Tuesday, November 03, 2009

"A Revered Spiritual Powerhouse"

I haven't posted in a while, and I'm really not sure how much longer I'll keep this thing going. I'm torn, really, about whether or not the "Beef" is feasible for me at this stage of my life. Perhaps I just need to buckle down and make it work. Let me know what you think I should do if you have a chance.

To continue with the "Beef" or not, however, is not the intention of this post. I just saw something that will take a while to completely digest. I'll ponder this for a while. You see, the church that I pastor is in the process of making several changes. In our efforts to become more faithful practitioners of what Scot McKnight calls "The Jesus Creed" (Love God, Love Others), we feel that it's necessary to renovate some portions of our facility. In my view, this is really an issue of stewardship and service more than anything else. Our building is unfinished, and, particularly from the outside, it is difficult to know whether or not we're actually viable. One could easily drive or walk past our church and wonder if we're open for business (so to speak).

The Bible calls the man a "sluggard" who lets his grass become overgrown and his wall (fence) fall down (Proverbs 24:30-34). God speaks of being a good manager of what He has given us, and I believe in my heart that Grace Community Church of Corsicana, TX, has tried very hard to do the best with what we've had, but it is time to make a few adjustments that will enhance and complete what is currently the equivalent of an overgrown yard and a broken wall. We have committed to do so without incurring any debt, and we're determined to restore our facility to its humble and transparent roots.

I wrestle with spending money on a facility. It feels dirty sometimes because that money could seemingly be spent on any number of things that might go toward flesh and blood rather than bricks and mortar. I do think, however, that there are times when taking care of your facility means that you give yourself a greater opportunity to help more people and have more impact than you would otherwise. This is the motivation that is driving our church, and I can say with total confidence that this renovation is not a power play or a lust for luxury. That's just not what we're trying to do.

Today I was made aware of First Baptist Church of Dallas' plans to re-create their downtown fortress into "a revered spiritual powerhouse." The project will cost a mere $130,000,000. It's the largest church building program in modern history. I watched the videos on this web site to see more about the project. It's massive and gaudy, and I feel a little sick over the whole thing. It feels like what might happen if Jerry Jones were to become a pastor. Yuck!

My wife taught school at First Baptist Academy in Dallas for years until they lowered her pay last year in an effort to make their private school less of a drain on the church. Now I know what they were up to!! My two oldest boys were no longer eligible for scholarships because FBC Dallas had other plans for that money. Who needs an education when you can look at a whole bunch of shiny new stuff?

So now I'm left with the question, "Are we doing the same thing?" Are we renovating our little facility at the expense of the very people Jesus came to serve and love and save? Are we putting a building ahead of our mission to empower people to know and love Jesus? These are the questions that haunts me.

Now, I don't know how much is too much when it comes to this kind of thing, but I'm prone to think that if I invite people to my house for a party, but haven't bothered to mow the yard, pick up the half eaten pizza on the table or clean up the dog poop in the middle of the area rug, it's not going to be much fun for my special guests. Aesthetics play a direct role in the comfort level and involvement of the people. If things look nice, folks are more likely to have experiences that are good and inviting. If a church seeks to pursue that end, I think that's reasonable and noble.

On the other hand, if I expect people to come to my party just because I have a rock band, a laser light show, several inflatable games, and a few celebrities at a mansion in the Hampton's, that's a different story. I'm sure folks will come by the droves, but are they really the kinds of people I want at my party? And is all that stuff necessary for us to enjoy each other or is it simply extravagant and useless? I think you know the answer.

So, for now, I think we'll move forward with our plans to renovate, and I know that FBC Dallas will move forward with their plans to re-create. I'd like to think there is no difference in the motivation for these two projects... aside from about $129,900,000.


Valerie said...

Over the past 10+ years, we've been members of 2 churches - one in TX and one out here in NC. With both, the thing that initially drew us to visit was the outward appearance. With LP, it was because this new church had come into a gaudy ridiculous building and they were tearing down all that was gold and shiny. It still looked nice, but it became modest and we wanted to know more about a congregation who would do that. Our current church also interested us because the building was nice, but unassuming. It was a stark contrast to the enormous pink crown shaped building down the street.

What a building looks like says a lot about its occupants and where their focus is much the same way as a person's clothing and personal hygiene. It is our responsibility to take care of our bodies and to present to the world an exterior that is clean, modest, and shows that we respect ourselves and those around us. It's okay to do what's needed to make your building presentable and respectable.

Just don't go for the world's idea of what "a revered spiritual powerhouse" should look like!

Joanne said...

I think you should continue with your lovely little blog. Otherwise you won't be able to make me laugh (or think, but mostly laugh... but sometimes think too).

By the way, can you stop with all the "making me think" stuff? My brain hurts.