Sunday, September 30, 2007

BACK TO CHURCH

At church this morning our head pastor (just back from painful ankle and foot surgery) announced that he's stopping the capital campaign three weeks hence because they've only been able to raise half of the funds needed. The plan is to scale back and just build the children's pavillion and remodel one of the halls so the music department can have new offices. Apparently only 10 million is needed for this instead of the 13.6 million that had been asked for. And they only have 6.8 million so far. All this after building the 11 plus million dollar family life building and worship arts center.

The worship arts center has kicked off their "Ovations" program with an art show of secular paintings that loosely try to tie into scripture. They're nice paintings. Though I do not understand what a painting of an old man gardening in his underwear has to do with Jesus. Or of a lady slumped over asleep at a table. I must just be thick headed.

The new building did not enlarge the sanctuary. And we really needed that. But the idea was to put overflow into the worship arts building so folks could watch their kids or the programs on a live feed video screen.

Our pastor acknowledged that he knew he had offended a lot of the congregation with the enormity of this building project. Especially when it jumped from 8 million to 24 within 4 years. It really doesn't matter whether or not it was his personal fault that all this has gone remarkably south, but I felt an apology from him was in order. It was not at all forthcoming.

Instead, the congregation was chastized by telling us that the only thing keeping our church alive is the constant incoming flow of new families and if we don't build this big expensive new building then that flow is going to stop and our church is a' gonna die. Gotta have the pretty, expensive building or the church will die. And that's that. And if that's what we want, that's what we'll get if we don't sign onto the five year plan of giving. I hadn't been all that offended before. Just skeptical and incredulous over the session's idea of how the numbers were supposed to work. NOW I am offended. I know the church is in trouble. But there is just no way I believe a pretty, expensive new building at the cost of what would rebuild a sizable portion of Katrina victim's houses, or maybe make a profound positive impact in Africa, or both with that kind of money, is gonna save our church.

Children and families will come when there are good programs based on Jesus and teaching the Bible. *shakin' my head* And of course they'll come to party with interesting secular programs and to play pool and basketball in the shiny new buildings. But then it won't be church any more, will it?

I would love to find a smaller, spirit centered rather than secular centered, church with my mom, but Wonderboy loves the children's choir so much and the leaders are spirit centered. So, for him, I'll hang in there. And there are good people there. Though some of my pals have left. And the junior and senior high programs are also centered on Jesus and scripture. Though the entire time I've been at this church there has always been a disconnect between youth, adult and senior groups. Now I understand why.

Oh, and they're starting a new study group on "The New Atheists: A Christian Response". I wish I had time for that one because I have always thought that being an atheist meant that one did not believe in God. Apparently there are new requirements for the club. Maybe a secret handshake or something. Or maybe it's a "unborn again" program. *shakin' my head again*. I had thought that the church already had a Christian Response.

Can I get a witness?

22 comments:

mompriest said...

I always encourage people to stick with their community and not bail when the going gets rough.

On the other hand, there are other fabulous children's choirs and ministries out there. Or if not he might just be the missing link that keeps a smaller church from having one...

at least, as the solo priest at a small church, I have been amazed at the opportunity to use the gifts of those God sends me...

so. keep discerning. maybe you need to stay, but maybe you are being called elsewhere, to some small place that needs the gifts each of you bring....

just wondering...

mompriest said...

let me restate that, "he might just be the missing link that enables a small church to have one...

Kievas said...

Interesting that big (mega?) churches seem to have the same basic problems that small ones do, they're just scaled up by a few orders of magnitude.

redheadrev said...

Wow! That is some serious guilt tripping he's laid on everyone! That is not the way to get things done. Sounds like he is pushing too hard, too fast and maybe just to make himself look good when the church has a gorgeous new building. :( I hope it works out the way that God wants it to.

BookGal said...

I'm in shock that the sanctuary isn't bigger. I've watched this remodel for over a year. (For those of you who have never seen it - it looks like a gold-plated sombrero.) I'm sure you and Wonderboy are there for a reason. God puts us where we need to be when we need to be there.

Barbara B. said...

mompriest makes some good points...
and I'm still laughing about not understanding "what a painting of an old man gardening in his underwear has to do with Jesus."

Cathy said...

PG,

I am just reading this before gettting ready for work. From a church who is lucky to have 50-60 on Sunday, what you share is in another world to me.

For us, your child would mean one of 4 around his age. However, he would be doted on as though he has lots of aunts and uncles and grandparents. He would have TONS of opportunities to be an acolyte.

It's a whole different mindset. One certainly can't go to church anonymously at our little church.

I'm curious as to why the church hasn't sponsored beginning a new church? or has it? Sounds plenty big to me.

Princess of Everything (and then some) said...

I love it when you post truth.

Quotidian Grace said...

Sounds like the pastor and the session have come down with a serious case of Edifice Complex.

When he says you must keep bringing in large numbers of new families, it must be because the church is loosing a large number of "old" families out the back door. That's a symptom that the church has problems, isn't it?

The children's choir and youth programs are very important for WonderBoy. But so is your spiritual health as Mom. No wonder you feel torn about staying. All I can say from our recent experience of leaving our congregation of nearly 20 years is that if God calls you elsewhere--you will know it.

Meanwhile, many blessings on your head!!

Presbyterian Gal said...

Thanks everybody. I appreciate all your comments and support.

QG, "edifice complex"...LOL that hits it on the head.

Lorna said...

lol @ QG

but seriously a large church with a great programme and heaps of extra curricular events and rooms to have them in is worth zilch if there's no room for God

MayB MayB Not said...

Mixed emotions here ... definitely sounds like the reasoning is "off" .. and agree with comments about knowing whether to stay or if God is calling you to another place. Must say, that I do believe that, with the exception of churches located in areas of declining population ... all churches should be growing ... because, like the early church we read about in Acts, people see how much we love each other and want to be part of it ... and a large church that is faithfully seeking to be a body of Christ, can meeet more needs while being better steward (should take less property taxes than 2 or 3 small churchs, and salaries for less paid staff, etc. etc.)

Praying that you find ways to be nurtured and supported. Serena

Hot Cup Lutheran said...

spiritual growth vs. numerical growth... it's a song as old as time isn't it? jeepers...no wonder Jesus wept.

Diane said...

great rant. I feel for smaller churches in our age. people often mistake the programs for the "spirit" as in "this church is so dead" meaning there are 1,000 programs for every need here. 24M is a lot of money. our addition was 1M and we felt bad, because construction costs went up so much between when we first proposals and when things really got going.

zorra said...

I'm sorry things are so messed up over there. We loved that church when we were members 20 years ago. (And parts of the complex were in pretty bad shape even then, so I understand why they'd want to have a building program.) It sounds like things have grown stagnant.

On a happier note, you've been tagged! Come over and see.

Gannet Girl said...

I don't understand why/how the pastor has so much input into this project -- the size, the money, whether it does or doesn't go forward. Where is the Session?

Diane said...

yeah, gannet girl has a point. you usually have a team approach for this kind of a project.

Presbyterian Gal said...

Gannet Girl, it has seemed to many of us these past few years that our session is now a "rubber stamp" committee. This has happened over time after a congregational vote (I believe about 15 years ago) whether or not to fire this pastor was made during one Sunday's worship services (BTW Presbytery had advised his dismissal). I have only been told what the issues were and did not experience them myself.

Personally I like this pastor, still more than less. Even though I have experienced some problems with him personally. He has done a lot of good things for this church outside of this building business.

And I have always borne in mind that pastors are just as human as the rest of us. But on this very large issue I believe he has gone too far. And and the session seems to be in full support of all this.

Linda McMillan said...

Oh Presbyterian Gal, you are so funny. I really love your posts.

Maybe the painting is saying that when we work on the first commandment, to till and keep the earth, it involves a certain vulnerability. I haven't seen it but I like the idea.

I once went to a parish that asked for money so often that I stopped giving anything except my minimum pledge. It got very, very old every single week.

Atheism can mean not believing in God but it can also mean not theistic. Lots of Christians could be in that category. Our own Bishop Spong writes about it.

You're the best Presbyterian Gal. Your church is lucky to have you.

Lindy

Presbyterian Gal said...

Lindy,
The church did say that the paintings were loosely tied to scripture. Your interpretation of that one is far better than theirs.

And I really don't understand how a Christian cannot be theistic. By definition theistic means you believe in a god who created the earth and mingles with its creatures. An atheist believes in no God at all. And being a Christian involves believing in a risen Christ as part of the three in one God. So ???? I'll have to check out Bishop Spong.

Thanks as always for your comment. Very thought provoking.

SpookyRach said...

I kinda like Spong. I don't read him all that much, and I don't agree with everything, but he certainly has some good ideas!

Living in Sin? was the first book of his I read and it's still probably my favorite.

David G. said...

24M is a lot of money.

Then again you have to remember that it is CA, and everything costs 10 times what it costs elsewhere in the nation.
So 24 Mill in CA, is like 6 mill in Detroit.