Keith Giles over at "subversive1" turned me on to this story, which unfortunately is a picture of where the church as we know it in America has been going for some time.
11 million dollars for a new building for the church to worship in. 90 thousand dollars each month from the members' offerings goes to pay off the loan. This amount would be higher if not for the gifts of the members. One couple gave 10 thousand dollars.
The trend in American Christianity the past few years has been to build bigger, more elaborate buildings. In a desire to reach more people, churches have been erecting large, comfortable, "worship centers" where folks can go listen to a kicking worship band, maybe sing along, hear the latest news about the church's programs, enjoy an inspiring message from a top-notch professional speaker, listen to a couple more songs, and then go home feeling good about themselves for a few days. All the while, the spiritual life of the average church spreads and becomes more shallow. Somehow, I don't think that's what Jesus had in mind.
I personally have nothing against using technology to advance the Kingdom. I like good "worship" music. I have been challenged by and have changed my thinking because of listening to excellent speakers. What I have a problem with is the attitude that bigger is better, with the idea that we have to put on a show to get folks in the church building, and with the idea that we have to "get people into church" in the first place. Jesus told us to make disciples, not church members. It has been shown that many of these churches do a better job of attracting members from other churches than those outside the church.
I also have a problem with an 11 million dollar edifice and a 90 thousand dollar a month mortgage. That's almost 1.1 million a year. Even with a fifteen year loan, the church will have paid out over 16 million dollars before the building is paid for. Imagine for a moment what a million dollars a year could do for the needy in the area where the church is located. Imagine the impact 15 million could have. I have heard it said that if the Christians in America would simply give a tenth of their incomes, global poverty could be brought to an end. Whether that is true or not, it is certainly true that the church in America seems to be more concerned with making itself comfortable than in serving the least of these. There are exceptions, but they seem to prove the rule. I know churches that spend almost all of their income on building debt and maintenance, and salaries.
I am becoming more and more convinced that the simple churches, whether they meet in a house, a park, a coffee shop, or a pub are the future of the church. As these small parts of the Body of Christ minister to each other and to the community around them, disciples will be made. As those go and make disciples, the Body will grow. Look at what has happened, and is happening in China, in India, in other parts of the world where small groups of followers of Jesus are bringing hundreds of thousands into the Kingdom. Look what happened in the first two centuries of church history. They turned the world upside down.
I'll bet they did it without building multi-million dollar buildings.
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