I shared this on Twitter/Facebook Monday night:
RT @emergentvillage @jeannemstevens: Churches hold $28B in mortgage debt. That amt could provide clean H20 to 1.4 billion ppl for 20 yrs.
I received a couple questions and comments so I thought I’d share my response and comments here as well. I hope you keep in mind that these are my thoughts and I don’t expect you to relate to God in the same way I do. For some, church buildings hold deep value and worth and are literal sanctuaries where they can come and meet with God – however for me… well you can read my thoughts below .
Q: Wow- that is really sobering. I would like to share this. Since I don’t know the folks you twitter with, do you know where this stat came from? Thx
- To begin with, charity:water says that $20 they can provide clean water for one person, for up to 20 years.
As for the church mortgage stat, I think its been mentioned in a several different books and/or stats from George Barna. If I’m not mistaken, I think it was brought up in Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices by George Barna and Frank Viola.
Q: amazing statistic. Makes one want to do away with all church bldgs. But we are studying I Kings and pondering the building of the temple, the beauty and the intricate detail that God caused Solomon to put into the place where His people would come for many generations to worship. The gold, the cedar…only the best. The money and the years spent building it with thousands of men could have been used to help the poor then as well……..don’t think that the point was about the poor, but about the one who made us-and now has saved us. Just a thought; what do you think? Hmmmmm, what exactly do we know about the first New Testament church buildings?
- I will never be in favor of building a “church building” – especially when it puts God’s people in debt.
The first “temple” was a tent. And I don’t believe God instructed the Israelites to build an elaborate temple. 2 Samuel 7 seems to paint the picture that God never wanted a temple. He wanted to dwell in the hearts of his people – not a building.
The early Church met in homes, (Jewish) temples, catacombs and other public places. They weren’t concerned with a particular place or building. They just met wherever there was room. (Acts 2:46-47)
From my understanding, there wasn’t an emphasis put on the church building itself until the 4th century (circa 315) when Constantine converted to Christianity and felt his new God deserved a building of honor just like the Greek and Roman gods had (seems similar to David’s predicament as well).
thinking about the poor made me look up the verse about the perfume that was poured onto Christ in Matthew 26: 1-13. “for this perfume might have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor”…..and Christ’s answer “for you always have the poor with you; but you do not always have me”. This was a different situation, and not about a building, but Christ himself….but I would like to know your thoughts Jonathan; what do you think?
- As for Jesus saying there would always be poor with us – he was quoting Deuteronomy 15:11 which in context is all about giving freely to the poor and canceling debts.
Deuteronomy 15 even gives us instructions on the year of Jubilee – the Year of the Lord’s Favor (Luke 4:18-19) – and how we are to cancel all the debts owed to us every seven years. Because God is a God of second (and third and forth and fifth) chances.
“Give freely and spontaneously. Don’t have a stingy heart. The way you handle matters like this triggers God, your God’s, blessing in everything you do, all your work and ventures. There are always going to be poor and needy people among you. So I command you: Always be generous, open purse and hands, give to your neighbors in trouble, your poor and hurting neighbors.” – Deuteronomy 15:1-10-11
Any additional thoughts?
- Glad you asked! (well you didn’t really but I thought I’d share them either way.) Here’s a great example of a church body that seems to get it….
Rolling Hills Baptist Church, Fayetteville, GA
Their building and property is worth over 1.1 million dollars.
The church has a nice facility that is almost paid off.
The church owes less than one hundred thousand dollars.
The church has 1 million in equity.
The church has many families who have lost their homes and jobs.
The community is one that could use resources and money to help families in need.
The pastor and his congregation have decided to sell the church building and property to take care of his members and put roofs over peoples heads instead of their own on Sunday.
And on October 5, 2008, the members of Rolling Hills voted overwhelmingly in favor of joining GOD in His redemptive work by selling her buildings and property, and using the proceeds to increase ministry and mission efforts in our community and beyond. (HT Ragamuffin Soul)
And a few great quotes from people a lot smarter than me…
“The church is the church only when it exists for others. To make a start, it should give away all its property to those in need. The clergy must live solely on the free-will offerings of their congregations, or possibly engage in some secular calling. The church must share in the secular problems of ordinary human life, not dominating, but helping and serving. It must tell men of every calling what it means to live in Christ, to exist for others.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“Want to start a church? Keep the Christians out” and “The biblical example of church is the church moving out and initiating from their house and not our house.” – Tall Skinny Kiwi
- When I graduated college you may remember that I had a desire to go to work for a church or some organization that did multi-media and production and tech etc. for churches. I wanted to help create a show to help people see God. And part of me still has that desire from time to time — but more and more these days I get turned off when I think and hear of churches spending enormous budgets on production, or bands.
These days I’d rather sit and talk with someone one on one and show them Jesus that way than through a flashy presentation. I’d rather BE Jesus, BE the gospel and the good news than show it through a fancy light show.
Even with encounter – I much prefer our small group time or our recent living room encounters to our weekly meetings at the Civic Center – but I see the need and place for those as well.
I think whichever way/place you chose to worship God – do it with all your heart, soul and mind. Ensure that your heart is in it fully. But regardless, I think God is pretty clear throughout Scripture that our heart should be turned toward him and our neighbor — especially those who are oppressed and hurting around us.
So there are some of my thoughts. What are yours?