Coach Dave Daubenmire
March 20, 2014
“And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.” -Luke 12:15-21
I crossed paths with a buddy Bill the other day and he was distraught. I don't want it to appear as if I take comfort in saying “I told you so,” but I have to admit the urge to say it was causing spasms in my tongue.
But I bit my tongue because some things don't need to be said. Especially when it is obvious that the one I am about to say it to has suddenly come to the same realization. I just let him vent for a while.
“Coach, our pastor unveiled a new building plan last Sunday. It seems as if we have out-grown the building, going to four services on the weekends, and that our sanctuary is too small. When Pastor Tom shot the power point up on the screen my heart sank. You immediately came to mind Coach.
He flashed drawings that had been created by the architect and handed out color fliers of the new facility. It was magnificent to look at but something inside of me started to ache. Especially when I heard the price-tag....$6.9 million. I could almost hear your voice in my head repeating what you have said to me so many times...'HOLDING TANK.' The church is nothing more than a huge pen where the sheep are fed.
I'm sick about it Coach. I don't know what I should do.”
“What bothers you about it?” I asked him.
“I don't know, coach. Several things I guess. I remember when we first planted the church and how exciting it was. It grew out of a home Bible study, you know. We were all sick of the churches we were attending and our small group felt like a family when we got together. It was intimate, people cared about one another, we knew each others names...and their children. Now...well...it has grown into a huge sheep pen...just like you warned. And now we need a bigger barn.
And the extravagance of the building...WOW. It sure has everything you could ever want. Big parking lot, large sanctuary, state-of-the-art sound system, recreation center with a gymnasium, great nursery and rooms for Sunday school...even a coffee shop in the foyer. But something doesn't feel right.”
My tongue is quivering like a kernel of corn getting ready to pop, but I gnawed the quivering into silence.
“There must be a lot of good stuff going on there,” I offered. “Something is certainly drawing them. And growth is always a sign of life. Anything living is growing.”
“Oh, we are growing alright, but the church just isn't the same as it used to be. Most of the people who attend are total strangers to me. Don't get me wrong, I am glad they are coming, but somewhere in all of this growth we have lost a sense of who we are. How can you possibly call 4000 people members of your church family? Building the new building will permit us to bring in more people but I really don't know if that is good. At times I feel no differently than I would at a football game. We are all cheering for the same team, and singing the same fight songs, but I just don't feel the connection to the body that we used to feel.
“Well, what do you think is making the church grow so much Bill?” I lead him.
“Oh, there are a lot of reasons that people come. The preaching is great. Pastor Tom really hits you where you live. He doesn't compromise on the Word. And he really reaches the young people. Our church is full of 25-40 year olds and lot's of children. Pastor Tom has a great message for young families.
Plus, we have gobs of programs...youth groups, young singles, divorce recovery, basketball and softball leagues, young mothers, men's breakfasts...and everything is casual. You don't have to dress all fancy and the worship is the best. The worship leader really ushers us into the presence of the Lord”
“So, I am a bit confused.” I queried. “Sounds like things are going pretty good. What concerns you?”
His eyes dropped to the floor as if he was looking at a bug racing into the shadows, and then bounced his eyes off of the linoleum back towards me.
“I don't know, Coach. Just a feeling...a feeling that we are missing something. It seems like so many in the church have a shallow relationship with Jesus. I mean...they seem to be saved...but I don't know how real their relationship is. Seems to me, that for many of the people, their Christianity is a mile wide and an inch deep. I sometimes wonder how many are really sheep mixed in with a bunch of goats. You know what I am saying, Coach?”
“Yeah, I get where you are coming from. Why do you think so many are goats?” I asked.
“Well, and please understand that I don't want to sound judgmental or anything because I am far from perfect, but there are a lot of things that make me concerned. For one thing, we have a lot of people coming to church who are shacking up with each other. Now I understand why Pastor Tom doesn't hit on it very hard because we can't save them if we run them off, but at some point wouldn't we start seeing fruit of their conversion? Aren't there still some standards to living the Christian life?
And another thing, it seems as if so many of them are in debt up to their eyeballs...struggling to pay their mortgage, and two-car payments, and babysitters...and the tithe. I mean, it is tough on a young family today.
And now we want to build an even bigger church...and expect these young babes in Christ to dig even deeper in their budgets to build a bigger church, to sit with more people who they don't know...” His voice trailed off.
“Why don't you speak with the church leadership and offer them an ulterior solution with the overcrowding.” I suggested. “Instead of sinking $7 million into a bigger barn perhaps you could rent the local high school on Sunday mornings for the services. You could sure rent that a bunch of times before you reached $7 million...and no overhead for maintenance.
They have a gym that seats about 2500 and you could put chairs on the floor. If my math is correct, at a rental of $1000 per week, $52,000 per year, you could worship in that gym for 134 years before you reach $7 million. The mortgage would have to be at least $30,000 per month. You could sure help a lot of people with the extra money you saved just by renting.”
“I don't see that happening.” He said matter-of-factly. “A gymnasium just wouldn't feel like a church. We would have to work awfully hard to stir up an anointing in a high school gym. And besides that, I'm not sure people would come to church at a high school. We are so programmed to coming into the “church” building every Sunday...most folks take pride in a nice building. I don't think they would invite their friends to church in a gym. Plus all of the set-up it would take to get the gym ready.
But Coach, that is not what is REALLY bothering me. A couple of weeks ago a buddy of mine invited me to do some street ministry with him and some of his friends. I had never done anything like that before so I was a bit apprehensive. But he encouraged me to go and it was one of the most gratifying things I have ever done.
Coach, do you have any idea the number of really needy people who live withing a couple miles of our church? I mean people who have nothing and their only means of subsistence is leaning on the government for help. I couldn't believe it...had no idea, the conditions that many people live in.
This is happening only 2 miles from our church...and we want to put $7 million into a new building...I've seen the need first-hand, Coach. I asked my pastor if our church could get involved. He said we had too much on our plate right now.”
I looked at my friend and smiled. “Let me ask you something Bill. Which is more important to Jesus, a big beautiful building in which to “worship” Him, or a broken and contrite heart for the lost in the world? On Sunday morning, would Jesus be excited to be in your brand new church, or on the streets ministering to the needs of the down-trodden?
I read in Malachi that the tithe was for the storehouse...that their might be meat in His house. Is the money that people give to the work of the Lord supposed to be used for buildings and parking lots? If the church is the “storehouse” and the storehouse is where the “meat” is to be stored, are the people supposed to eat blacktop and carpet?
Bill, does your pastor lead your people out into the streets where the lost are? Does your church have a “go ye” mentality or a “come ye” mentality? Will your $7 million barn glorify Jesus or will it only bring honor to your congregation? Jesus warned us:
“Then shall the King say onto those on his right hand, Come ye, blessed of my Father and inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was hungry and you gave me meat; thirsty and you gave me drink: I was a stranger and you took me in: Naked and you clothed me: Sick and you visited me: In prison and you came unto me...”
“I know Coach. I know. I used to buy into the lie that I was only one guy and what difference could I make. But last week I looked into the eyes of a hungry 6 year old and the food I gave him made a difference. I saw it in his eyes, Coach. I'll never forget that feeling. My actions made a difference.
I don't know what I am going to do...I guess I'll keep going to my church. But I won't give a dime to the building of that new church. I'm going to give it to my buddy's ministry. They are truly meeting the needs of the lost. We need bigger Christians, not bigger barns.”
Touche' Bill. I couldn't have said it better myself.
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