Kingdom or Empire building: that is the question
A letter to a national newspaper has revealed a perpective on the cost of church premises and the extent to which these are seen as contrary to the commission of Christ.
Church in Reykjavïk
A member of the public wrote just recently to a national newspaper concerning the plans of a church in his neighbourhood to demolish a local landmark and sell off part of the site the church owned to a developer. It seems that the income from the sale is be used to finance the building of a new church centre costing an estimated £1.5million.
So what’s wrong with that? This is good stewardship surely? It may be; but there is question that lies behind the church’s plans which the letter writer has raised. And we'll come to that later.
Local churches disappearing
Part of the increased mobility and urbanisation evidenced over many years has seen a trend develop which has impacted on church life.
Just as central superstores are leading to the closure of local shops, so large and relatively-prosperous city churches are drawing membership away from small town and country churches. As a result these rural communities are being denuded of support and membership. In turn this could lead to closure with subsequent sale and the loss of a place of worship and outreach within a community.
Church in Brasil
Let's pray that smaller churches will not be seen as a source of funds for central building programmes.
But how does the world perceive it all? One response is supplied by the afore-mentioned newspaper reader. The correspondent posed the question in his letter to the paper:
‘Put yourself in this position: You are an organisation dedicated to following the life and teachings of Jesus Christ and you have just received a windfall of £1.5million through the sale of a property to a developer.
Do you use this £1.5million to support charitable works at home and abroad among the poor and needy or do you use it to build yourself a new replacement palace to house your activities?’.
In our needy but were sits the mega-church? it is an interesting question. Of course it’s not a new issue, but it is still a very relevant one.
To whose glory?
Those who embarked on building that ancient tower aimed at basking in the reflected glory of their construction efforts. Empire-building is not uncommon, let's pray that the Babel spirit finds no home in today's church.
Church in Chicago
Church in Japan
See also article Megachurches in meltdown and 'If You Build It, They Will Come' Ecclesiology