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Going With God Is Big Business
William C. Symonds, with Brian Grow in Atlanta and John Cady in New York write on BusinessWeek Online about how profitable the god business can be:

Osteen's flourishing Lakewood enterprise brought in $55 million in contributions last year, four times the 1999 amount, church officials say. Flush with success, Osteen is laying out $90 million to transform the massive Compaq Center in downtown Houston -- former home of the NBA's Houston Rockets -- into a church that will seat 16,000, complete with a high-tech stage for his TV shows and Sunday School for 5,000 children. After it opens in July, he predicts weekend attendance will rocket to 100,000. Says Osteen: "Other churches have not kept up, and they lose people by not changing with the times."

Pastor Joel is one of a new generation of evangelical entrepreneurs transforming their branch of Protestantism into one of the fastest-growing and most influential religious groups in America. Their runaway success is modeled unabashedly on business. They borrow tools ranging from niche marketing to MBA hiring to lift their share of U.S. churchgoers. Like Osteen, many evangelical pastors focus intently on a huge potential market -- the millions of Americans who have drifted away from mainline Protestant denominations or simply never joined a church in the first place.

To reach these untapped masses, savvy leaders are creating Sunday Schools that look like Disney World (NYSE: DIS - News ) and church cafés with the appeal of Starbucks (NasdaqNM: SBUX - News). Although most hold strict religious views, they scrap staid hymns in favor of multimedia worship and tailor a panoply of services to meet all kinds of consumer needs, from divorce counseling to help for parents of autistic kids. Like Osteen, many offer an upbeat message intertwined with a religious one. To make newcomers feel at home, some do away with standard religious symbolism -- even basics like crosses and pews -- and design churches to look more like modern entertainment halls than traditional places of worship.

Silly Richard Dawkins. He got ticked at me when he was speaking at an Atheist Alliance conference (where the crowd wasn't exactly filled with leggy young blondes) for standing up and saying "the right wing has all the babes." I didn't know the half of it.

Thanks, Goddyss, for the link.

Posted by aalkon at May 27, 2005 8:17 AM

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There is a boom in new church construction, at least in South Carolina, and some of these are monsters. When this is mentioned as if it were a good thing, I ask people, "How big was Christ's church?"

For some reason, they don't find that a comfortable thought. Thinking about this, it appears large "churches" do not forge unity of community, nor can they operate with the personal urgency of a small one when help is needed.

I see a Fosterite service blooming in the cited article (Best regards to RAH, who predicted this).

Anyway: the standing joke now is, "Why is (a certain church) so big? So all of the Baptists can sit in the back."

Posted by: Radwaste at May 27, 2005 5:57 AM

Suffice to say all these big-business religions are cults wrapped up in nice, neat packages of multi-media for the spoon-fed sheeple. Ick.

Posted by: Goddyss at May 27, 2005 8:57 AM

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