Many businessmen, government leaders, and energy experts are predicting dire times as a result of the energy crisis. Most of the nation’s pastors and church leaders meanwhile are looking for the silver lining in those oil-black clouds.

In a survey conducted by CHRISTIANITY TODAY a number of church spokesmen acknowledged that the winter may bring some degree of bleakness into their churches, but most also said it might bring some blessing. For example, they cited, President Nixon’s ban on Sunday gasoline sales may boost attendance (and offerings) by ending the weekend “exodus” to cottages, resorts, and distant relatives.

“We estimate that 25 per cent of our faithful are absent at [second] homes, sailing on the Pacific, or basking on Catalina Island on any given weekend,” said Robert Schuller, pastor of the nation’s largest drive-in church, the 6,400-member Garden Grove Community Church in Garden Grove, California.

Says National Council of Churches president W. Sterling Cary: “Lacking the opportunity for vacation weekends, people may find again their local church, get to know their neighbors, and have time to search again for the values which once made this nation one of hope and trust.”

The crisis may also force churches to rethink their ministries, asserts Paul Benjamin, professor of church growth at Lincoln Christian Seminary in Lincoln, Illinois. “Churches may have to ask themselves what caused people to drift away on weekends in the first place.” Further, the crisis “might stimulate the church to more creative thinking,” concludes Garden Grove’s Schuller.

Among the possibilities facing the church, they say, are rescheduling of services and meetings to other times and maybe even days, consolidation of activities to one or two ...

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