Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Expense of Church

Katie originally posted this in March of 2003. The points are still valid and I thought I'd repost it again as food for thought.


I remember when I was young. Christians attended church to hear the word of God taught. There were family outings at the park and tithes paid for materials for Sunday school. That was sufficient. Now, in a world of "No matter how much you have, you always want more, bigger, better", I am somewhat convicted. Has this philosophy of life penetrated into the church? The service isn't enough anymore. Even with all the talent and drama and music of today that is so awesome, we still want more. Now we go to seminars and conferences that are becoming more and more popular. Christian concerts are no longer taking up love offerings. They are charging more money for tickets than many secular music shows. I know.....they have to make a living. It's expensive to put on the big shows and seminars. I must say, I have attended and will continue to attend these things as long as God makes a way for me to do it. I do grow in many ways and I definitely benefit from it. I think the biggest reason I attend these events is not actually the event itself. It's the fellowship. It's spending the night in a hotel and traveling with my sisters in Christ. I love, getting to know them on a more personal level. I love it. I'm not here to bash anybody or criticize. I'm just trying to sort some things on my heart.

For example:

This month Sue and I are attending a conference. In order to attend, the cost (excluding hotel and all but two lunches) is $99.00 per person. This is for 3 sessions over two days. At church today, in the bulletin, we were informed that we had to pay the deposit of $40.00 for the youth trip and the remainder of the $246.00 can be paid later. Then, I was approached by the interpretive movement instructor that I would need to purchase ballet slippers, tights and leotards in order for my daughter to be a part of the Easter presentation. This should come to at least $50.00.

Today, there was an awesome sermon. I was so blessed by it and the praise and worship. I felt renewed, refreshed and stronger against the financial blows I have been receiving this year. Then, I read the bulletin, was approached about the things my daughter would need, and thought about how much money Sue and I have been asked to spend the past two weeks. Not including hotel costs for next weekend, the total comes to approximately $500.00. I must say, it put a damper on my spirit before I even walked out the door. I wanted to cry. Not because of the expense, but because I am wondering.......Is this really necessary? Jesus asks us to be like Him. He had nothing but the clothes on his back and the shoes on his feet. People followed him everywhere and he didn't charge one dime. He offered himself freely to all who came. He gave His love, His time, His attention, His loving discipline, His knowledge, His wisdom, His strength, His body, His blood, His life. He gave. GAVE! He gave it all freely and for freedom's sake.

So, do we need all this entertainment? If so, I have to wonder why? Sure it's fun. I can see this from both sides. I think it's wonderful that we have the awesome music that we have now. I love it! I love going to the concerts and I love the fulfillment that comes from conferences. It was at a Beth Moore conference where I received the calling to minister to women and to attend school for this. I am in college now because of that conference. I can see that lives are changed. I praise God that I am so blessed that somebody paid for me to go. She knew God wanted me there. He will always make a way for His will to be done. It can be really fun in the process.

When I approached a precious friend today in regards to the youth trip, I asked, "Do you really think it's necessary that the kids go on a trip that is so expensive? Shouldn't there be some conviction?" She lovingly told me that she can understand my concern but that all the churches are doing it now and it is a very fulfilling experience in many ways. She said it is in-depth Bible study, and it also helps build relationships amongst the youth. She also made the point that it can be very expensive to put up the kids and feed them for a week. I can see her point. Okay, so lets all chip in, rent a couple cabins nearby in a campground, bring our own food and relax in the midst of God's creation. That would reduce the cost wouldn't it? But, would the kids be satisfied with that? If not, then why not? Is it because all the other churches are doing bigger and better things? Oh, okay so then it's right isn't it? Or is it?

Has the church become like the world in the aspect of not being content to gather in God's house and worship God without all the added expense of ballet costumes and fancy choir robes? Can we not learn and grow in our relationships to God and one another without spending thousands of dollars every year on conferences and materials? I am not knocking what is being done. I'm just trying to see things from All perspectives including and especially Gods. Are we a part of the body because we truly seek to please Him and fulfill His purpose in our lives? Or are we just part of the body because it's fun? I love that my kids anticipate going to church. But, if the trips stopped and we went back to studying the word of God with nothing but the Holy Spirit, our church leaders, praise, worship and the Bible would everybody quit meeting? Do these trips cause us to focus or keep us from focusing on the right things?

Okay, I'm about to digress. Each week I meet in the homes of my family SaLT members. We meet together for study, reflection, and fellowship. The homes we meet in are BEAUTIFUL! I sit there and think about how I would love to have a beautiful home like this one or that one. I even get envious sometimes and have to call on God to put things back into perspective. I would love to have a beautiful home, a wonderful husband and a family gathering around the fireplace to sing Christmas carols near the grand piano at Christmas every year. Most anybody would. But, at the same time, there is this other side of me (Maybe I'm schizophrenic) that feels compelled to give up material possessions in order to be better focused and able to do the will of God. This side of me wants to forget "things" and focus on the calling God has given me. I wonder if having a house would just be a distraction from my call. It would be something that would give me roots and plant me in one place. I would have to have a steady job to pay the bills and It would take away the freedom that I would have (after my kids are grown) to pick up and go wherever God leads.

I am by no means saying that it is wrong for people to have a nice home and material possessions. God lays different convictions on different hearts and I believe it all depends on what His calling is for their life. I'm not saying that it is wrong for the youth to go on this trip. I just can't help but wonder the kind of message that is sent to the poor and needy of the world when they don't know where their next meal is coming from and they learn of the money that is being spent by the church for elaborate youth camps and trips. Aren't we called to minister to the poor and needy? This doesn't just mean baskets at Christmas time! Wouldn't this money be better spent on a missionary trip? I don't know. I am not complaining at all. I just want to know if we are dong the right thing. Just because it's what everybody else is doing doesn't make it right. I have struggled with this for years. I just pray that God will give me an answer. I pray that He will once and for all grant me peace with my convictions. Should I continue to stand against these activities or should I accept them as part of His plan that I can't see?

Well, I've babbled on long enough. I wish I could say that I feel better now. I guess it's time to pray again.

I want to be like the lilies of the field.

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