Friday, October 22, 2010

The love of money is Crystal clear

I think I have shown remarkable restraint this week by not commenting on the recent news that the Crystal Cathedral has filed for bankruptcy protection from its creditors. A lot of attention is being paid to this around the secular media as well as among Christians and there is just the faintest whiff of condescension among the more orthodox brethren that this has befallen what can only be described as a theologically squirrelly group. My concern today is not with the Crystal Cathedral but what this whole episode says about the church as a whole.

The Crystal Cathedral is just a very public manifestation of a broader problem in the church culture in America. It is not limited to “prosperity gospel” folks but is something that is widespread. The numbers may be smaller but the issue with debt and money is the same. That problem is that the church seems to have no conception of how to be good stewards of money:

The local church in America is in love with money and what money can do for the local church.

It is well documented how much Christian churches spend on themselves in the form of buildings, mortgages, staff, programs, upkeep, etc. and that spending, as long as it is on “my church” seems to be OK. When “my church” spends a huge percentage of its giving on itself, that is necessary for Gospel work. When someone else spends that money, especially when it is a huge sum and I disagree with them theologically, it is a sign of poor stewardship. One man’s poor stewardship is another man’s necessity. I read a Facebook post yesterday by a ministry that was shaking its head ruefully at the foolishness of the Crystal Cathedral while at the same time this organization and the associated church are spending millions upon millions for buildings. I guess it is OK to spend lavishly on facilities when you have the right theology.

As I write this on a Friday, I wonder how much money is tied up in church buildings that are mostly empty today and have been most of the last week. Tens of millions? Hundreds of millions? The number is enormous and is unsupportable. Before the orthodox start wagging their fingers at the Crystal Cathedral for their fiscal irresponsibility, they need to look at their own church budgets.

1 comment:

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