Message > RE: Three Million Dollars
I remember driving past a church a little ways south of Ft. Worth (Texas), a couple years ago. I mistook the place to a McDonalds at first, seeing as they had the whole glass cube thing out front (rather than the standard steeple, angled roof, and wide entrance.) It really looked exactly like a McDonalds kid's area.

I've heard Torrentor mention once or twice that he's (been?) attracted to shiny things, by which he meant particularly the mass and ceremony of the Catholic church. Admittedly, everything sounds cooler in Latin. You won't bait him with a brightly-colored toy area. In fact, I can't say I've ever seen that work on anybody. They can get the same benefits at the local mall.

I've been to church two or three times since I decided I was actually agnostic. I went with my parents while I was visiting, to avoid embarassment. (It's bad when the missionary's kid refuses to go to church, no?) I also went once while living in Tulsa (Oklahoma) because we got a flyer informing us there would be a multi-night discussion on Darwinian evolution, the Bible, fossils, and all sorts of scientific stuff. (And boy was that a hoot. Ask me for my notes if you care.) The only thing that could get me back in church would be someone making such a good case for that religion that I couldn't help myself *and* proving that church (as most people understand it) is somehow directly tied to the religion itself. Then again, I'm probably more barricaded-in than a lot of people.

Consider, though, the case of mildly-christian parents with "two point one" kids. They've not been to church recently, or they meander from church to church. Finally, they find one with all sorts of facilities to make them feel cozy, make them comfortable with leaving the kids in day care (sunday school) and generally high-spirited about worship. Expensive facilities will buy you their presence, and their tithe. Just think of what you'll be able to do with the money collected from this investment! For three million dollars, you build a larger facility that can attract a few hundred more people, a good number of which will feel obligated to religiously give 10% of their income (note: the government only probably takes 20% to 30% of their income, so this is relatively a lot) to the church. Investment here can lead to even greater revenue later. Of course, nothing prevents the church from further spluring on its own members with that money, but at least there's some reason to the madness, right?

There are alternative strategies for church. Church is just an assembly of like-minded believers who feed off of each other. You are stronger as a group than you are individually. You can learn from each other. You can teach each other. You can maintain beliefs and nip heresy in the bud. You can hire a (sometimes) highly-educated preacher for less than it would cost you to have individual lessons. (I'm going to leave alone the idea that you want someone else to teach you the required beliefs of your already-chosen religion.) Churches serve as a meeting place where you can find other people who agree with you; such people are easier-to-have friends, as you're less likely to have an argument over matters of religious belief. You can feel safe letting your kids go out with their kids, because everyone's nice. You're safe. You're with other, safe people. In fact, the only people you need to worry about are people who don't go to your church: those dangerous Catholics, or worse, the unbelievers. They're the only possible source of evil in this world today. (Wait, has my tone darkened in this paragraph? I'm sorry.)

Consider house-church, though. Small groups of people meeting informally at home or in public places. You don't have the cost of a building, you still meet with people, you can still ask a pastor to come over and preach, maybe several groups can pool money to make sure he has the time to do so. It's easier to integrate with casual missionary work: invite someone over to your house for dinner, maybe later invite them over for an evening (informal) bible study (maybe formatted more as a fully open discussion, to make them feel included.) You can ramp up slowly as appropriate. With church, you have a whole can of worms that comes with saying "hey, you want to come to church with me next week?" There's a lot of money that could be saved with such a process, but you might not avoid heresy as well, it's not something tourists will just drop in on, and it doesn't scale well to large groups of people.

You could express your disapproval of such churches by not patronizing them. Don't tithe there. Go to a small church that obviously needs some money to keep the basics working (assuming you care about their basics) and contribute there. Maybe when churches see that "investing" actually hurts them (as their members go elsewhere to show their disgust) they'll stop. I don't see that happening though. Too many people feel too comfortable in big, cushy churches. It's like SUVs -- the bigger and plusher, the better. They don't go to church to be attacked for their beliefs, they don't go to be martyrs, they don't go to feel awkward, they don't go to be obvious. They go to be part of a mob, where they can feel safe, where they can feel part of the whole (of the body of Christ, if they're in the right mind-set), where they can be dedicated to, in their own anonymous way, praising God. People don't sing too well when it's cold in the building. They don't sing well when they don't have a good music director. They don't listen very closely when the pastor doesn't have a good microphone, or when the seats are uncomfortable. (I'm not sure they listen other times either, but that's another matter.) They don't like being the first person to arrive or the last person to leave.

And if nothing else: what kind of God would allow his people to have a crappy church? Obviously the size of your church proves the size of your God. (Have you read those books on how God wants you to be rich, and if you'll just reach out and invest in those stock markets he wants you to invest in, he'll make you rich? Yeah. That's the mood I'm in.)

Note: welcome to our newest contributing member. Everyone else who has a username and isn't contributing should be ashamed of their respective self.

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Owned by Unordained - Created on 02/21/2005 - Never edited