Last week, my blog was about the durability of churches and church-related ministry organizations. Being the guest speaker at the 150th anniversary of a Baptist Association spurred my comments on this subject. The focus of my previous blog was a biblical and theological perspective on durability. Essentially, my point was churches (particularly) and church-related ministries (more generally) are sustained by centering on eternal resources and realities—the Bible, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the gospel.

One of my readers responded immediately and enthusiastically to the blog. He has a Ph.D. in Quantitative Research and shared with me his perspective on the durability of churches. Since this is a blog, not a term paper, I won’t include all his footnotes and internet links. But his data is a startling confirmation of my observations.

According to my friend’s research, there are about 380,000 churches in the United States. Pre-pandemic, about 750 churches were closing each year—but about 1,000 were being started. During the pandemic, about 4,500 churches are expected to close while only 3,000 new churches will be started. That means, in more normal circumstances, more churches are starting each year than are closing. It is also amazing that 3,000 new churches will be launched during a national pandemic. By this data, the durability of the church is confirmed—even in spite of very adverse circumstances.

Another way to look at the data is this—of all churches in existence today, 99% of them will still be open a year from now. And, even though some will close, they will largely be replaced by new churches started in their place.

My friend then compared churches to other non-profits. There are about 1.5 million non-profit organizations registered in the United States. Recent projections are as many as one-third of them will close during or as a result of the pandemic. This means a non-profit is about 30 times more likely to close than a church—and much less likely to be replaced by any organization founded to do similar work.

My Ph.D. statistician friend ended his note with these encouraging words, “We are in the right business: training people for the church (which will endure)…. It’s what gets me up every morning…to work in Christian higher education.” We are privileged to shape leaders for the church—God’s eternal and ultimate companion.

The numbers support my biblical and theological conclusions from last week—the church will endure. Durability depends on God’s resources, not our ingenuity. That’s good news during shaky times. We know God will sustain us because his resources provide a sure foundation.

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Jeff Iorg
Dr. Jeff Iorg is the president of Gateway Seminary. Prior to his service at the Seminary, Dr. Iorg was the Executive Director of the Northwest Baptist Convention for almost ten years. He was also the founding pastor of Greater Gresham Baptist Church in Gresham, Oregon, and has served as a pastor in Missouri and a staff pastor in Texas.

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Paul G. Kelly
Chair, Educational Leadership | Professor of Educational Leadership
Dr. Paul Kelly began his service at Gateway Seminary in Fall 2009 as the chair and professor of Educational Leadership. Prior to Gateway, Kelly served as vice president of ministry resources at Student Life Publishing, editor-in-chief of discipleship resources in Student Ministry Publishing at LifeWay Christian Resources, as well as a youth specialist in Discipleship at LifeWay.


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Chris Chun
Professor of Church History | Director, Jonathan Edwards Center
Dr. Chris Chun is the professor of Church History and the director of Jonathan Edwards Center at Gateway Seminary. Chris’ doctoral research at St. Andrews University was focused on the eighteenth-century Edwardsean Baptists in Britain. He also has served as president of The Evangelical Theological Society (Far West Region).

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David Rathel
Associate Professor of Christian Theology
Dr. Rathel is the associate professor of Chrisitian Theology at Gateway Seminary. Prior to Gateway, Dr. Rathel supplied pastoral care to churches in the United States and Scotland, served as an Adjunct Professor of Theology and Philosophy for the Baptist College of Florida, and provided teaching assistance for the University of St Andrews.

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