The sudden crush of worshipers packing the small evangelical Shelter Rock Church in Manhasset, N.Y. ”” a Long Island hamlet of yacht clubs and hedge fund managers ”” forced the pastor to set up an overflow room with closed-circuit TV and 100 folding chairs, which have been filled for six Sundays straight.
In Seattle, the Mars Hill Church, one of the fastest-growing evangelical churches in the country, grew to 7,000 members this fall, up 1,000 in a year. At the Life Christian Church in West Orange, N.J., prayer requests have doubled ”” almost all of them aimed at getting or keeping jobs.
Like evangelical churches around the country, the three churches have enjoyed steady growth over the last decade. But since September, pastors nationwide say they have seen such a burst of new interest that they find themselves contending with powerful conflicting emotions ”” deep empathy and quiet excitement ”” as they re-encounter an old piece of religious lore:
Bad times are good for evangelical churches.
“It’s a wonderful time, a great evangelistic opportunity for us,” said the Rev. A. R. Bernard, founder and senior pastor of the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, New York’s largest evangelical congregation, where regulars are arriving earlier to get a seat. “When people are shaken to the core, it can open doors.”
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