Material History of American Religion Project

Evangelical credit card

Gospel credit card applicationGospel credit card applicationWe have reflected elsewhere on the various--and often creative ways--Americans have found to raise money for their churches. Churches have run car washes, bazaars, auctions, and night clubs. One of our favorites was the annuities for the American Bible Society.

Modern finance, however, offers new opportunities for fund-raising. A little tapped market is the "affinity card"--credit cards issued by banks that pay the sponsoring organization a small fee every time the card is used. Colleges and political organizations have issued such cards--it's no surprise that church organizations are getting into the business as well.

Here's the application for an affinity card sponsored by an evangelical radio ministry in the Wilmington, Delaware/Philadelphia area. As the application says, every time the card holder uses the card, the station will receive a contribution to continue its evangelical work.

Many Americans get cynical about church finances and fund-raising methods. They groan every time the offering plate comes by, and turn up their noses at the latest pitch from the television preacher. But it's hard not to admire the creativity American religious organizations have used in finding financial support for their ministries. From the car wash to the affinity card, they have adopted practices from the business world and put them to work in service of the Spirit.

Thanks to Dr. Miguel de la Torre, assistant professor of religion at Hope College, who brought this flyer to our attention.

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