I have been sitting here all day just feeling empty inside thinking about the lack of Biblical priority in the church. That emptiness is turning into white hot anger.
Prepare for a rant…
I don’t have statistics in front of me, but I am confident that a huge percentage of the budget of an average church goes to pay for staff salaries and buildings. We expect pastors to spend upwards of 15-20 hours a week reading and then telling us about what they read and the average church gladly pays them to do that. We have meetings ad nauseum about this program or that, about the budget, about all manner of inane stuff. I recall very recently reading something on a church webpage (I won’t name the church) and I about went through the roof. This is copied directly from their “fast facts” about their "church":
■ Located on 140 acres with land and buildings of current net worth near over 50 million dollars
■ 3,000 parking spaces on about 30 acres
■ Worship Center has seating for over 5,500
■ Pipe organ has 118 ranks; 6,737 pipes
■ Annual budget over $17 million
■ Give approximately 1.5 million per year to missions, the largest contributor of any Southern Baptist Church in the U.S. (my note: that means that 8% of their $17,000,000 budget goes to "missions")
■ Average Sunday morning Bible study attendance: 3,800
■ Over 300 Bible study classes for all ages.
■ Approximately 7,000 in worship attendance on Sunday mornings in three worship services
■ About 140 full-time staff, plus about 215 part-time
■ 24 pastoral staff
■ Purchased former RC Cola bottling plant, adjacent land, Fall 2001; over $3 million given in two months
What kind of a twisted view of the Gospel ministry would make someone put a list like that out in public and think it reflected well on them? The same sort of mindset that would print up matching T-shirts for over 300 people to wear when getting “baptized” in a circus atmosphere. This is not some postmodern, seeker sensitive megachurch, it is a conservative Baptist church. Is that list supposed to make me want to go there on a Sunday morning? I read that list and wondered what exactly the object of their worship is. It certainly is not a sign of God's providence, it is a sign of idolatry.
There are missionaries sitting around the states who are not going to the world to bring people the Gospel of Jesus Christ because of a lack of funds. Cults like the mormons make missions a priority, meanwhile we can’t be bothered to talk to our neighbors about Christ. Before we spend one nickel on an unnecessary building project (and most building projects are unnecessary in my opinion) or hire one more staff member, we better make sure that every Biblically sound missionary who has raised their hand and said “send me” is on a plane to minister to lost people overseas or right here in the states. Let me go even further. I would challenge pastors to step down and the rest of the men to step up so that staff salaries could go to missionary work. We shouldn't have to pay men to do what the rest of us are called and capable, but too lazy, to do ourselves.
There are innumerable families who desperately want to adopt children but cannot because of red tape and exorbitant costs and there are on the other side innumerable children in horrible situations that are waiting for a family to adopt them. In my time in banking I can tell you without hesitation that many churches are sitting on enormous sums of money, saved up for a rainy day. They save this money because they have such huge fixed costs in the form of buildings and staff. The church in America is enslaved by money. I am just sick inside when on the one hand I think of the gleaming, brand new “churches” in every town in America and on the other hand all of the orphans waiting to be adopted by someone, anyone, who will love and care for them. They don’t want a blackberry or an x-box, they just want a roof over their head, food to eat and to live each day and not be in fear.
There are Christians all over the world that don’t have Bibles in their own language and cannot afford to buy one. They are starving for the Word of God and vulnerable to false teachers and we buy $125 calfskin study Bibles. I probably have more Bibles on my bookshelf than many churches in China have in the entire congregation. We put Bibles in the pews for people too lazy to bring their own Bible to church that sit unread all week long and our brothers and sisters risk life and limb to smuggle Bibles to those without.
There are widows who are lonely and waiting to be visited, but no one does because “that is the pastor’s job”. We subcontract ministry to one or a few men and expect them to minister to everyone else. See the above challenge to “step down and step up”.
If you are involved in a church that meets in an old building, or in a school, or someplace else, don’t give in to the prevailing worldview and go into debt to buy a building that will sit empty all week. Use what you have. If you want to plant a church, don’t wait for a paid minister to come to town, just open your home to the saints. It worked 2000 years ago, it still works today. If your congregation is sitting on $25,000 or $50,000 or more in the bank for a “rainy day”, ask yourself what you could be putting that money to use for that would advance the Gospel.
I am glad Christ cared more about sacrificing Himself so that we could be adopted into His family than He was about building glorious temples to Himself. I wish we had that same level of care for others around us.