Back in the heady church-growth days of the 1980s and 1990s, researchers John and Sylvia Ronsvalle began hearing caution creep into their interviews with church leaders.

Denominational leaders were especially uncomfortable when asked about declines in giving to overseas missions and projects to help the poor.

Terry Mattingly leads GetReligion.org and lives in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is a senior fellow at the Overby Center at the University of Mississippi.

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