Is It Worth It to Build?
I was recently asked the question: “Is expending this much money on this project the best use of our money as we aim to share Christ with the world and disciple our members?”
The question as to whether it is worth the time, effort and money to expand our current facility is certainly a welcome and worthwhile question. Because of various influences in my own life and because of convictions and preferences I have developed, I have asked that question periodically along the way of the last year-and-a-half. I know there will always be people who don’t want to build anything because they don’t want to spend money. I know there will be some people who always want to build something because they have money. I know there are some people who can’t imagine that amount of money because they have so little money. So then, how do we know this is what God would have us do? Or we might also ask, “Do we know that God doesn’t want us to do this?”
Having said that, here are some thoughts I thought in response to the aforementioned question:
- The Bible, inspired by the Spirit, does not condemn buildings or even aesthetically pleasing buildings. It does condemn selfishness, hoarding and waste. Is it wasteful to build or not to build? that is an important question.
- We get a lot of use out of our building. Some of our building receives unnecessary wear and tear because of its size and layout. Would an expanded facility help with this? I think our current plan would, while still allowing us to get maximum use. If we were building a facility that we had no need of, which would equal no use, then I would not want to build.
- Functionality can be a barrier for people. Every space is useful to the degree that it is functional for a certain number of people. I have a firm conviction that our current facility will not allow us to accommodate more people on a consistent basis. It is true that we don’t know if that is the problem, but I certainly think it is a part of it.
- Aesthetics can be a barrier for people. Whether right or wrong, some people identify churches by the way they look. I’m not saying ours looks bad. I am saying it could look better. We don’t want our building to look like Jesus is broke and God don’t care. I would even argue that God does care what things look like based on our ability as creatures to appreciate the beauty in the creation. We will never have an extravagantly ornate building, but we can have a building that appeals to those in our community.
- Growth needs to be accommodated. Going to two services only solves a fraction of the challenge we face when it comes to space. As I traveled down the hall just before our worship gathering this past Sunday, I had to bob and weave to avoid the people. I don’t mind that. My guess is that not everyone is like me. I dream of the day when we would be strong enough to solve our need for more space by planting churches. I don’t think we are there yet.
- There’s a real opportunity for unity by building. In some ways a building project is a program or event, and a visible one at that. We must be careful thought to make this “event” one that is a means to a greater end as we work together to trust God for the resources we need and want.
- There’s a real opportunity for discipleship by building. The bottom line is that there are a good portion of the people who attend Eagle Heights, and many who are members, who are giving nothing or little to nothing. What we do with our money is a discipleship issue. If we have given our life to Christ and not given our money to Him then how can we say we have given our lives to Him. It’s His anyway. I see this as an opportunity to call people to trust God with their money.
- If there is a better way for us to spend our money, why aren’t we doing it now? Every year we ask for money for missions and for the budget and for Stillwater Life Services and so on, and every year we make do with what we have. Is this project going to keep us from what we have been doing and should be doing? It is true we could spend this money on something else but the question becomes, would we have this money to spend at all? People have disposable income. All of us do. We just spend it on other things. Maybe this will challenge people to give more to other good things once we are done raising the money we need for this joint venture.
- Leadership. Can we turn around now? Can we shut this down after spending the money we already have? Is that good stewardship? I would suggest we would if God made it crystal clear that we are not to move forward. He may yet do it. But we have prayed and planned with due diligence, and God hasn’t put the brakes on in anyone’s heart and mind yet.
- The pervading atmosphere and existing culture. Many people are sensitive to the downturn in the economy and I think they are sensitive to the waste we have seen in large institutions. I myself wonder why we think we need some of the things we do, especially when the world lives with so little. Should I give up my house because the economy is tough and so few live with so little in the rest of the world? I suppose I would if Jesus made it clear that this is what I was to do. He has the right to do it. I do know however, we have to balance a giving and generous attitude to all peoples as best we can while realizing we are here trying to make disciples in our own context. We must be good stewards while guarding against a restrictive legalism and self-righteousness.
- Sandwiches, Buildings and Consistency. It is biblical and right to be a good steward and to want to be sacrificial so as to give to the best things. But be careful to be consistent. When ordering from the menu, do you think the same way about ordering your food as you do about spending money on the church building? Do you buy the most expensive sandwich, but expect the church to skimp and order only from the dollar menu? Do you furnish your house ornately, but expect the building the church meets in to look like an empty model home? This could be an opportunity to see if you are consistently rich toward yourself and toward God and His people.
- The church is not a building but does meet in buildings. This has always been true for God’s people. Whether someone is paying for their house so people can use it as a meeting place, or whether a bunch of people are paying for a community building so they can have a meeting place. Somebody is going to have to pay for a place to meet. It’s really that simple.
In complete honesty, building a building doesn’t get me revved up. It’s not why I became a pastor. My gift is not capital campaigns. But having the ability to accommodate more people so that we can continue to make disciples, warms me to the idea. Sometimes you need to do things you don’t necessarily desire to do, to get to do the things you love and want to do. I see this as a means to an end and I have yet to believe that God wants us to end the effort to build. If God ends it, I’ll trust Him still, because He is the end for which we build and live.
I hope this helps.