My friend, Steve Hill (Harvest Now in Ontario, Canada), does what I consider to be genuine and biblically sound “apostolic discipleship” around the world. He does it based on the values of Jesus in the Gospels (See his Luke 10 Manual), not Western values of success. He empowers local people in countries around the world to full kingdom functionality in their communities, without dependency on Western “experts” or money.
In this brief article he asks challenging questions regarding the emphasis (and cost) of maintaining millions, if not billions, of dollars in religious buildings, real estate, and property when the needs of others around the world are so demanding. It is my understanding that between 80-95% of all church budgets in the West are devoted to buildings and salaries. Is there not a better way to do “ministry,” a way with a global perspective and burden? I believe there is. I believe it is the Jesus-Way, and Steve and his coworkers are doing it. This article is reprinted by permission.
Friends, perhaps you have read about the megachurch in China that was recently destroyed by government agents: goo.gl/NgNMzK. The church was in a very poor area of China. The people sacrificed millions to build it and it was reduced to rubble. Maybe you have heard of the church buildings destroyed in the north of Nigeria? Indonesia? Philipines? India? Maybe you have heard about how Islamists love to build mosques on former church sites? Hindu temple sites? Synagogue sites?
Religious buildings are about projecting power.
It is interesting to travel about rural Ontario and to note that in a small towns settled by Scottish Presbyterians, like say Fergus, the building on the highest point of land in the original town is a Presbyterian church. If you go to nearby Guelph the building on the highest point is a Catholic Church.
No Christian leader tells more lies about the kingdom of God than the one about raising money for a building program. The main lie is always on the corner stone: “To the Glory of God.”
After the completion of his building program, a local pastor told me that he was so glad that they had this new building so that they could minister to the community in such a meaningful way. What were they doing? Filling food hampers to be given to poor families at Christmas time. Ok? Yes, the floor space on the new gym was filled with hampers and food was being placed in them from boxes on the tables all around the walls of the hall, but really? They were another three or four empty church buildings in town that would have served the same purpose. There were another couple of empty town halls that could have sufficed. Even the local fire hall would have done the same trick. Oh, and the local school or car dealership or someone’s big recreation room or garage would have met the need nicely.
What do you think the local poor people would have appreciated? A food hamper at Christmas, or some significant financial help which could have been available if the hundreds of thousands spent on the building was available for actually helping someone. Oh, but our token charity–on one day of the year–makes us feel so good. And those poor people will still be there next year waiting for their food hamper.
The vast majority of church buildings are the most expensive and the most under-utilized space in the entire community. Their primary design function is to be used once per week and to project the power of the pastor: look how many come to hear me preach!
The money spent on religious buildings in the Western world could feed, clothe, and educate every poor child in the world. We have the means to do it but we choose not to. Bricks over babies. Parking lots over people. Sound systems over water systems. Carpets over children. Words–week after week, rather than action.
And yet we say the building is to the glory of the one who said: “Whatever you have done unto the least of these you have done unto me.”
Why build church buildings just to have those for whom their religion demonstrates its might by burning them down, do so? Why play that game? We are to believe in love that never fails. The death of Jesus demonstrates that might does not make right. Why not invest that money in people? Why not build something that can not be destroyed?
Meeting in homes, or under a tree, or in a pub or coffee shop does not project power. It is powerlessness. It is the yeast hidden in the lump until all is leavened. It is the example of Jesus.