeger thinks that’s an example of what other older urban churches with shrinking congregations could, and should, be doing

JAEGER: Their buildings can stay alive and they can be cared for and they can be shared in new ways and they can live out their public purpose in new ways. And that’s good for everybody.

GONZALEZ: In cities with revived residential and commercial real estate markets, there are people who see opportunity, profit and curb appeal in all of these old and abandoned churches. The key though, as they say in real estate, location, location, location, and turning these houses of worship into places that have nothing to do with faith.

That’s what’s happening at what was Saint Matthew's Baptist Church in South Philadelphia. Closed in 2011, it’s now being turned into over thirty luxury apartment units for young professionals.

(to Barzilay): So when you saw this building what attracted you to it?

Endangered-Churches-post06ALON BARZILAY: Well, immediately it was the exterior. The stone. The detail. That iconic clock tower that is so fantastic. You see it from everywhere. And its shear size. This is not a little chapel this a giant building.

GONZALEZ: The man behind this church make over is Philadelphia- based real estate developer Alon Barzilay, who’s spending ten million dollars on the project.

(to Barzilay) This is the very top of the worship space?

BARZILAY: Absolutely. And this is the second story of the bi-level apartments, and you can see the amazing arched details of the ceiling that goes throughout.

GONZALEZ: Barzilay’s not alone in doing this kind of work. Churches have been turned into swank single family homes, stores and commercial spaces, even a brewery and pub. In Philadelphia, Barzilay thinks the property possibilities are endless because of the stock of old and abandoned houses of worship in the city.

BARZILAY: They have to have scale. They have to have a good location. You have to have a community that’s working with you because they are very challenging, but it’s a niche that we are specializing in. And this is the first of many churches that we are currently examining to redevelop.

GONZALEZ: But sitting with me in a grand downtown Philadelphia church, Bob Jaeger has ambivalent feelings about some church conversions.

JAEGER: Condominiums tend to cut up the space. You know you put up lots of walls and the glory of a space like this would be lost. But that is certainly better than demolition.

GONZALEZ: Back at 19th Street Baptist Church, a small crew of volunteers does what it can to shore up the building using what funds the small congregation can raise. Pastor Winbourne, who came to this church after much of the damage to the building had already been done, says he would love to share the church with other organizations to bring in needed income. He also says he'll do everything in his power to make sure this historic church remains a church.

(to Reverend Winbourne): If a developer came to you and said, 10 million dollars, 7 million dollars or 6 million dollars for your church, but I want to turn it into something else entirely different, I would assume that would be tempting?

WINBOURNE: Not quite. Not quite. It’s the history. We want to leave a legacy. You can’t put a price on that. You can’t put a price on that.

For Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, I'm Saul Gonzalez in Philadelphia.

Endangered Churches

Across the nation, declining church membership is taking its toll on the physical state of houses of worship. In Philadelphia, churches are venturing into new partnerships to try and preserve their historic buildings. “Congregations have shrunk so much and budgets have shrunk so much that it’s hard for congregations to keep up with their buildings,” observes Bob Jaeger, president of Partners for Sacred Places, who calls the neglect of houses of worship a national crisis. “Unless they do something creative and bold, many of them will close or merge in the next ten, twenty years,” he adds.

  • Elinore

    You are looking at the end product and how to handle the problem. Maybe the problem should have been looked at years and years ago, before the downhill slide. People are becoming more educated and questioning what they believe and what type of church (if any) they want to attend. Many of these people have split off into their own small churches with people who have common beliefs. Many have just stopped going to any church. At the beginning, the churches should have started asking what these peopled wanted and what beliefs and concepts would be changed to accommodate them.
    People are no longer letting a church tell them what to believe. They question and can figure out things for themselves.

  • Elinore

    You are looking at the end product and how to handle the problem. Maybe the problem should have been looked at years and years ago, before the downhill slide. People are becoming more educated and questioning what they believe and what type of church (if any) they want to attend. Many of these people have split off into their own small churches with people who have common beliefs. Many have just stopped going to any church. At the beginning, the churches should have started asking what these peopled wanted and what beliefs and concepts would be changed to accommodate them.
    People are no longer letting a church tell them what to believe. They question and can figure out things for themselves.

  • Elinore

    You are looking at the end product and how to handle the problem. Maybe the problem should have been looked at years and years ago, before the downhill slide. People are becoming more educated and questioning what they believe and what type of church (if any) they want to attend. Many of these people have split off into their own small churches with people who have common beliefs. Many have just stopped going to any church. At the beginning, the churches should have started asking what these peopled wanted and what beliefs and concepts would be changed to accommodate them.
    People are no longer letting a church tell them what to believe. They question and can figure out things for themselves.

  • Elinore

    You are looking at the end product and how to handle the problem. Maybe the problem should have been looked at years and years ago, before the downhill slide. People are becoming more educated and questioning what they believe and what type of church (if any) they want to attend. Many of these people have split off into their own small churches with people who have common beliefs. Many have just stopped going to any church. At the beginning, the churches should have started asking what these peopled wanted and what beliefs and concepts would be changed to accommodate them.
    People are no longer letting a church tell them what to believe. They question and can figure out things for themselves.

  • Elinore

    You are looking at the end product and how to handle the problem. Maybe the problem should have been looked at years and years ago, before the downhill slide. People are becoming more educated and questioning what they believe and what type of church (if any) they want to attend. Many of these people have split off into their own small churches with people who have common beliefs. Many have just stopped going to any church. At the beginning, the churches should have started asking what these peopled wanted and what beliefs and concepts would be changed to accommodate them.
    People are no longer letting a church tell them what to believe. They question and can figure out things for themselves.

  • Elinore

    You are looking at the end product and how to handle the problem. Maybe the problem should have been looked at years and years ago, before the downhill slide. People are becoming more educated and questioning what they believe and what type of church (if any) they want to attend. Many of these people have split off into their own small churches with people who have common beliefs. Many have just stopped going to any church. At the beginning, the churches should have started asking what these peopled wanted and what beliefs and concepts would be changed to accommodate them.
    People are no longer letting a church tell them what to believe. They question and can figure out things for themselves.

  • Elinore

    You are looking at the end product and how to handle the problem. Maybe the problem should have been looked at years and years ago, before the downhill slide. People are becoming more educated and questioning what they believe and what type of church (if any) they want to attend. Many of these people have split off into their own small churches with people who have common beliefs. Many have just stopped going to any church. At the beginning, the churches should have started asking what these peopled wanted and what beliefs and concepts would be changed to accommodate them.
    People are no longer letting a church tell them what to believe. They question and can figure out things for themselves.

  • Elinore

    You are looking at the end product and how to handle the problem. Maybe the problem should have been looked at years and years ago, before the downhill slide. People are becoming more educated and questioning what they believe and what type of church (if any) they want to attend. Many of these people have split off into their own small churches with people who have common beliefs. Many have just stopped going to any church. At the beginning, the churches should have started asking what these peopled wanted and what beliefs and concepts would be changed to accommodate them.
    People are no longer letting a church tell them what to believe. They question and can figure out things for themselves.

  • Elinore

    You are looking at the end product and how to handle the problem. Maybe the problem should have been looked at years and years ago, before the downhill slide. People are becoming more educated and questioning what they believe and what type of church (if any) they want to attend. Many of these people have split off into their own small churches with people who have common beliefs. Many have just stopped going to any church. At the beginning, the churches should have started asking what these peopled wanted and what beliefs and concepts would be changed to accommodate them.
    People are no longer letting a church tell them what to believe. They question and can figure out things for themselves.

  • Elinore

    You are looking at the end product and how to handle the problem. Maybe the problem should have been looked at years and years ago, before the downhill slide. People are becoming more educated and questioning what they believe and what type of church (if any) they want to attend. Many of these people have split off into their own small churches with people who have common beliefs. Many have just stopped going to any church. At the beginning, the churches should have started asking what these peopled wanted and what beliefs and concepts would be changed to accommodate them.
    People are no longer letting a church tell them what to believe. They question and can figure out things for themselves.

  • Elinore

    You are looking at the end product and how to handle the problem. Maybe the problem should have been looked at years and years ago, before the downhill slide. People are becoming more educated and questioning what they believe and what type of church (if any) they want to attend. Many of these people have split off into their own small churches with people who have common beliefs. Many have just stopped going to any church. At the beginning, the churches should have started asking what these peopled wanted and what beliefs and concepts would be changed to accommodate them.
    People are no longer letting a church tell them what to believe. They question and can figure out things for themselves.

  • Elinore

    You are looking at the end product and how to handle the problem. Maybe the problem should have been looked at years and years ago, before the downhill slide. People are becoming more educated and questioning what they believe and what type of church (if any) they want to attend. Many of these people have split off into their own small churches with people who have common beliefs. Many have just stopped going to any church. At the beginning, the churches should have started asking what these peopled wanted and what beliefs and concepts would be changed to accommodate them.
    People are no longer letting a church tell them what to believe. They question and can figure out things for themselves.

  • Elinore

    You are looking at the end product and how to handle the problem. Maybe the problem should have been looked at years and years ago, before the downhill slide. People are becoming more educated and questioning what they believe and what type of church (if any) they want to attend. Many of these people have split off into their own small churches with people who have common beliefs. Many have just stopped going to any church. At the beginning, the churches should have started asking what these peopled wanted and what beliefs and concepts would be changed to accommodate them.
    People are no longer letting a church tell them what to believe. They question and can figure out things for themselves.

  • Elinore

    You are looking at the end product and how to handle the problem. Maybe the problem should have been looked at years and years ago, before the downhill slide. People are becoming more educated and questioning what they believe and what type of church (if any) they want to attend. Many of these people have split off into their own small churches with people who have common beliefs. Many have just stopped going to any church. At the beginning, the churches should have started asking what these peopled wanted and what beliefs and concepts would be changed to accommodate them.
    People are no longer letting a church tell them what to believe. They question and can figure out things for themselves.

  • Elinore

    You are looking at the end product and how to handle the problem. Maybe the problem should have been looked at years and years ago, before the downhill slide. People are becoming more educated and questioning what they believe and what type of church (if any) they want to attend. Many of these people have split off into their own small churches with people who have common beliefs. Many have just stopped going to any church. At the beginning, the churches should have started asking what these peopled wanted and what beliefs and concepts would be changed to accommodate them.
    People are no longer letting a church tell them what to believe. They question and can figure out things for themselves.

  • Elinore

    You are looking at the end product and how to handle the problem. Maybe the problem should have been looked at years and years ago, before the downhill slide. People are becoming more educated and questioning what they believe and what type of church (if any) they want to attend. Many of these people have split off into their own small churches with people who have common beliefs. Many have just stopped going to any church. At the beginning, the churches should have started asking what these peopled wanted and what beliefs and concepts would be changed to accommodate them.
    People are no longer letting a church tell them what to believe. They question and can figure out things for themselves.

  • Elinore

    You are looking at the end product and how to handle the problem. Maybe the problem should have been looked at years and years ago, before the downhill slide. People are becoming more educated and questioning what they believe and what type of church (if any) they want to attend. Many of these people have split off into their own small churches with people who have common beliefs. Many have just stopped going to any church. At the beginning, the churches should have started asking what these peopled wanted and what beliefs and concepts would be changed to accommodate them.
    People are no longer letting a church tell them what to believe. They question and can figure out things for themselves.

  • Elinore

    You are looking at the end product and how to handle the problem. Maybe the problem should have been looked at years and years ago, before the downhill slide. People are becoming more educated and questioning what they believe and what type of church (if any) they want to attend. Many of these people have split off into their own small churches with people who have common beliefs. Many have just stopped going to any church. At the beginning, the churches should have started asking what these peopled wanted and what beliefs and concepts would be changed to accommodate them.
    People are no longer letting a church tell them what to believe. They question and can figure out things for themselves.

  • Elinore

    You are looking at the end product and how to handle the problem. Maybe the problem should have been looked at years and years ago, before the downhill slide. People are becoming more educated and questioning what they believe and what type of church (if any) they want to attend. Many of these people have split off into their own small churches with people who have common beliefs. Many have just stopped going to any church. At the beginning, the churches should have started asking what these peopled wanted and what beliefs and concepts would be changed to accommodate them.
    People are no longer letting a church tell them what to believe. They question and can figure out things for themselves.

  • Elinore

    You are looking at the end product and how to handle the problem. Maybe the problem should have been looked at years and years ago, before the downhill slide. People are becoming more educated and questioning what they believe and what type of church (if any) they want to attend. Many of these people have split off into their own small churches with people who have common beliefs. Many have just stopped going to any church. At the beginning, the churches should have started asking what these peopled wanted and what beliefs and concepts would be changed to accommodate them.
    People are no longer letting a church tell them what to believe. They question and can figure out things for themselves.

  • Elinore

    You are looking at the end product and how to handle the problem. Maybe the problem should have been looked at years and years ago, before the downhill slide. People are becoming more educated and questioning what they believe and what type of church (if any) they want to attend. Many of these people have split off into their own small churches with people who have common beliefs. Many have just stopped going to any church. At the beginning, the churches should have started asking what these peopled wanted and what beliefs and concepts would be changed to accommodate them.
    People are no longer letting a church tell them what to believe. They question and can figure out things for themselves.

  • Elinore

    You are looking at the end product and how to handle the problem. Maybe the problem should have been looked at years and years ago, before the downhill slide. People are becoming more educated and questioning what they believe and what type of church (if any) they want to attend. Many of these people have split off into their own small churches with people who have common beliefs. Many have just stopped going to any church. At the beginning, the churches should have started asking what these peopled wanted and what beliefs and concepts would be changed to accommodate them.
    People are no longer letting a church tell them what to believe. They question and can figure out things for themselves.

  • Elinore

    You are looking at the end product and how to handle the problem. Maybe the problem should have been looked at years and years ago, before the downhill slide. People are becoming more educated and questioning what they believe and what type of church (if any) they want to attend. Many of these people have split off into their own small churches with people who have common beliefs. Many have just stopped going to any church. At the beginning, the churches should have started asking what these peopled wanted and what beliefs and concepts would be changed to accommodate them.
    People are no longer letting a church tell them what to believe. They question and can figure out things for themselves.

  • Elinore

    You are looking at the end product and how to handle the problem. Maybe the problem should have been looked at years and years ago, before the downhill slide. People are becoming more educated and questioning what they believe and what type of church (if any) they want to attend. Many of these people have split off into their own small churches with people who have common beliefs. Many have just stopped going to any church. At the beginning, the churches should have started asking what these peopled wanted and what beliefs and concepts would be changed to accommodate them.
    People are no longer letting a church tell them what to believe. They question and can figure out things for themselves.

  • Elinore

    You are looking at the end product and how to handle the problem. Maybe the problem should have been looked at years and years ago, before the downhill slide. People are becoming more educated and questioning what they believe and what type of church (if any) they want to attend. Many of these people have split off into their own small churches with people who have common beliefs. Many have just stopped going to any church. At the beginning, the churches should have started asking what these peopled wanted and what beliefs and concepts would be changed to accommodate them.
    People are no longer letting a church tell them what to believe. They question and can figure out things for themselves.

  • Elinore

    You are looking at the end product and how to handle the problem. Maybe the problem should have been looked at years and years ago, before the downhill slide. People are becoming more educated and questioning what they believe and what type of church (if any) they want to attend. Many of these people have split off into their own small churches with people who have common beliefs. Many have just stopped going to any church. At the beginning, the churches should have started asking what these peopled wanted and what beliefs and concepts would be changed to accommodate them.
    People are no longer letting a church tell them what to believe. They question and can figure out things for themselves.

  • Elinore

    You are looking at the end product and how to handle the problem. Maybe the problem should have been looked at years and years ago, before the downhill slide. People are becoming more educated and questioning what they believe and what type of church (if any) they want to attend. Many of these people have split off into their own small churches with people who have common beliefs. Many have just stopped going to any church. At the beginning, the churches should have started asking what these peopled wanted and what beliefs and concepts would be changed to accommodate them.
    People are no longer letting a church tell them what to believe. They question and can figure out things for themselves.

  • Elinore

    You are looking at the end product and how to handle the problem. Maybe the problem should have been looked at years and years ago, before the downhill slide. People are becoming more educated and questioning what they believe and what type of church (if any) they want to attend. Many of these people have split off into their own small churches with people who have common beliefs. Many have just stopped going to any church. At the beginning, the churches should have started asking what these peopled wanted and what beliefs and concepts would be changed to accommodate them.
    People are no longer letting a church tell them what to believe. They question and can figure out things for themselves.

  • Elinore

    You are looking at the end product and how to handle the problem. Maybe the problem should have been looked at years and years ago, before the downhill slide. People are becoming more educated and questioning what they believe and what type of church (if any) they want to attend. Many of these people have split off into their own small churches with people who have common beliefs. Many have just stopped going to any church. At the beginning, the churches should have started asking what these peopled wanted and what beliefs and concepts would be changed to accommodate them.
    People are no longer letting a church tell them what to believe. They question and can figure out things for themselves.

  • Elinore

    You are looking at the end product and how to handle the problem. Maybe the problem should have been looked at years and years ago, before the downhill slide. People are becoming more educated and questioning what they believe and what type of church (if any) they want to attend. Many of these people have split off into their own small churches with people who have common beliefs. Many have just stopped going to any church. At the beginning, the churches should have started asking what these peopled wanted and what beliefs and concepts would be changed to accommodate them.
    People are no longer letting a church tell them what to believe. They question and can figure out things for themselves.

  • Elinore

    You are looking at the end product and how to handle the problem. Maybe the problem should have been looked at years and years ago, before the downhill slide. People are becoming more educated and questioning what they believe and what type of church (if any) they want to attend. Many of these people have split off into their own small churches with people who have common beliefs. Many have just stopped going to any church. At the beginning, the churches should have started asking what these peopled wanted and what beliefs and concepts would be changed to accommodate them.
    People are no longer letting a church tell them what to believe. They question and can figure out things for themselves.

  • Elinore

    You are looking at the end product and how to handle the problem. Maybe the problem should have been looked at years and years ago, before the downhill slide. People are becoming more educated and questioning what they believe and what type of church (if any) they want to attend. Many of these people have split off into their own small churches with people who have common beliefs. Many have just stopped going to any church. At the beginning, the churches should have started asking what these peopled wanted and what beliefs and concepts would be changed to accommodate them.
    People are no longer letting a church tell them what to believe. They question and can figure out things for themselves.

  • Elinore

    You are looking at the end product and how to handle the problem. Maybe the problem should have been looked at years and years ago, before the downhill slide. People are becoming more educated and questioning what they believe and what type of church (if any) they want to attend. Many of these people have split off into their own small churches with people who have common beliefs. Many have just stopped going to any church. At the beginning, the churches should have started asking what these peopled wanted and what beliefs and concepts would be changed to accommodate them.
    People are no longer letting a church tell them what to believe. They question and can figure out things for themselves.

  • Elinore

    You are looking at the end product and how to handle the problem. Maybe the problem should have been looked at years and years ago, before the downhill slide. People are becoming more educated and questioning what they believe and what type of church (if any) they want to attend. Many of these people have split off into their own small churches with people who have common beliefs. Many have just stopped going to any church. At the beginning, the churches should have started asking what these peopled wanted and what beliefs and concepts would be changed to accommodate them.
    People are no longer letting a church tell them what to believe. They question and can figure out things for themselves.

  • Abby

    There are so many things to do in this day and age, the church does not hold the excitement or interest it use to hold.

  • Abby

    There are so many things to do in this day and age, the church does not hold the excitement or interest it use to hold.

  • Abby

    There are so many things to do in this day and age, the church does not hold the excitement or interest it use to hold.

  • Abby

    There are so many things to do in this day and age, the church does not hold the excitement or interest it use to hold.

  • Abby

    There are so many things to do in this day and age, the church does not hold the excitement or interest it use to hold.

  • Abby

    There are so many things to do in this day and age, the church does not hold the excitement or interest it use to hold.

  • Abby

    There are so many things to do in this day and age, the church does not hold the excitement or interest it use to hold.

  • Abby

    There are so many things to do in this day and age, the church does not hold the excitement or interest it use to hold.

  • Abby

    There are so many things to do in this day and age, the church does not hold the excitement or interest it use to hold.

  • Abby

    There are so many things to do in this day and age, the church does not hold the excitement or interest it use to hold.

  • Abby

    There are so many things to do in this day and age, the church does not hold the excitement or interest it use to hold.

  • Abby

    There are so many things to do in this day and age, the church does not hold the excitement or interest it use to hold.

  • Abby

    There are so many things to do in this day and age, the church does not hold the excitement or interest it use to hold.

  • Abby

    There are so many things to do in this day and age, the church does not hold the excitement or interest it use to hold.

  • Abby

    There are so many things to do in this day and age, the church does not hold the excitement or interest it use to hold.

  • Abby

    There are so many things to do in this day and age, the church does not hold the excitement or interest it use to hold.

  • Joel

    Interesting perspective. I happen to think that the church has to often tried to bend an unchangeable gospel that it has diluted what makes it powerful. A Holy, All Powerful, All Knowing, Loving God and the church has turned Him into a 3 step self-help book in which he is just one of millions.I don’t go to church to hear about what is already in this world. I go to church to encounter a God that is so far beyond comprehension that I need Him daily to even get a glimpse of His infinite being. A god that you can shape and bend into whatever box you feel he belongs is not a god worth anything. God is so much more than that. When the church stands up for who He is, seeks the God as defined in the Bible, then God will reveal Himself and our church buildings will not be able to contain all the people. God does not need to revised, the people need a revival.

  • cipher

    Right, because of course, everyone else perceives reality in precisely the way you do.

  • Ricardo Jones

    The church has been compromised severly.crosses removed, no longer the natural, spiritual food …now it comes natural…but based on the hands serving…it becomes watered dwn so that by the time it reaches the true believers…it’s all soggy and mushy.all of the natural spiritual nutrients has been stripped away and then served…but only the true believers will recognize that the meal has no nutrients..And Eventually Seek Out That That’s missing…And This Is Why U Can view/see the decline in church membership…it’s no longer about saving souls..it’s about who can gane the world…ijs..greater is he within me than he that is in the world.man needs to stop building his own kingdom and get back to building the true kingdom of abba yahuveh/lord yahushua ha mashiac. Shalawam

  • Xerxesfire

    Amen brother! Mainline churches are quickly dying out. The true remnant churches are rapidly leaving their liberal denominations behind, sometimes sacrificing their historic buildings, so they can truly worship the Lord in the “beauty of holiness”. Many churches today have become so liberal, tolerant and accepting of any and all lifestyles, and no longer preach against sin. No wonder they have lost their saltiness and relevance in the world. The churches that are growing are ones that preach the whole gospel of Jesus Christ and his salvation. I have been to many historic mainline churches and have noticed a sea of grey hair. They are dying out. I love old buildings and am sad to see them deteriorate and be demolished.

  • Xerxesfire

    Sir, Joel is entitled to his opinion, as are you. If you are a skeptic, I suggest you pick up a Bible and start reading in the book of John. You can also find the Bible online. I am an educated 40-something male who derives great enrichment and edification from God’s Word. I also am a regular church attender when many of my generation see little relevance in the things of God. Peace be with you in your quest for truth.

  • Xerxesfire

    Amen brother! Too many churches are wishy-washy and serve a diet of milk, when they should be serving meat in their sermons. No wonder churches are dying out. Then there’s the prosperity gospel – something the Bible does not support. We need true Christian revival in this nation. Kyrie eleison!

  • cipher

    I suggest you pick up a Bible and start reading in the book of John.

    Right, because you also think everyone else perceives reality in the way you do. You have to begin with the assumption that I haven’t read the Bible, because in your blinkered worldview, if I had, I’d have come to the same conclusions you have.

    Sir, Joel is entitled to his opinion, as are you.

    No, you don’t think I’m entitled to my opinion. You believe that when I die, I’ll be tormented for all eternity as a result of holding that opinion.

    Mainline churches are quickly dying out.

    Your fundamentalist churches are losing members as well, but of course, you’re incapable of acknowledging it.

  • Xerxesfire

    Sir, you make several incorrect assumptions about me that are incorrect, based on a few sentences on a public board. First, I do not think or assume everyone “perceives reality in the way” that I do. Personalities and minds are all diverse and unique. The reason I suggested you read the Bible is to experience God for yourself. Whether you will do so or not, is of course, up to you. We all have free will. The choice is entirely up to you.

    Second, yes, I do believe you have a right to your own opinion. What I think or don’t think about you (who I don’t know, btw) is irrelevant. I have friends and acquaintances of various ethnic origins, religions, denominations, beliefs, lifestyles, personality types, etc. I might not agree with what they believe or think, but God alone is judge of the world, not me. I am a sinful human being, saved by grace in faith through Christ alone. I don’t go around condemning others publicly. I can’t force you or browbeat you into accepting Christ.

    Third, I have been a member of several mainline churches in my life, as well as a few evangelical ones, but never a fundamentalist one (wrong assumption, btw). I prefer evangelical over fundamentalist; pretty much second cousins in belief, but not quite as hardcore in approach. The evangelical and fundamentalist churches are not losing as many people as are the liberal ones, and in fact, some evangelical churches are actually growing. You may have noticed I didn’t attack you with hell-bound statements and Bible thumping.

    I wish you a great week!

  • cipher

    Your semantic hair-splitting addresses nothing I’ve said, and your claims about conservative churches are irrelevant. They are losing members, and their growth over the past few decades doesn’t prove the veracity of their claims.

    In the end, you’re still a deluded psychopath who believes in eternal damnation for everyone else.

  • Religion & Ethics

    Please keep all comments focused on the subject matter and refrain from personal attacks towards other commenters. If this request cannot be upheld, we will remove your ability to comment on our website. Thank you.

  • cipher

    Well, congratulations. After years of being abused by fundamentalists on this website, and having emailed your staff repeatedly over various matters, this is the first time one of you has actually responded to me. It comes as no surprise that this long-overdue contact comes in the form of a threat.

    I assume I’m addressing a college intern, so put down your latte and pay attention. This site used to be a haven for religious liberals, in keeping with its affiliation with PBS. Unfortunately, over the past few years, and especially since the move to Disqus comments, it has become overrun with fundamentalists of various backgrounds continually proselytizing, condemning other belief systems and threatening people with eternal damnation. It is completely inappropriate, and I believe you have a lost a number of your liberal commenters as a result.

    I don’t for a moment expect you or your supervisors to take any sort of action regarding this disgraceful state of affairs. You will continue to manifest a laissez-faire attitude and allow it to persist. Regarding myself, you needn’t worry. Your confrontational reply has prompted me to make a long-postponed decision. Your organization and I are not for one another. I have for some time been decrying the deteriorating quality of your reportage (please see my comment beneath your recent story about the Lubavitcher Rebbe), in addition to the fundamentalist coffee klatch into which you have allowed these comment threads to morph. It’s time for me to go. I will neither be bothering you nor watching R&E Newsweekly in future.