Friday, October 12, 2007

Tim's Big Mouth Opens Wide

I think the screens in our worship room are too big and too high on the wall, and when we project images, they don't fit the white area quite right, and that bothers me. Gosh, how could that have happened?

Gosh. Sorry for the expletive, but I'm really mad.

I do what I don't want to do, and do not do what I want to do. God change my wanter. And my doer.

Watching Rich Mullins videos on YouTube and reading the book about his life for the second time and reading Isaiah and Jeremiah (and, um, the rest of the Bible) have heightened my awareness of our failings in material matters vs. ministry. What would God think about a minister (Christ follower) or a ministry that gives 90% away and keeps 10% rather than the opposite. I mean, Rick Warren says that's what he's doing, but then, his 10% is, like, still millions (very admirable, in any case. Not many people can make that claim). But half the world lives on $2 per day per person, so I think they would probably look at me and say, yeah, but if you gave away 90% of what you have, you've still got thousands.

Think about a church operating on 10% of their receipts and using 90% for ministry and missions. Is that crazy? Is that possible?

When I say they use 90% on themselves (we/ourselves) I mean that 90% of all the funds that most churches take in goes to buildings, staff, programs, worship services, equipment, insurance, burglar alarms, watering flowers, paved parking lots, video projectors and screens, padded seats, fancy lights, huge sound systems, computers out the wazoo, on and on and on. Things we call "ministry," but, really, are they? Then we take our measley 10% and send it to missions or use a paltry sum on "local mission projects" (like .0001%) and call ourselves mission and ministry minded.

[As I'm mouthing here, let me say that when I talk about the church doing that, I also am talking about ME. What would happen if I lived that way. Giving instead of taking. I'm guilty of always wanting the biggest and best. I confess that I have bought shirts just because they have a picture of a little man on a horse. NOT the ones where the little man is holding a LANCE, mind you (oh heavens, what would people think?), but the ones where the little man is holding a POLO STICK. That's a very important point. Justed wanted to make that clear.]

Here are the objections to a church operating that way:
1. We couldn't pay our staff.
2. We couldn't pay for our buildings and property and keep them up.
3. We wouldn't have time to get ready for Sunday services (in the manner to which we are accustomed).
4. We would have all sorts of poor people attending our church as a result of ministry to them, and everyone knows they don't give much (I know of pastors who have lost their jobs over such).
5. Members would complain that the church was not meeting their needs (needs for the coolest worship services and the best entertainment for their kids) and might go somewhere else.

This I believe: churches have slowed to a crawl because they do the very things they tell their members not to do: borrow huge sums of money to build huge builidings and buy huge toys and find themselves so in debt that they can't do the very thing that we are put here to do. Some don't borrow, but they still spend the bulk of their money on themselves. In any case, their focus becomes getting enough people (with money) to give enough (of their money) to pay for the toys and keep them running right (and insured in case someone steals them). And the staff to operate them and clean them, and the secretaries to keep track of the members and the money and the computers to organize things and the electricity to run it all and the decorations to make it all look attractive to all those church shoppers who are trying to decide which church is "best" for them and the advertising to get their attention in the midst of all the other church advertisements.

Jeremiah 2:13: "My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water."

A traveling circus arrived in a small town and set up across a small river from the little downtown area. People would see the tents, they reasoned, and be enticed to cross the little wooden bridge for their performances. But there were some trees along the river, blocking the view, so the circus manager told one of the roustabouts to find some wood to build a tall sign to attract the people's attention. He did so, and soon the excited townspeople were making their way toward the circus for the first show. Much to their dismay, however, they found that there was no bridge across the river. The roustabout had torn it apart to make the sign.

The church has torn down its own bridges so it can use the wood for its buildings and programs, and now there is no path to the people. Or from the people.

How can we refocus on ministry to our community and our world for the purpose of building bridges: making connections that give us a path for communicating the love of Christ?

Is it possible that, as important as worship and discipleship are, we do them too much? "Ever learning, but never coming to a knowledge of the truth" (II Timothy 3:7). Don't throw the alabaster box at me (Matthew 26). Jesus said that it was fine for the woman to pour perfume on him, but I don't think he meant for his disciples to stop everything, ignore the poor, and build perfume factories. That's not worship, that's insanity.

We are planning a "day of ministry" in December. We do a week (five days) of ministry in the spring. Do we perhaps have it backwards? Maybe we should be putting our resources into 359 days of ministry and six days of worship (I promise to think about how that might be accomplished - I'll get back to you).

Maybe if we did 359 days of ministry, we would find people beating the doors down to worship together, and it wouldn't really matter how polished and cool our music and sermons were, after all.

Maybe worship would come from the people instead of to the people.

Maybe they would be so spiritually hungry as a result of expending themselves in ministry that we would have to have waiting lists to get in our doors. Or maybe we would just go sit in the field to worship and learn because there wasn't room in the building. And maybe there wouldn't even be any projection screens.

And maybe people wouldn't mind.

Or, to be completely 21st Century about it, "I could be wrong." I'll get over it tomorrow.

1 comment:

Jere Adams said...

Ouch! Your comments are awesome! It has brought tears to my eyes because I totally agree with you and I'm as guilty as anyone of the "charges" brought to my attention this day. Thank you for bringing me back to reality. Thanks. Jere