Heat dances from the asphalt, giving solid objects the illusion of swaying under July’s burning heat. Hydrangea bushes, all purple and pink, dot the landscape of homes and churches.
Driving down the road, I begin to count all the churches – One, Two, Three…Ten, Eleven. Eleven churches in a mile and a half drive, and something in my stomach tightens.
We have spent so much money, here in the Untied States on bricks and mortar. Each Sunday we dress in our best, drink coffee with those we love, hear a sermon, have a Sunday School lesson, and go home; and, the majority of these buildings are not used again for another week.
Is this the Christianity that Christ had in mind when he gave us the great commission? Or, has our Christianity morphed into something it was never meant to be?
Last summer I read Bonhoeffer’s: Preacher, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, and often my mind wanders back to some of the things for which Dietrich Bonhoeffer stood. He noted, that we as Christians have lost something in our religion. Christianity began as an eastern religion; and, we have westernized it to accommodate our life-style.
By pouring so much money into our building funds, and community areas, we have become a social church instead of a Christ-following Church. It seems that many of the churches in North America, instead of seeking Christ, and sharing Him with others have, in many ways, become self-seeking and self-serving. Frequently, a church can feel more like a social club than the Body of Christ.
We have been given so very much in gifts and financial blessings and we are spending so much on our comforts, while our inner city children perish, lacking education, regular meals, clothing to fit their changing bodies, and a safe place to sleep at night. Yet, we have huge buildings, making our presence known in the communities.
This is only the beginning of what many churches need to address.
Is Christianity in the world as a popularity contest with other religions?
But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. (Luke 12:48 NIV)
If we refuse the call, if we close our eyes, are we not provoking God’s anger toward our self-serving ways?
To be able to give, as we should, we need to have the right mindset, the right vision to see as God sees. The Sermon on the Mount, to me, is the Ten Commandments of the New Testament –it gives us the vision to see how to proceed in living and giving in the Christian walk. In the Sermon on the Mount, we are taught to forgive, to end anger, to seek God, to love others as if they were more important than ourselves. We, the Body of Christ, who should be full of gratitude — the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, sometimes look more like a den of ingrates — grabbing all they can.
The original ingrate was Satan. He had beauty, talent, and position; yet, it was not enough for his ravenous self-serving appetite — He wanted for more, for bigger, for the attention, more power. He was never thankful, never satisfied.
Ann Voskamp, in her book 1,000 Gifts writes:
“Satan, he wanted more. More power, more glory. Ultimately, in his essence, Satan is an ingrate. And he sinks his venom into the heart of Eden. Satan’s sin becomes the first sin of all humanity: the sin of ingratitude. Adam and Eve are simply, painfully, ungrateful for what God gave.”
I have pondered Ann’s message. “Ungrateful for what God gave.” Being ungrateful, not saying “thank you, or I love you” back to God. Have we become a people who says, “more, and more, bigger and greater” only to be used for our own desires and not given to others as God has given to us?
There are many good things that our churches do in our communities, and in the world. But, I think it is time for us to step back and evaluate our choices and ask if we’re doing all that we should, or only doing that which is in our comfort zone, omitting what causes us to truly sacrifice?
Not long ago I saw a bumper sticker that read, “America Bless God”. And I have to ask myself, is the Church in North America really blessing God more than we are blessing ourselves?
How can we truly love Jesus more?
What specifically can we do today to answer the call to “Feed my Lambs”?
Amen! You speak the cry of my heart here
Thank you, HisFireFly!
Oh, Diane–I so agree with your post. My husband and I often say what a waste the church building is…only open for business on Sunday, stop in, check it off your “to do” list and go about the rest of your busy week, then return next Sunday.
Great post, Diane.
Thank you, Tammy. I am praying that God show the Church how we can better use our resources.
Susta…..awesome, awesome post!! I read this to my husband today for he is an Elder within our church. We both gained much to think about from this post. Praising God for giving you these words of wisdom and thank Him for your obedience to tap out these words. Love ya!
Nellie, Susta! It takes men like your husband, and people praying for us to find a way to bless God.
I understand what you’re saying, but I’ll also say that neither Jesus nor any of the other writers of Scripture ever admonish us about having beautiful places to worship. While we can certainly go over board (I know of a church that spent over $60,000 to install a huge aquarium in their lobby) on things that don’t pertain to worship at all, I think that there’s a certain Puritan instinct in us sometimes that demands that all things the church spends money on be either charity or of extreme practicality. Yet the example of the woman who (in the disciples’ eyes) “wasted” a jar of very expensive perfume in her worship and adoration of Jesus was not chastised, but rather held up as an example to us all. It’s not that the disciples were wrong about their practical concerns (helping the poor with the money such perfume could be sold for), it’s just that it doesn’t appear that Jesus felt the issue was an either/or one.
And many churches indeed do use their facilities during the week, whether it’s ministries that reach out inner city communities with early childhood education and mentoring during the week, or Bible studies space for groups to meet in, a facility for people struggling with addiction or recovering from a divorce or abuse…many churches have all sorts of meaningful ways they touch their communities and having a nice space to do those things in helps a great deal. A nomadic church that has to set up and teardown each week might find it difficult to provide the same sorts of possibilities.
God made us to respond to beauty when we see it and there’s nothing wrong about having beautiful, inspiring spaces to worship in. So I think while it’s not necessarily a bad thing to evaluate how we steward our money, we should resist the impulse to think that unadorned, “cheap” spaces are automatically better or more God-pleasing than beautiful ones that are a bit more expensive to build.
Bryan, you make some valid points. I am so glad that we, as mature Christians, can agree to disagree at times, and still feel comfortable being friends. I think if we had coffee together, we would find that we agree on more things about begin a Christian and living that day to day, than we disagree.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
Convicting to read after a day of church busy-ness.
I need to ask this of myself before I begin to cast stones at the institutional church. I pray that my life is a blessing to God and that example can spread to my brothers and sisters so that together the Church as a body of believers can be the blessing you seek.
I think it is only with our personal sanctification that the institutional church can break out of its self-glorifying rut.
Frank I will join you in that prayer for myself as well. Thank you!
This is very good, Diane. I agree on so many levels, and you are so right that the church has much more to deal with than just this–but your questions are definitely a *wonderful* starting point. *Thank you* for being brave. And this is convicting–that we are never satisfied–we have a ravenous self-serving appetite–this sobers me.
Thank you Nacole. I was convicted too. Maybe one day I’ll share the whole story.
Diane, you know that getting out of my comfort zone has been a theme this summer. That challenge led me beyond the four walls of our church, and it’s forever changed my perspective. I think Christians need to have a greater presence in established organizations in our communities. Too many times we want the church to “recreate the wheel” and come up with our own ministries. Truth be told, it might be better to flood those established community organizations with Christian volunteers.
You are an amazing Christian, Susan. I know how much you reach beyond the church and into the community. I am challenged to do more having you as an example.