When, if ever, should you leave your church in search of a new one? That is the question our family finds ourselves asking. We love this church. We loved the old pastor. We loved his speaking style, the way he spoke of scripture while applying it to everyday life. When he left for another pastoral position we stuck around for more than 7 months while the church searched for his replacement. It was painful at times…the waiting. Then, finally, the day came and we had a new pastor. We like him as a person, as a pastor, and as a speaker in general. The girls love the Sunday school service. They both attended the Summer Bible Camp and enjoyed it thoroughly. So why leave you ask?
Is it right to question the church and it’s future plans when they don’t line up with your own beliefs? Our church is planning to build a new mega-church about 30 minutes away from the present location. Now, I am not against “planting new churches”. The Bible says to spread the Word. However, in the Denver metro area you can’t throw a rock without hitting a Christian church. So here is the dilemma. Is this church necessary and can our family get behind supporting the building of a church we do not plan on attending when completed?
Our church has launched a marketing campaign called a “mortgage reduction program”. For a small congregation of about 1,300 we have raised $800,000 so far. This money has only gone to the lengthy entitlement process. Once the entitlement process is complete they can then look for a buyer to buy and develop half of the land (the church would own the other half). In the present economy, it could take a year or more to find a buyer! Then another two years to build a large multi-purpose room for services. Then they would need more money to build the church in its entirety. So, until then, they still need to make the mortgage on the land, a whopping $60,000 a month. Needless to say, they are hurting financially. Offerings are down. Their flock is hurting financially too. Enter the need for a marketing campaign to raise money.
It’s not just the fact that we won’t attend the new church when built; it’s also that we feel there is nothing wrong with the present location of the church. The church claims they have out-grown the present location. Huh? The Sunday service we attend (they offer 3 per weekend), is not full. There are plenty of empty seats. We question if the new church is really out to “reach new faithful” as they claim; or is it a “look at me and my big beautiful church” thing? The drawings hung in the lobby look like the church will be beautiful. But is this what God really wants? Does He need all that bling? When I think about how much money we have raised I wonder how many people we could have helped. How many lives could we, as a congregation, have changed. Could that money have been better spent?
Does the church have the right to tell you how to budget your money? One of the brochures in the marketing packet is information on how my family can budget our finances better so that we can give more to the church. Where does a church get off telling me how to spend my money? That takes gall (or another word that rhymes). So now they are in the financial advisory business too?
I asked if this is what God wants. The slick marketing brochures say, “Yes! This is God’s vision for the church.” I have doubt in my heart. Is that wrong? Am I the one lacking in faith? What if we were using the money to plant churches in Africa. There are people all around the world who have never heard of Jesus Christ and the good news. Would that make a difference to me if they were planting churches there? Yes. It would.I am reading “Radical” by David Platt right now. It speaks to me on so many levels…the way our church is dependent on ourselves rather than dependent on God. That is where I feel our church has lost its way. It has great speeches, glossy overhead graphics, an experienced worship leader, resources to build a multi-million dollar church with a prayer tower, and top-of-the-line programs. It has everything our entertainment driven society wants and needs, but I feel I am missing one important thing…a relationship with God. ———————————————————————————————————————————–
November 7, 2010 Update: I was on my way up to the sanctuary at church for morning service when I overheard part of a conversation of two men: One guy to the other, “…You know the faithful few are doing all the work and they are tired.” Other guy says with a deep exhale, “I know.” I assume the two men are talking about the financial shortfall the church is having. Okay, so I just kept on walking…thinking about that statement. The faithful few? What is that implying? That if you are not giving to the “Capital Campaign” then you are not faithful? I could have overheard it wrong. After all, that is the risk of eavesdropping. You get it wrong sometimes. But I am pretty sure I didn’t because we got a “sales pitch” before the sermon this morning. Even told, again, how much money to give. I am sorry, I have prayed about this and I am giving my money to the poor. To feed the poor. Not to build a multi-million dollar church with a prayer tower and comfy chairs. My heart tells me I can’t.