Could I make a suggestion to churches? Get out of the property business.
I mean it. Every small town I lived in has heavily mortgaged unused gyms and half filled sanctuaries and I’ve been seeing them since I became a minister in the 1980s.
Let me say this as clearly as I can:
NEW BUILDINGS MAKE CHURCHES SMALLER.
And if your church is struggling, a new building could kill it. But even if it survives, all its other ministries are curtailed in order to pay off the debt.
I have walked through many empty buildings and felt my bile and blood pressure rise as my footsteps echoed across the floors of empty meeting rooms. I would pass through the kitchens and think of gossip sessions and turf battles waged as casseroles and fried chicken were prepared. In the hallways, expensive stained glass images stared down at me while I glared up at them.
Meanwhile, within sight of those buildings, people were going hungry. Neighborhood churches could have fed them for years with the money they had tied up in property.
“But we’re in the business of saving souls,” they protest. And I say no they’re not. Buildings do not tend to the souls of people. Do a little counting and see that while the property values go up, the number of people attending church goes down.
“But the church down the street is doing well and they have a nice church building.” Assuming it’s correct that the church is doing well, they didn’t become successful because of the building. They built the building to accommodate their success. And I say they shouldn’t have built the building anyway.
Perhaps Christians could become more tolerant of different religious styles and learn to worship together in bigger groups. They could combine their resources to do actual work–Christ’s work, presumably.
Jesus told the rich young man, “Sell everything you have, give the money to the poor, and follow me.” Perhaps in the spirit of that command, churches could sell off their properties and use the money to actually work for their God.
The focus should be on people not property.