Friday, October 21, 2005

Big Church-Little Church Blues Part 3

You'd think I'd be able to make myself clear in just one post. But evidently I'm going to need three for this one! In part one, I chastised the poor stewardship I saw in a big church. In part two, I chided small churches for needing to keep control of their own little clubhouse instead of looking to serve God. But my friend Steve at whatever took the idea of evangelism based upon stewardship to the next level:
If it's about stewardship, then let's stop trying to evangelize in Muslim countries. The costs and risks are great, and the "return on investment" has been historically minimal. It's just not fertile ground for evangelism. That money would be better spent in Africa, Latin America, or the former Soviet states, where converts can be gained at a much better cost-per-convert. And Europe, from what I hear, is tough. In fact, if you're going to spend evangelistic money in a Western country, it would probably be better spent in the States. People just aren't as receptive in Europe. Wouldn't God be pleased if we used His money to gain the most converts-per-dollar? It's just good stewardship.The thing is, nonChristians are nonChristians no matter where they live, and we have a responsibility to go after them with the Gospel. If it's less expensive in one place than it is in another--so what? Converts are converts. They'll all be asked the same questions by St. Peter. So, while my church may be spending less money-per-convert than a church in my city's suburbs, I view it as a matter of context. Do what's necessary to reach the people around you.

While I appreciate what Steve is saying, I want to make sure I'm not pigeonholed as promoting evangelism solely on a cost-effective basis. Because I'm not. Although I'm not discounting the need for good stewardship, I'm not going to live and die by it.

And I'm not trying to do away with evangelism efforts to the surrounding community -- even to those communities where everyone makes over $100,000 a year. I just don't think we need to spend excessively to impress them enough to get them in the door. We must remember that we are to pick up our cross daily. It's not about getting the best coffee or the fanciest sound system and lighting. A church which caters to a desire for luxury reinforces the idea that there is no sacrifice in being a Christian. I must have missed that part of Scripture.

But again, it's not just a big church hangup. As Mike from Life on the River wrote in a private email: "Large churches do spend more on their facility because they can. Smaller churches would if they could. Many people come to church for self-serving reasons, regardless of size." Yup.

That's precisely what I've been getting at for two and a half posts now. Too many of us see the church as a service to us. We ask, "What can this church do for me?" instead of "What I can do for the Kingdom through this church?" Evangelism becomes showing off. We fight to have our own way. Churches spend and spend to make their own facilities more cozy and impressive while not putting the same kind of effort into the lower economic classes.

Steve is a part of an inner-city church plant, so I know his heart is in reaching people for Christ -- especially those who would be ignored by many church planting experts because it costs so much to reach them. I agree. It's not about church size, it's about church heart. If our heart is to reach as many people for Christ as possible and to disciple them to become conformed to the image of Christ Jesus, then we won't be singing the Big Church-Little Church Blues. We won't be fighting to keep control. We won't be spending unnecessarily. We will be looking to glorify God and not ourselves. And that, my friends, is where we need to be.

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