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This past year I have read Internet Monk….. almost daily, before checking almost any other blogs. So I’m not being glib or just name-dropping when I reccomend that you check out his last post on American Evangelism, and while you are there check out his last few months of blogging. It’s some of the most real, up close and personal, and honest writing I have seen on the web, as well being “spiritually edifying”. Check it out.

This is where I have the biggest beef with the model of church we often see in our cites and towns in America. Often when we look under the surface we don’t seem very humble in how we spend money, and I believe it is directly linked to our view of how we should live the Christian life, and our view of discipleship.

 

 

Look across any town or city, and it will seem as if many churches are in a contest to see who can have the largest sanctuary, the newest “Christian Life Center”, or the nicest landscaping. Or compete in terms of technology and programs by outdoing each other with a ridiculously overdone vacation bible school, “youth programs” complete with video games and sports equipment, expensive outings, etc. Its the religious equivalent of our rampant American consumerism where we tend to judge the things of our world by their packaging and marketing, and not our needs or the product’s effectiveness.

 

To be fair, we see these things more often in larger mega churches and “seeker centered” churches, and not so much more traditional protestant churches. But even smaller churches, though humble in size, might spend money proportionately similar to their larger, more overblown counterparts.

 

So, when you tell someone “The bible instructs you to give at least 10% of everything you earn”, and then you in turn spend that money on incredibly self-focused and consumer-minded things- you lose your own credibility in my eyes and many others. The bible has plenty to say about growing your wealth to the exclusion of growing your reward in Heaven. So ideal church, here some things you could tell me to convince me that you are concerned with glorifying God more than maintaining a status quo……..

 

Tell me you brainstormed, and planned, and found a more economical way to build your meeting place, or that you found an existing space to use when new construction would indebt the church for decades to come, instead of just following what the other big churches did across town with their new facilities.

 

Tell me that you plan on using your facilities to serve the community in ways you can, like offering an affordable after school program if feasible, a recreation program for area youth, or opening up your building as a meeting place if needed.

 

Tell me that you considered hiring an additional minister, but decided against it because you thought it better to raise up more layperson leaders within the church to assist the pastor(s) you do have and see that money go towards more mission-minded goals.

 

Tell me there is a servant attitude within your church that sees that needs within are met, instead of constantly hiring out the smallest projects just because you can afford it.

 

Tell me a large percentage of the church’s budget will go towards seeing to it that children in third world countries will eat today, and then hear the Gospel with a fully belly, and equip native people to build a better future for themselves.

 

Tell me that your church helps support local crisis pregnancy centers, soup kitchens and shelters, bible translation ministries, foreign missionaries, and church plants…… before it thinks about redecorating.

 

Please tell me that if your church ever gets to the point that it struggles to meet budget, it will do more than just grit its teeth and try and do whatever it has to do to keep its doors open.

 

Tell me that your church is concerned with more than just surviving financially.

 

Tell me that the overall mission of Christ’s church is actually of the highest priority to you, and you would consider merging with another church, letting another church meet in your building to share the financial burden, or even selling your facility that is too large or expensive for you…….. even if it hurts people sentimentalities.

 

Do many of the things our churches cling to truly produce disciples by aiding us in maturing in our faith? Or do they cater to our sensibilities and keep us religiously pacified and entertained, all the while spending enormous amounts of money to keep the train rolling on its tracks?

I’ve been reading Tell the Truth: The Whole Gospel to the Whole Person by Whole People by Will Metzger as of lately.

Metzger has been a campus minister for decades with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, traveled to every continent in his ministry, pastored a church, and served students of different nationalities at the University of Delaware.

This book is not a how-to manual for “new” methods and is certainly not riding the crest of any waves in current trends. But it is a very passionate and scripturally referenced manual for personal evangelism from a Reformed perspective, encouraging and admonishing its readers to present the Gospel without truncating it, or being unloving or lacking in grace as we do witness. 

Heres a quote:

This is a book about the scandal of sovereign salvation. In it, I blame God for salvation, in the sense that He is totally responsible. He organized a rescue operation within the Trinity- designing, supplying, accomplishing and restoring those who were in peril. Our Triune God is the Author and Fulfiller, the Originator and Consummator, the Creator and the Redeemer. Its all God’s fault- a grace that gives respone-ability to the spiritually dead.

The Lord of the universe is a lover who woos spiritual adulterers like you and me, providing everything needed to reconstitute a relationship.

There is a very good article this month in ByFaith Online (the PCA’s denominational magazine) about being “Created For Community”. Check it out or read this exceprt from it:

Battling the Kingdom of One

Yet with all of our gratitude, it is important to recognize that there is something powerful inside each of us that drives us away from these two essential communities. That thing is sin. In its fundamental form, sin is anti-social. A verse in 2 Corinthians 5 captures this well: “And he died for all that those who live should no longer live for themselves … .” He died for my sin—which causes me to shrink my life down to the size of…my life. Sin causes my thoughts and motives to be dominated by a powerful triad of self-focus: my wants, my feeling, my needs. Where sin reigns community struggles.

Think further with me. Sin is not first the breaking of rules. Sin is first the breaking of relationship. When I love God above all else, I gladly keep His law. When I love myself above all else, I will step over God’s boundaries again and again.

So our problem with community is not just the result of the cultural influences that surround us. Our primary problem with community exists inside of us. Sin causes us to lose sight of the grand purposes of the kingdom of God while we expend all kinds of effort to build tiny little kingdoms of one. So, even when we are in relationship with others, we try to co-opt them into the service of our kingdom purposes.

Unfortunately, i think much of this line of thinking, while being expressed and articulated at the level of the Presbyterian Church in America’s national magazine ByFaith, is absent or overlooked at the local church level. I want to brainstorm some ways our practices and traditions can take into consideration our need for community to a greater extent. More later.

 

Also, another good article about what the PCA is doing about AIDS.