Saturday, May 28, 2011

Pride marches on deep in the heart of Texas

Eric at Pilgrim's Progress wrote a post this morning, How Is This Justifiable? regarding the new campus for First Baptist Dallas that is going to cost well over $100,000,000. The easy answer to Eric's question is that you cannot justify it. I first heard about this in 2009 and was similarly nauseated by the idea of spending that sort of sum on a new campus. I wrote about it a couple of times in 2009, the first post was Does God need a $130 million edifice to be glorified? and then I followed it up with How is First Baptist Dallas different? I would also point you to a great post on the subject from Guy Muse, FBC Dallas launches $130M Building Campaign

As I think about this, it is easy to get outraged because of the sum involved. $100,000,000 is a huge amount of money. But as I wondered in my second post, How is First Baptist Dallas different?, there is a similar mindset going on in churches all across America. Here is part of what I wrote:
The number of decimal places is different but how many millions do local churches spend to upgrade perfectly serviceable buildings for purely aesthetic reasons? Our neighbors are losing their jobs and their homes, Christians around the world are starving for the Word of God, missionaries are stuck in place for a lack of funding, orphans languish without homes and we spend untold sums of money to build, maintain and upgrade our buildings that we use for a couple of hours a week. Whenever a church spends unnecessary money on their building (and lets be honest, much of the spending in the local church is unnecessary) they are invoking the same spirit of worldliness, covetousness and pride as FBD. So what if the carpet is ugly or the lighting is not perfect? Ought we not focus on what is the true focus, our Lord, and not on what is merely a convenience, the meeting place? The local church meeting house is not a temple, not the “house of the Lord”. It is a place where we gather and that building is not the church. Our buildings should be about the last place we spend a bunch of money. It might do us some good to sacrifice a bit instead of demanding every creature comfort before we will deign to spend a few hours in "worship".
Enormous sums are spent across this country on upkeep, decorations, utilities, comforts and entertainment in churches. The amount of money spent is different but the motivation is often the same. I have been in more lavish buildings than I can count, all allegedly glorifying God. When I used to sit in them, I was envious and covetous, thinking one day I would pastor a fancy suburban church with a huge sanctuary. Now when I sit in them I think of orphans in Haiti, grateful for a couple of bowls of rice each day. I think of people dying around the world, having never heard the sweet and precious name of Christ. I think of couples who would love to live out a picture of the Gospel by adopting a child but cannot afford to do so.

I also think of all of the weekly attenders in these churches who vote Republican faithfully and rail against the welfare state but think that spending money on buildings and programs and professional ministers is worthwhile. If we quit spending so much money on glorifying ourselves and spent it helping those in need, maybe it would be easier to get rid of welfare in this country? I am all for lowering taxes, slashing government spending and sharply reducing the size and scope of the Federal government but I fear that given more money in their pockets, many church goers would spend that money on their churches or themselves instead of on those in need.

Wonder why people look at Christians and see hypocrites? We say "God bless America" but we ought to be careful. I think if God truly blessed America, Christians in this country would experience persecution like nothing we have ever seen. Our faith would be tested, our buildings destroyed, our leader jailed, our lives would often be forfeit. I don't think people really want God to bless America, I think they want God to bless them with more "security", more riches and less worries. When I read the Bible, that doesn't seem to be how it works.

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