I have been thinking of the Church a lot and I am trying to make efforts to listen at what God is doing. I am trying to be obedient to his commands and to not stymie the kingdom of God. As I sit in auditoriums filled with hundreds of people dressed in their “Sunday best” participating in 1-2 hours of worship and class I often have a haunting question that comes over me:
IS THE WAY WE DO CHURCH SUSTAINABLE?
I can’t stop thinking about that question whether it’s listening to sermons, listening to bible classes, reading journals, writing journals, talking with churched folk, talking with unchurched folk, praying, reading Scripture, talking with missional folks….
…or just listening in silence.
I am not sure I have an answer to that question because it depends on where you are at in the way you do church. One thing I am hearing more of is that if the way you do church is about getting people to a building and all ministry, programs and involvement centers around that building then that is unsustainable. Sure you can sustain it by having people pay for the bills, pay for the ministers, and pay for the carpet you argue over but in the end it will mean nothing to the community. Think I am wrong?
I was talking with a church not long ago and they were bragging to me that 60% of their budget is dedicated to foreign mission. Within the same conversation I asked them what they thought they needed to work on and their response floored me: “Honestly Robbie we need to work on having a better influence in our own community.” I didn’t have the brass to say it but I wanted to say, “That’s because all your money is going out of your community and not into it.”
Think about your own church’s budgets. How much is invested into salaries? Probably 50% of your budget. Then you have utilities, insurance, upkeep and all of these other expenses.
At what point do you bless the community?
So I wonder if the way we are doing church is sustainable. Neil Cole has some wisdom:
In today’s Western church culture, there are three consistent roadblocks to church multiplication and reproduction: buildings, budgets, and big shots.
Church 3.0: Upgrades for the Future of the Church, p. 85.
So what do you think? Can we sustain the way we have done church? Do we need to change? How can we? Where can we?
Photo Credits: James Emery on Creative Commons