Monday, May 30, 2016

If You Build It

There are several new church buildings along my regular routes around town. Some are recently completed and others still being constructed. Most of them are existing congregations that are relocating to a larger facility. As I pass them, I feel a peculiar ache in my heart. I have searched my innermost being to assure myself it is not just jealousy over another church having greater resources than my own. I sincerely believe this feeling is simply a disdain of priorities. These grandiose structures do not speak to the glory of God for me. They remind me more of the Tower of Babel. Perhaps there is a real demand for these large structures. Then again, perhaps they are operating on a Field of Dreams philosophy: “If you build it, they will come.”
One of my past assignments as a pastor was to help start a church. When I came on board, 200 people were meeting at a 2,000 seat country music venue in Pigeon Forge. After a while, we moved to the New Center area and met in the Triple C Dance Barn. (I still miss being able to play a game of pool before the worship service starts.) From there, we moved into an old garage that had allegedly been used as a pornography studio. We sanctified the place and redeemed it for years of wonderful ministry.
The motto for this church was “Not About a Steeple, All About the People.” Not having a regular place for church helped me appreciate how helpful it is to have that asset. It also gave me some perspective on its relative insignificance in terms of the Kingdom of God. We are to be good stewards of the resources we have and should take good care of our buildings, but there is a tendency to let them become the tail that wags the dog. I recall hearing of a church years ago that discontinued its day care program because the kids were too messy. I have served several churches where maintenance issues such as HVAC units, carpeting, painting and windows dominated far too much of my time.

All this leads me to wonder how this money could be better used to genuinely help God’s children? I have a colleague in ministry who was recently spearheading a movement to build a village of tiny houses for the homeless. Unfortunately, the surrounding residents petitioned to have the project stopped. I cannot help but believe that a good many of those folks are good church going Christians. I imagine them standing before the Lord on Judgment Day trying to explain how they believed helping the homeless might lower their property values. It just does not seem quite right. 

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