The data for the Texas Triangle megaregion shows correlations to the others I've researched so far: About a quarter of church closings happened within two years, about half of them closed within seven years, and seventy percent closed by year twelve. See my blog post on church closings on the Northeast Megaregion and Southern California Megaregion as examples.
Surprising data that are unique to this megaregion are the sheer number of churches that were active for over 50 years prior to closing (46 of them) -- that's 11% of the total number of churches closed.
The 2000s were a time of major closings and the same trends is in place for the current decade.
Thirty-eight percent (38%) of churches closed after 2000 with seven years of double digit closings. The years prior to 2000 in which more than 10 churches closed were 1910 and 1918.
UPDATE: Jeff Folks asked a good question on Facebook. Here is the table showing the churches organized, started, total organized/started, closed within decade, closed from this decade, and still active.
There is one notable trend: a huge slice (25%) of the churches closed were designated as ethnic churches. Ninety-eight (98) of the 394 closings were ethnic churches. Sixty churches were Hispanic, thirteen were Black, seven were Korean, six were Native American and the balance were labeled Filipino, Jewish and Multicultural.
Three out of four ethnic churches that were closed were located in Texas (74 out of 98).
Two-thirds (67) of closed ethnic churches were shuttered since 2000.
There is an interesting correlation among all churches closed in this megaregion (and in the others in this study so far) in that about a quarter of closed ethnic churches (23%) closed in two years, 61% closed within seven years, and 72% closed within twelve years. Thirteen (27%) of the closed ethnic churches closed after more than twenty years of active ministry.
Of the 151 churches closed between 2000-2017, sixty-seven (44%) were ethnic churches.
Again, the percentages hold true for years two, seven and twelve. Of the sixty-seven ethnic churches closed since 2000:
Closed within two years: two years : 17 (25%)
Closed within seven years: 41 (61%) -- a little higher than the 50% we've seen elsewhere
Closed within twelve years: 47 (70%)
Twenty ethnic churches were closed with at least 13 years to at most 68 years of active ministry.
According to CityMajors.com, due to demographic shifts southward in the continental United States, four of the top sixteen largest cities in the United States are found in the Texas Triangle megaregion: Houston (4), San Antonio (7), Dallas (9), Austin (11), and Fort Worth (16).
The Church of the Nazarene recognizes Pilot Point, Texas, around 50 miles north of Dallas, as its birthplace, where there was a unifying of nationwide efforts among several holiness groups into a formalized movement in October 1908.
The long history among Nazarenes also makes it very difficult to trace the location of the Church of the Nazarene in the present-day megaregion. Nazarenes track local church data and generates missional strategy through the administrative unit of a "district," roughly equivalent to a synod or diocese. Not being from Oklahoma, I have absolutely no idea why or how Oklahoma or even churches within the environs of Oklahoma City can be miles apart but on one of three districts (or is it four? I've lost track, honestly).
The confusing array of administrative units becomes clear when viewing this geographic area through the perspective of a megaregion, which simply represents where people live and how far they are willing to commute for work: It's a "pocket of people," as Neil Cole would say. But, because I'm Nazarene, we'll take a peek at our crazy way of doing it. But, we're not the only ones, apparently America2050 includes Houston in two different megaregions, so how we look at the data will need to be clarified.
Let's not forget the important fact above:
I am at a church that has lost it’s Nazarene heritage. Things like paying allocations sound ridiculous because “what’s the point of being in a denomination just to pay a tax?” as someone put it. Although I’ve talked about history, our commitment to international missions, our theology and even or organization as accountability, I don’t know that I have a succinct but “meaty” answer for our members who don’t get why we “aren’t independent like everyone else.”
We contribute as a mission giving church through the World Evangelism Fund (WEF). It’s not a tax or tithe imposed on each church but it is a way of showing tangible connection to other churches. There was a time when our local church needed help getting started, and every local church provide for others to get up and running through WEF funds.
Connectionalism is the term used to describe the kind of church we became and is derived from our Methodist heritage. Nazarenes are not just independent churches vaguely connected by name or theological tradition. Many of the early Nazarene congregations were Congregationalist, and so we retained a sense of local church freedom to participate without making it a requirement. There some early Nazarene churches that came from an Episcopal system in which a bishop could tell pastors and thus churches how much they were to contribute and excise offerings from local churches.
The Church of the Nazarene is a Connectional church, that is one that is directly connected to every other Nazarene church. We are a global family. The Board of General Superintendents emphasized this point at the last General Assembly. We are a Christian, Holiness, MIssional, and connectional church. We are not left to our own devices (solely independent) or imposed upon by an outside hierarchy (solely dependence). We choose to be a church that is interdependent and interconnected, much like a family.
Think of paying to the World Evangelism Fund as a family plan for cell phones. One plan covers all of us, but we all contribute to it once we have matured. Not all brand new churches and new districts are expected to contribute until they have matured spiritually and organized itself well. Soon they will mature and they will contribute toward the propagation of the Church next door and worldwide.
In Benin-Togo, I worked with a budget of $1500 per month that helped me work with a district in which we started with 19 churches and ended up with 250 in four years. Our budget from WEF never increased but God provided in other ways, and the local church learned to support its growth. God gave us what we needed to start through the generosity of a global church family. Within another few years, this district grew to over 1000 churches, divided into five districts. The original district has sent multiple missionaries to other parts of west Africa and its churches pay into WEF just as churches that helped them when it was young. Today these churches now help other churches and districts around the world.
I used to tell village leaders as we sought permission to start a church in their village that the local church would not one that is planted by an outside missionary or a “big man” pastor. It is a church that is connected to a global family. When a Church of the Nazarene is started in a new place, it is connected to every other Nazarene church in the world. Every church would pray for and give to all of the other ones. I remember one time, the chief and the elders applauded and hooted when we said these words: "We are a global family, and your village will now be a part of it." I’ll never forget it.
The resurrected Jesus promised, "Remember, I am with you always, even until the end of the age." (Matthew 28:20 NRSV). We promise by our presence as a local church--the Body of Christ locally expressed-- that we will never be alone and always be remembered by every local church in our global family.
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