Target the rich and grow the church

Christian churches should target the rich and affluent if they want to grow their flock according to former Catholic, and successful businessman, Ron Barker.

Barker is responding to a NZ Herald report based on 2013 Census data and the New Zealand Deprivation Index.

“As society gets better off, churches need to change their message to target the rich to remain relevant,” he said.

Barker, stopped attending the Catholic Church because its message was no longer germane, says the prosperity gospel preaches that financial blessing is the will of God for Christians, and faith, positive speech and donations to Christian ministries will increase a believer’s material wealth.

He is of the view churches could be turned into places where the rich could network too, rather than just be institutions that provided support for the poor.

Poor church – deprived neighbourhoods

The NZ Herald report shows a strong link between wealth and religion, where the most deprived suburbs are the most religious neighbourhoods.

Poorer areas registered more than 90% of people with at least one religion whereas in richer suburbs more than half the residents are not affiliated to any faith.

Massey University religion expert Peter Lineham said the poor had most to benefit from being members of a church or organised religion.

“Religion offers a lot of benefits for poor people, in a sharing community, comfort and support in difficult times, and with significant financial benefits to share,” said Professor Lineham.

Religion helps deal with the isolation of migration and is a way to reinforce the values of an ethnicity, he said.

Lineham also said an increasing number of New Zealanders no longer found religion appealing.

“Individualism is a powerful feature of modern middle-class society and the idea of a religion and its values to conform to doesn’t appeal.”

The report also shows

  • Christians decreased to 1,906,398 (48.9 percent of people with religious affiliation) from 2,082,942 (55.6 percent) in 2006
  • Catholics are now the largest Christian denomination with nearly .5m adherents
  • Catholics, for the first time have overtaken Anglicans
  • 1/8th of Catholics are Asian
  • 1/10th of Catholics belonged a Pacific ethnic group
  • The level of immigration means Auckland is the most religious area in the country.


  • NZ Herald (including interactive map comparing suburb, wealth and religious affiliation)
Additional reading

News category: New Zealand, Top Story.

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