Sunday, March 11, 2012

A shakeup

You examine your foundation - does it stand on rock or sand
When the smoke clears, does it bring fears - when houses fall or stand
In the fire of refining - with flames too high to douse
You remember someone saying it's beginning in the house...

Everything that can be shaken will be shakin' from within
Better have your house in order when the shaking begins
-- Petra: "Shakin' the house

One of many ways in which the church in America has become more like the world instead of the other way around, is in the taking on of massive amounts of debt.  This is a sweeping statement, of course: plenty of congregations either lack the haste or the means to do so.  But there seems to be something that occurs to a congregation that grows beyond a certain size: no sooner is one expansion project completed, followed by a high-vis "debt reduction drive," than the assembly begins the next phase.  It's worth asking: is this the best stewardship of the Kingdom's resources?

Banks are foreclosing on America's churches in record numbers as lenders increasingly lose patience with religious facilities that have defaulted on their mortgages, according to new data.
The surge in church foreclosures represents a new wave of distressed property seizures triggered by the 2008 financial crash, analysts say, with many banks no longer willing to grant struggling religious organizations forbearance.
Since 2010, 270 churches have been sold after defaulting on their loans, with 90 percent of those sales coming after a lender-triggered foreclosure, according to the real estate information company CoStar Group.

I'm sure that occasionally, the work of the Spirit results in houses of worship literally bursting at the seams.  The vast majority of these projects, though, seem more about following a business model rather than the Great Commission.  "If you build it, they will come," to recount a famous movie phrase.  But we weren't told "draw them in with Starbucks kiosks and a 50-piece orchestra."  We were told "GO into the world."  We've made sanctuaries so "homey" that we'd rather stay in than go out.  Meanwhile, we invest ever-larger amounts into facilities and faculty, instead of ministering to the needs of a world that seems to hurt more every day.

There is nothing wrong with wanting a place to meet and worship where the temperature and the seating don't distract from hearing the message.  That doesn't take a monster mortgage, though... or even a dedicated building, come to that.  We need to ensure we are treasuring the spiritual growth occurring IN the facility, rather than the growth OF the facility. The buildings Christians construct are not eternal.  Those whom the Spirit reaches through us are... and no bank can ever foreclose on that investment!

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