So, I had another blog post in mind for today - one all about how I cooked with spaghetti squash for the very first time. I have pictures and everything. I'm still going to do that post, but something else is really on my mind today.
I hesitate to write this post because there are people who read my blog who I'm afraid might take offense to what I am going to write. People I know personally. And, I'm hoping to do it with as much grace and non-judgement as I can. And as you read this I ask that you read it with some grace for me too. I'm trying to work through my thoughts and writing them out is often what works best for me.
Wow. That's quite a lead-in isn't it? Let me get you up to speed. To do that I'm going to take you back about 9 years. During the time John & I were engaged and then newlyweds, we searched for the right church for us as a couple. We tried the church he attended during his early 20's, but I wasn't comfortable with how 'charismatic' is was. We tried some other churches in our area (one from the denomination I grew up in) but they were too 'stodgy'.
Then we tried the church that John grew up in. It's a large church. I felt it might be a little too large. But, we started attending semi-regularly and thought that we may have found a nice 'compromise' church for us.
About 2 months or so into our attending, they introduced a building project. The church also housed a private Christian school (actually the one my husband had gone to). The church and the school were outgrowing sharing the same building. I could kind of understand this. But, what I couldn't understand was the amount of money they were proposing spending to build a separate church building on their property. 18 million dollars.
I could not wrap my mind around this kind of money. There are churches in other countries that meet in huts with dirt floors. There are ministries right in our own area that need support. And there are people, often our own neighbors, who struggle to make ends meet. Why did such an extravagant amount of money need to be spent on building a church?
We continued to attend the church for a short time after that. But, I couldn't come to a point where I agreed with this decision. A conversation I had with one of the staff of the church in which he tried to explain the expense as a way to reach out to the needs/ expectations of a culture that looks for the kinds of amenities you might have at a nice mall. Was he comparing the church to a shopping mall?
That kind of sealed the deal for me. I felt like we needed to find another church. My poor husband thought we had finally settled in and now I was telling him I didn't think I could continue going there. The good outcome was that was when we found New Hope Community Church....a tiny church that met in a converted warehouse. We were part of New Hope for most of the last 9 years and formed wonderful relationships there that will never end. (Last year we had started attending another church. I talked about that journey a bit here. And, unfortunately, New Hope ended late this summer).
Fast forward to our first child being born seven years ago. A friend who still attended the large church we left invited me to attend a moms group that was meeting there. I did and I fell in love with the moms group and have been attending their bi-weekly Friday meetings ever since. I also was involved in the group as a small group leader and hospitality staff. Even though I didn't attend the church itself I've gotten to know so many moms through the group - some who attended that church and some who attended other churches. I've made wonderful, wonderful friends there. And, as a mom to young children, the support and encouragement I've received has been priceless. The building project had been put on hold in the meantime too and I really didn't think a whole lot about that aspect of the church anymore.
Fast forward again. To this morning. It was our first moms meeting of the new school year. And, it was our first meeting in the new church building. The building project which had been on hold finally started last year and was recently completed. As a matter of fact I believe the congregation recently had it's very first service in the building.
And, what a building. A full-size cafe, a fireside 'chat' room, a wall water cascade, cathedral ceilings, beautiful furnishings. All this was just in the walk to the child care suite and the meeting room where we were going to be (which was complete with one of the largest flat screen tvs I've ever seen).
And, I felt....How can I describe what I felt? I guess the best word I can come up with is unsettled. I felt unsettled and disturbed. Have we, the church, bought into our culture's love affair with bigger, better, more? Have we forgotten our responsibility as the church to care for others and their needs? Have we mistaken our own comfort as one of those 'needs'?
Then I have to wonder if I am being somewhat hypocritical. After all, for the last 7 years I've taken advantage of the one of the programs that church is able to offer. And, I will say in defense of the church that they do offer an extensive amount of programs. They truly make an effort to reach out to people in every walk & stage of life. They have programs for people who are working through addictions, people struggling with depression; they have programs for senior citizens, and numerous programs for children. I can't begin to list all the wonderful support systems this church offers not just to it's own members, but also the community.
I guess that kind of support system is possible because it is a large church, a wealthy church.
But, still, I am perplexed. I am even a little bit sad. I think of ways that money could have been used. Could they have foregone the wall water cascade and given that money to the local ministry that reaches out to teenage moms but is often unable to pay it's staff members because of so few funds available? Could they have scaled back on the technology and given that money to missionaries overseas who are trying to raise money to build a well in their village? Could it just have been a little less so that more could have gone to those truly in need?
It makes me think of the book Revolution in World Missions by K. P. Yohannan. It's one that Thy Hand Hath Provided is doing a book study of right now. I read the book a couple years ago and my mindset about my own comfort/ needs was definitely challenged. It is a book I would highly recommend you read. And, if you click on the link with the book title, you can actually request one for free.
I'm still struggling with what I'm thinking/ feeling. But, I'm also reminded that when I feel that way I need to go to the Word. I need to read what God says and then let him speak to my spirit.