Sunday, 30 August 2015

Overhead: Killer of the Church's Real Mission?

I saw this meme the other day and it sparked in me an old pet peeve and something that I've wondered about for a long time: Has the modern western church become a little confused in her values?

Perhaps George Barna said it best when he wrote: "The average church allocates about 5 percent of its budget for reaching others with the Gospel, but 30 percent for buildings and maintenance. At a time when the poor and aged are pleading for help, churches in America are spending approximately 3 billion dollars a year on new construction." (Source: The Frog in the Kettle). We would do well to stop and think about that for a moment or two. Have we become a little confused in our Christian values? Do we really need mega-church buildings when there are so many poor and hungry all around us? Consider this:
"The church edifice demands a vast wasteland of money. In the United States alone, real estate owned by institutional churches today amounts to over 230 billion dollars. Church building debt, service, and maintenance consumes about 18% of the 11 billion dollars that are tithed to churches annually. Point: Modern Christians are wasting an astronomical amount of money on unnecessary edifices! 
"There is no good reason to possess a church building. In fact, all the traditional reasons put forth for 'needing' a building collapse under careful scrutiny. We so easily forget that the early Christians turned the world upside down without them. They grew rapidly for 300 years without the help (or hindrance) of church buildings. 
"In the business world, overhead kills. Overhead is what gets added onto the 'real' work a business does for its clients. Overhead pays for the building, the pencils, and the accounting staff. Overhead kills because it prices out the business of the market without adding the 'real' value the workers deliver to their customers." (Source: Pagan Christianity?).

Does overhead kill churches too?

I've heard it asked, instead of building mega-churches, how about we build mega-homeless shelters instead? Now there's an idea! Imagine if Christians in every community came together for that kind of a building project? Yes, imagine if instead of erecting more church buildings, we erected more homeless shelters instead? And while we're at it, imagine supplying each of those shelters with soup kitchens or other means of providing nourishment? What would our communities look like if the church took housing and feeding the poor, the homeless, and the hungry a little more seriously? Hmm, I wonder.

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' ... 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'" (Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 25: 40,45; NIV).

I do not wish to be contentious about this, but dollar for dollar, how much genuine "doing" for the poor and needy happens in fancy mega-church buildings? Obviously many Christians do take an active role in caring for "the least of these," and praise God that they do. However, imagine how much more could happen without those edifices and their associated overhead? Hmm. Something to think about. Peace.
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You may also want to see: Has Hollywood Invaded the Church Service?

Photo Source: Unknown (via Facebook)

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