While visiting family in Lebanon, Missouri, this past week, I learned that one of the churches in the town of 12,ooo is planning to build a new family life center. It will contain a gym, walking track, kitchen, and offices. The addition is expected to cost between 4.5 and 6 million dollars.
Six million dollars? That’s a lot of money. To put that in perspective:
- It would enable six men to pastor six churches in Iowa for 10 years.
- It would meet the annual budget of my church for 20 years.
- It would send and support 30 missionary families overseas for a year.
- It would support 400 native missionaries in Asia for a period of 10 years.
When I hear of a church expending 6 million dollars for a new building, I naturally ponder the wisdom of the investment. Certainly, the new family life center will afford ministry opportunities. For instance, the gym could be used for an Upward or Awana program. The new kitchen might allow additional ministry to those who are hungry or bereaved.
So, I try to put the 6 million dollars in context. While six million dollars would be huge for my church, is it a huge amount for this church? How does it compare to missions support and ministry expenses? Is the purpose to increase ministry opportunities, or provide a comfortable gym for church members?
Maybe 6 million dollars is right in line for this church. However, I often wonder if we (the church in America) are more enthralled with our buildings (and cars and televisions and video games) than we are with really following Christ. For instance, while seeking to raise $4,500,000 for their new building, this church set their Lottie Moon Christmas Offering — a special offering to support international missionaries — goal at $1700. As an outsider looking in, that seems a little out of balance.
Fortunately, the Bible has some helpful instructions that can help us navigate these tricky, sometimes sticky waters.
Jesus: “You cannot serve both God and Money.”
— Mt 6:24 (NIV)
Paul: “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
— 1Ti 6:10 (NIV)
Solomon: “A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.”
—Pr 11:25 (NIV)
It really boils down to this: is it God that wants a new family life center, or is it just the people of the church?
And to make it personal, is it God that wants me to have a new car, wii, CD, fill-in-the-blank, or is it just me?