Why Are Churches Horrible Stewards Of Their Buildings/Property? I’ll Tell You Why

And Jesus said, “Build some very nice buildings. Keep them Levitically clean. If anyone messes up your buildings scold them and restrict them from being in the building for ten years. Nothing is more important than building, maintaining and protecting God’s house.” (Goofed-up Bible, Mark 38:1-3)

Why are churches horrible stewards of their buildings and property? I’ll tell you why. Because the control freaks in churches have a Fort Knox mentality and for them the worst thing that can happen is for something on the property or in the buildings to get messed up. That’s a really messed up view of church and Jesus, isn’t it! Why do we let it happen? Why do we worship our property and buildings as if we are worshipping God?

Why are so many church buildings way under utilized during the week? Why is a church’s property not utilized to feed or house the poor? I know you don’t have a lot of time to think about these questions or act upon them. It takes a lot of time to take care of your church buildings and property.

And God forbid the church have some headaches trying to follow Jesus. The church has a lot of headaches, just not the right kind of headaches, headaches from trying to make the world a better place, headaches from long term relationships with those in a ditch, and headaches from full incorporation of them into the church as equals and teachers of the gospel.

My oldest brother is a clergyperson too. He is the Pastor of McGill Baptist Church in Concord, North Carolina. McGill is using its land to feed the poor. They also, among other things, let a Jewish synagogue use their building free of charge.

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If they keep it up we are going to have to start calling McGill something other than a church. They aren’t acting like the typical church. Thank God!

“How To Love The Church and Rich People” or “Rich People Can Be Really Harmful To A Church”

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Clarence Jordan, who founded in 1942 in Americus, Georgia an interracial community named Koinonia Farm, tells a story about how big givers in a community can be dangerous for a community and for themselves. He writes:

We had a lady one time come and visit us at Koinonia. She was a very lonely lady. I’d say she was in her early forties. She came up in her old jalopy car and she was rather shabbily dressed and we talked to her several days. She said, “You know. I like it here. I believe I’d like to just live here.”

We said, “That’s fine, we’d be glad to have ya.”

And she said, “What do I do to join up?”

“Well, just come on and join with us. I presume you don’t have much. You can just stay on.”

She said, “Oh, well, I have a good bit of property down in New Orleans.”

“How much do you have?”

“Oh, I guess I own maybe own $90,000 worth.” (By the way, that’s $1.4 million in today’s dollars.)

“Well,” Clarence Jordan said, “the first thing you’ll have to do is get rid of that.”

“She said, “What do you mean? I can’t do that.”

“But then you can’t come here,” Jordan replied.

“But I can’t give away my possessions. Suppose this thing were to fold up and I had given away everything I owned. Then where would I be?”

“Then you’d be in the same place as the rest of us would be.”

“But can’t I bring my money and put it into Koinonia?”

“No ma’am, this is the one place you absolutely can’t put it.”

“Why? Don’t you all need it?”

“Yes, ma’am, we sure do.”

“How come I can’t put it here?”

“Well,” Clarence paused. “Well, one reason is you got more money than all the rest of us put together, and if you want to put all your money in here, the first thing we’d do would be to sit down under a pecan tree and start discussing theology. We need to work. We don’t need that kinda money. It’ll make us lazy and it’ll make theologians out of us. And,” Clarence continued, “in the next place, you’ll be, in your mind, sort of our guardian angel, and you’ll expect each of us to tip our hats to you and thank you for what marvelous things you’ve done for us. We don’t tip our hats to anybody, and we don’t want you comin’ in here with a lot of money. And, in the last place, the reason you can’t bring it here is because you look like a very lonely person, and unless I miss my guess, the only friends you’ve ever had have been those who have wanted to help you spend your money.”

The woman said, “Your right. I don’t believe I’ve ever had a real friend who loved me for what I am. They’ve always loved my money.”

“And if you bring that money here, you’ll always have a sneaking suspicion that the reason we wanted you here was not for who you are, but because of your money. And the only way you can get a clear answer to that is to go sell your possessions and give the money to the poor, and come back here without a dime, and then you’ll know whether we love you for who you are or for what you have. You’ll get your answer.”

She said, “I, I just can’t do it,’ and she got in her old jalopy and drove off.

As the woman drove off, Clarence Jordan turned to his wife and said, “There goes the female rich young ruler. She wanted to trust her little $90,000 when she needed to learn to trust in God, whose riches are untold.

 

 

What Does It Mean To Be Church/Christians When People With A Lot of Money Have This Kind of Influence?

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(The first part of this blog post is adapted from The Families Funding the 2016 Presidential Election by Nicholas Confessore, Sarah Cohen and Karen Yourish in The New York Times.)

They are overwhelmingly white, rich, older and male. Across a sprawling country, they reside in an archipelago of wealth. They live in exclusive neighborhoods dotting a handful of cities and towns. And in an economy that has minted billionaires in a dizzying array of industries, most made their fortunes in just two: finance and energy.

To whom am I referring: the 158 families who have provided nearly half of the early money for efforts to capture the White House. Just 158 families, along with companies they own or control, contributed $176 million in the first phase of the campaign, a New York Times investigation found. Not since before Watergate have so few people and businesses provided so much early money in a campaign, most of it through channels legalized by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision five years ago. These donors’ fortunes reflect the shifting composition of the country’s economic elite.

Relatively few work in the traditional ranks of corporate America, or hail from dynasties of inherited wealth. Most built their own businesses, parlaying talent and an appetite for risk into huge wealth: They founded hedge funds in New York, bought up undervalued oil leases in Texas, made blockbusters in Hollywood.

But regardless of industry, the families investing the most in presidential politics overwhelmingly lean right, contributing tens of millions of dollars to support candidates who have pledged to pare regulations; cut taxes on income, capital gains and inheritances; and shrink entitlement programs. While such measures would help protect their own wealth, the donors describe their embrace of them more broadly, as the surest means of promoting economic growth and preserving a system that would allow others to prosper, too.

Now what does this have to do with Wedgewood? That’s my question for you as we give our offerings of money and time and energy and talent to this beloved community. What does it mean to be church, to be Christian in a country in which the rich have so much influence? What are the implications for our life together, and our ministry efforts?

At a minimum, we need to help those who do not have a voice have their voices heard. At a minimum, we need to insure that those who have more wealth in our congregation do not rule our congregation. At a minimum, we must be suspicious of, and ask questions of, those who prosper in our culture. Have you made your money off the backs of the poor? Are you interested solely in your own wealth or the well-being of the world? At a minimum, we have to remember Jesus said the people who have the hardest time understanding the kingdom of God are the rich.

A Prayer For Meaningful Church (With A Little Church History Thrown In For Good Measure)

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When certain Christians of North Africa in the early fourth century were accused of illegally gathering, they made a confession that contributed to their martyrdom:  ‘We cannot be without the dominicum.’  Dominicum is ‘the thing of the Lord,’ . . . .they meant. . .they could not be Christians or even live in any real sense without the assembly and its content, the risen Lord.  (Gordon W. Lathrop, Holy Things:  A Liturgical Theology, p. 39)

God,

Make our Sunday gatherings so vital and meaningful and empowering that people are dying to attend and upon attending are better suited to change themselves and the world as befitting the kingdom of God.

Let our Sunday gatherings not be entertainment, self-absorption and self-satisfaction, or homiletical dribble or staid prayers or ego-infused singing and instrumentals.  Let our Sunday worship facilitate both the inner and outward journey.

Amen.