Sunday, March 16, 2008

Building the Church

In light of all the thoughtful comments from the last two posts, I thought I’d stir up the pot a little more.

Many churches raise money for building campaigns; the church I attend is doing so right now. And I’m conflicted, because, while I understand the need to minister to the growing needs of a congregation, I’m not convinced church buildings are the way to do that. After all, there’s no command in the New Testament to build a church.

I'm not interested in bashing any pastor, but I remember watching a TV special when Lakewood Church opened and Pastor Joel Osteen announced that they had just spent $90 million renovating the arena (I think it’s the Houston Astrodome) for their weekly services. As I watched, I remember thinking, What would it be like to have a building campaign to do something Jesus actually told us to do, like raising $90 million to care for the poor, or serve the homeless, or minister to those in prison, or clothe the needy, or help to the sick, rather than renovate an arena so that you can worship more comfortably? What would that be like?

Imagine that.

A church holding a development campaign to do something Jesus actually asked us to do. Imagine a church raising $90 million to feed the poor instead of carpeting the aisles and buying more video cameras.

How does that sound?

15 comments:

Deseree said...

Yea, I see what you're getting at. At the same time, I think the megachurches are still contributing to the Kingdom. I've been to Lakewood Church, and there's no doubt that they are reaching people for Christ. It just looks different. Thank God that people are thinking critically about this though...more of us (myself included) need to be willing to go to the front lines.

Don in Texas said...

I can tell you exactly what it sounds like. It sounds like someone who thinks we should "Go out unto all the world and preach the Gospel..." Feeding the hungry and housing the homeless is noble and God said that giving to them is like loaning to Him. But, preaching the Gospel is the FIRST great commision. The poor will always be with us!

Barnaby said...

I absolutely agree with you. I think there has to be some compromise between spending money modernizing our churches to make them more appealing to younger generations and spending money meeting people's needs. It it kinda hard to understand why a church needs 60" plasma TV's for their media department or million dollar intelligent lighting system.

Scott Appleton said...

I totally agree, Steven . . . and what a great illustration. My church has an average attendance of around 700 people every Sunday and they are also in the midst of expansion. God did not call us to lead a life of comfort, we are to be separate, holy. But here in America we are soft, spoiled, and many Christians don't want to admit it. I think that if the megachurches asked the question "Would Jesus spend this money in this way?" they would realize, if they were honest with themselves, that he would go out to the poor, the widows, His actions and not the masses that followed Him, would testify where the heart of his ministry lay. Christ never appealed to the younger generation, he called his followers to 'take up their crosses' When churches say that they need to appeal to the younger generation, it is often an excuse to appeal to the 'flesh' Great post, Steven! And a subject that needs to be addressed with greater urgency!

Anonymous said...

Our church has like 500 ppl advrage so he HAVE to expand sometimes but a lot of the money we raise goes to missions and helping ppl so i think there is a ballence between the two. I absolutly agree about the $90,000,000 though. Its stupid they have a big church yes....but do they HAVE to have it or just WANT to have it.....big diff...

Anonymous said...

I don't get it, why is it "stupid" they have a big church? So, if a church is full - they should turn people away?

Susanna said...

I don't think anyone is saying you shouldn't expand churches but really 90 million??? You don't need all the bells and whistles. Jesus preached on mountain sides and from boats, really do we need big screen t.vs and 20 computers to have church? Think of how many hungry people you could feed for the cost of the latest and greatest new gadget that is guaranteed to make your church bigger and better? Is it worth it in the end? Give me solid bible teaching in a simple sanctuary over flash anyday...

Anonymous said...

I agree Steven. I pastor a church of 70 people. Its a small church and we have actually discussed building at some point.We all agreed however that as God blesses us financially, which He has, that we need to give it away We agree that we can participate in kingdom growth by staying in our modest building , while serving the needs of those in true need.

Anonymous said...

sorry i forgot to put a comma in lol

Barbara said...

90 million to feed the poor, house the homeless, comfort the hurting....heaven. That's what it sounds like to me ~ heaven.

I know the churches like Lakewood are impacting the Kingdom...but (and this is just my opinion) I just can't get past their buildings and all the "stuff". I also feel like folks who distance themselves from "organized religion" can't get past that stuff either. It sends a mixed message.

I just attended a concert at a mega church in my area. There were Wii game systems in the youth wing. When they saw those, my own daughters (and I'm on the staff at our church) said, "Oh, our church sucks - I want to come here." While that statement was a bit of an "ouch" for me, I thought later that I don't want kids wanting to come to our church to play the Wii. I want them to come because they know they are loved there. In no way am I implying that those two things are mutually exclusive...but playing the Wii at church just isn't my thing I guess. And I worry about the materialistic message that sends to our children and youth.

"Lord, when did we see you hungry and give you food? When did we see you thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you homeless and give you shelter? When did we see you hurting and give you comfort? When did we see you sick and give you medicine?"

And Jesus replied, "Whatever you did for the least of these, you did for Me."

I can't reconcile 90 million, comfy chairs, and the Wii - - I just can't.

Barbara said...

ps - This is a conversation some friends and I have been having for quite some time now at www.epinoiacafe.com. Come join us if you'd like.

Bonnie said...

Okay, this isn't totally related, but it's a spinoff. Have you ever thought about how we overspend personally? How could five or ten or fifteen grand used for a wedding be used in the hands of a charity, like a homeless mission or a pregnancy resource center or an AIDS mission? How could the extra few thousand bucks for a new car over a used car be used in hands that would actually reach out to the world? What about when we buy houses that are bigger or more elaborate than we need just because "we can afford it"?

We are all guilty. Lakewood ought to be pretty ashamed of themselves for spending $90 million on their nice big church. But we all ought to be ashamed, because most of us live AT our means just because we have the money. Sure, I tithe 10%, but it's pretty difficult for me to give much more. I know how I can spend that money on myself, on the things that I "deserve," so I do. That attitude really bothers me - I shouldn't be concerned with just getting in my 10%, you know? It's like I'm just fulfilling a requirement and then I'm good.

The question - how should we live in an affluent society? It plagues me every day. Money keeps us stagnant, counting on the world.

Have you ever read "Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor Frankl? One of the many great books I have read that made me really question our way of life.

David said...

I think "building the church" doesn't mean building the church building. BTW, who needs a building? The early church went from house to house.

$90 million. Hmmm... And to think the early church got it wrong... they were actually selling their stuff to give to the poor, not to build a building. And they had thousands.

I guess it depends on a ministry philosophy. And I didn't know that buildings and high tech stuff are what actually draw people to Christ.

So many times I hear how pastors are saying how "big" their churches are. As if that lends to their credibility. Yesterday one pastor mentioned about the size of another's church, as if that indicated the validity of the ministry. Another pastor asked me in our first conversation together, "How many people do you run on a Sunday morning?" I guess I didn't know it mattered. And if it does, why?

If I am so concerned about numbers in my congregation, I feel like I am committing the same sin as King David as taking the census. Big numbers don't indicate a church's health. Isn't that what Bill Hybels finally told us? Finding some sense of validity or worth from my church (numbers, size, buildings, programs) is nothing short of insecurity. Our worth must come from Jesus' approval, not worldly standards.

I think if Jesus thought 12 was a reasonable number to disciple, then why should my expectations be more? I wonder if our philosophy of ministry and discipleship might be upside down.

And finally, if Jesus had come in this century, would he ever have started a building fund?

Laura in Texas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Laura in Texas said...

I know I'm way late on this, but I just found this blog and this post. Seems to me that if the church took a hard look at the way it spends its money, and we started using it to feed the poor and . . . pay for medical care for those who need it . . . maybe the government wouldn't have to keep trying to come up with new tax-and-spend programs to do the things that Christians ought to be doing. Preach the gospel? Yes. But live it first, and then they'll hear. Jesus and his disciples managed to change the world without building a single "church" building.