We live in an economic era where the "Bigger" the item - the "Better"! Fast food restaurant employees routinely ask "Do you want to Super-Size It?" as an enhancement to the already "large" items, such as fries and a soft drink, in a combo. Subsequently, this is a suitable marketing technique in such a competitive industry as the restaurant business, but who would have imagined this concept would be utilized in the church? Of course we use a more inconspicuous term, "Mega". I can hardly sit through a church service these days without hearing about a capital campaign or building fund project, such as Imagine, or Injoy, which outlines a structured monetary pledge or commitment that supersedes the biblical ordinance of tithing and offering, extended over a period of time. Campaigns that equate building larger churches synonymously with building the temple of God! The scriptures declare in Acts 17: 24 that "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands." So I ask the question, who is benefiting from the building of these "mega" facilities - God or man?
The church's need for "super sizing" reminds me of the thought-pattern of the rich man, who decided to tear down his barn and build "bigger" barns so that he would have "good things" laid up for years (Luke 12:18). Selfishly, the more he obtained; the more he wanted! Now, let me interject, I do not have a issue with a church, that has outgrown its facilities, making plans to accommodate its expanding congregation; but, for what reason should a 500-member congregation build a facility that seats 5,000 members? Or, why would a congregation with a gross income of $500,000 a year ($1,500,000 in three years)--pledge to pay for a 20-million dollar church facility in a three-year period? That equates to a commitment of almost 7-million dollars a year! That's absurd! And some of the amenities - i.e., some churches have ATM machines! One church is planning to construct a food court! Why? If Jesus was so angry at the moneychangers in the synagogue in Jerusalem that He overturned their tables for selling doves, imagine what He would do if He lived today? How would He feel about the "watchmen" who are over 'taxing" and over burdening the people, seeking their own gain. Jeremiah 6 verse 13 states, "From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit." I have heard about leaders asking congregants to refrain from purchasing personal necessities for a period of time, in order to commit these funds to the building campaign. I have heard of people taking out second mortgages on their homes to commit to building these enormous facilities. Proverbs 22:26 states "Do not be a man who strikes hands in pledge or puts up security for debts..." When is "enough"--enough?
The thing that really saddens me is that because of this need for "super sizing", many churches today are facing foreclosure! Churches - foreclosing? That was unheard of back in the 1960s, 70s, or 80s, for that matter. Then, the church was the cornerstone of the community! The church that I grew up in Sugarland, Texas is still standing and I am 50. My father, mother, aunts, uncles, grandfather and grandmother have all grown up in that church. Expansion has occurred; a few rooms have been re-modeled here and there; but, it has not formulated a campaign to build a massive sanctuary beyond the needs and affordability of the community/neighborhood. Our churches were once respected and reverence and now, due to misappropriation of funds, overzealous leaders, and other "negative" issues, we have become a "contention", as the scriptures states in Psalms 80: 6, "You have made us a source of contention to our neighbors, and our enemies mock us." The place that was once the "place of refuge" is not seeking refuge. The place that was referred to as the "storehouse", is now seeking "bailout". The prophet Joel foresaw this day when he spoke these words in Joel 1: 16-17:
" Has not the food been cut off
before our very eyes-
joy and gladness
from the house of our God?
17 The seeds are shriveled
beneath the clods.
The storehouses are in ruins,
the granaries have been broken down,
for the grain has dried up.
18 How the cattle moan!
The herds mill about
because they have no pasture;
even the flocks of sheep are suffering."
Please note, I am not judging, because I, on a personal level, have experienced hard times and have faced foreclosure, as well. I am not bashing or condemning the church. As a minister, I am simply saying to the church that we have to do better and we cannot lose focus of our mission-soul winning. There is much work to be accomplished and as the scripture declares, "the harvest is plenty but the laborers are few!" We cannot get "caught up" in denominational rivalry nor should we try to "keep up with the Joneses", so to speak. We have to "separate ourselves" and come from among them. The church is "sacred, "sanctified", "consecrated", and "set apart" for service, for the people. Our mission should be to serve, not to be served; to lead by example. We are in the world, but we are not OF the world. Our motive cannot be because EVERYBODY else is doing it.
Let me interject, I do not oppose large, exquisite edifices; I have travelled overseas and have seen some "breath-taking" chapels in Germany, France, Holland, and Switzerland. Some of these "masterpieces" are trimmed in gold and the décor is indescribable. Some are big and beautiful edifices; yet, inside they felt cold and devoid of life. Some are utilized just as tourist attractions; they have "presence" but no "essence". They exist, but they have no bliss! Do I have a witness?
In conclusion, I would like to ask, "Does SIZE matter?" Is the church's motive for expansion linked to soul winning or capital campaigning? Are we more concerned with "the numbers" instead of the conversion of "sinners"? Should I be asked to make "pledges" beyond my "tithes" and [free-will] "offerings"? Is the motive for expansion based on need (accommodating growth), or greed (competitive rivalry)? Just some food for thought! Once we know better; we have to do better! It is never too late to change!