Seeing the Mission Task Graphically (8th of 8 Illustrations) There are 20 churches for every Starbucks in the U.S.

There are about 20 churches for every Starbucks in America[1] . Here is the arithmetic:

There are 16,000 Starbucks in the US. How many churches are in the US? The National Congregation Study Survey put the number at 380,000 in 2019. Christianity Today estimated there were 384,000 in 2012, with a loss of perhaps 30,000 churches since then. The Hartford Foundation counts 338,000 Christian churches in the US (314,000 Protestant and 24,000 Catholic and Orthodox Churches). We will go with the number 320,000 churches, as that is somewhat lower than estimates of the researchers.

There are about 20 churches for every Starbucks in America. There should be more churches, of course, though America probably does not need more “expensive churches.” What is an expensive church? First, an expensive church hires a pastor and other staff (that takes 70% of the entire church income, no matter the size of the church). Second, an expensive church buys a building and parking lot and prepares a worship experience every Sunday (that amounts to 29% of the entire church income). We probably do not need hundreds more churches that expend 99% of their income on pastors, staff, building, property and program. A study of the New Testament opens our eyes to how it used to be. There is another way, a simpler way of church happening all over the world. But many American Christians seem to like expensive church. That is ok, but please do not export expensive church to Asia, Africa and the Middle East. It is too American. But, in America, is Sunday church attendance shrinking at expensive church? Shall we “come back to (expensive) church?” Is that a true mark of spirituality? Revival will come; but it does not have to be expensive.

There are about 20 churches for every Starbucks in America. I plead the blood of Jesus Christ for the sake of thousands of peoples in Asia, Africa and the Middle East who have no Christians among them. Listen to the Holy Spirit. He is sending missionaries to the unengaged peoples of Asia. Your excuses are frivolous. Paul wrote, “Though I am the least of the saints, this grace has been given to me to bring to the Gentiles the fathomless riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8). I beg you to go as missionaries where there are no missionaries. Go where no one will meet you at the airport. Something changes in the heavenlies when the feet of those who bring good news first arrive in a new place. There are thousands of new places where you can be the first.

America needs more churches, no doubt. There are only 20 for every Starbucks. But the imbalance is embarrassing. Walk a mile in Karachi, Pakistan. You will pass a million people, but you will not pass by a single church. Walk ten miles through the tea plantations of Tamil Nadu, India. You will pass ten thousand people, but you will not pass a single church. Dear reader, a great ending must begin now! The Bible says,

  • All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. Psalm 22:27-28
  • Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples. Psalm 96:3
  • Give thanks to the Lord; call on his name. Make known his deeds among the peoples. Psalm 105:1
  • From the rising of the sun to its going down the name of the Lord shall be praised. Psalm 113:3

Francis Xavier said, “Tell the young people to give up their smaller ambitions and go east to preach the gospel.” Your next Starbucks drink can wait. The fate of millions in Asia, Africa and the Middle East is more urgent.


[1] A Pastor presents the great imbalance here.