Getting Bigger II

Chuck Swindoll said that there are four essentials of the church: learning, love, worship, and prayer.  When you read Acts it doesn’t seem like a big multipurpose building with plenty of parking was one of the keys to establishing and growing the church. 

Still, it would not be possible to learn, love, worship, and pray without being somewhere and wherever the place was it would have to be compatible with and support the four essentials.  This brings up a good question.  If we build a new building and we designed it to support the four essentials, what would it look like?  

Here are a few ideas:

  • I like the sanctuary now.  It is comfortable, visually appealing, and has a feel of intimacy to it.  I don’t think it works to do the same thing in a bigger space however.  The sanctuary at one church is overwhelming with multiple monitors to see the pastor and stadium seating that can seat way more than I want to try to count.  It felt like we were attending sporting event or a concert at the theatre and it does not feel like God is present.  I think the architecture ought to be more traditional and create the feeling of awe and wonder and remind us that God is present.
  • If learning is the deal I think that there should be many classrooms with good multimedia functionality that could also be useful for small group studies.
  • It would really be good to have a library or study for people who would like to study on their own.  Internet access with a subscription to some good on-line databases would be good too.
  • For prayer I always liked the idea of a smaller chapel for people to have quiet time alone with God.
  • It seems like there should be other places were two or three could gather for prayer in the church.
  • I don’t know if love needs a place to be in the church building but I suppose that would be a fellowship hall of some sort. This place has to have a special design too.  A military style chow hall will not do.  We would be able to use this room for special dinners or events but that is also where we put the Starbucks coffee shop.  We should have a number of stuffed chairs and high tables and chairs where group 4-6 could gather and talk.  It needs to be comfortable and encourage intimacy.   
  • I think we might as well add that racquetball court for the pastor while we are at it.

An outside-the-box type plan would be to build only a sanctuary and fellowship area.  We could set up places of prayer and study at various locations through out the city.  We would have to lease the space or use public spaces and cover it with trained volunteers throughout the day.  That would make the church available to people at a lot more time and places.  It could be a good outreach thing too.  People could come to Discovery for spiritual matters instead of the palm readers.  We would actually be meeting people’s needs when and where they need it.

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Making the Church Bigger

The elders have announced that they would like to start a campaign to pay off the old debt (no small sum) expand the sanctuary, increase support to missionaries, and build a new multipurpose area to replace our deteriorating youth trailer.*  The elders are planning a congregational meeting to get input and reaction on the matter.

The pastor gave a  warm up on the idea during last Sunday’s sermon by talking about how many in the church look to their own needs and how the church can satisfy those needs. He said that people need to think beyond their own immediate needs and give attention to the needs of future attenders and members.

Getting bigger seems like a good thing but the possible cons are also forbidding.   Getting bigger will probably increase our debt and we may need a lot of cash each month for a lot of years to pay off the debt. Certainly we would be able to handle more people and ministries in a larger facility but those current and future members may be paying a steep price for it.  The monthly cash requirements can hamper or restrict ministry and this problem can become insurmountable if those future members do not materialize.

In his study on the radio today, J. Vernon McGee said that, as a nation, we are obsessed with getting bigger and doing better than the year before and this preoccupation often leads to actions that do no stand the test of time and create problems for those who have to live with the consequences. What criteria can be used to determine if growing is just vanity or has real value in achieving God’s purpose? 

Charles Ryrie says that the church is a group of people organized to do God’s will and Mathew 28:19 spells out God’s  purpose for the church which is to make disciples.  If we say that the church is to do God’s will by making disciples then our plans should be evaluated against the standard of making disciples.

I think it is important to think about who those future members and attenders will be.  If they are transplants from other churches for some shallow reason like our building is better or something of small consequence they did not like about the church they came from, then it is a zero sum game.  We make no new disciples and only move old disciples from one church to another and our growth may be mostly vanity.   

I am not suggesting that it is a bad thing that people come to us from other churches.  After all, I am one of those.  I do think that the ministry plan should include those people and provide ways for them to become involved in ministry and be challenged to grow as disciples.  Our ministry should allow these people to begin using the skills and abilities they bring to us and be encouraged to expand upon them soon after they come to us. 

If we want to make disciples we need a disciple making plan that goes beyond getting bigger for the sake of getting bigger. The building needs to support the plan. My questions are:

  • Where are these potential new disciples located?
  •  What are they like?
  •  How do we reach them?
  • What outreach activities will we take on?
  •  What is our outreach budget?
  • What is our plan to equip the church to meet these people and make them disciples?
  • How do we bring current and new believers to maturity in Christ (not only intellectual maturity but a real changed life on the outside)?
  • How does the building support disciple making?
  • What growth is reasonable to expect?

Our building isn’t the best in design and size and I feel the pain being too crowded and trying to make the best of what we have.  I like the idea of making new disciples and there are many ideas on how to do that without getting a bigger building.  I am not smart enough to say if we should get bigger building wise or not, but I think if the church answers these kinds of questions rightly, then we will choose wisely and our efforts will not be for vanity’s sake.

Once we count the cost of the effort one final question should be considered.  Is there some other opportunity to use our money and other resources that would do even more to fulfill God’s command? Whatever the decision is, I would like to hear the elders talk about how the plans help us to equip, evangelize, encourage, and exalt.

__________

*Note: This what registered in my mind but this may not be exactly what was said.  I am not completely clear on the plans yet.

Book Review: Storm Warning by Billy Graham

Storm Warning  is another great book for anyone interested in the book of Revelation and how it relates to the world today.

Billy Graham’s says that the Bible teaches that a time is coming in the very near future when God will bring judgement upon the world.  This judgment will begin with deception followed by war, famine, and death.  These correspond to what is commonly known as the four horsemen of the Apocalypse and the first of the seven seal judgements. 

For Billy Graham, the progressively more severe judgements of the seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls can all be related to the four horsemen.  The first horse or seal of deception is most significant for Mr. Graham.  We certainly see war famine and death in our times but the opening of the seal of deception marks the beginning of God’s terrible judgements on Earth.  In our time there are many who have put their faith in Jesus and follow Him.  However, when the seal of deception is opened many will turn from God and trust in false religion and humanism.  Judgement will come on the heels of this widespread rejection of God.

According to Billy Graham this time of deception may be very near if not already upon us.  Billy Graham points to the fact that many have already abandoned God and followed their own ways. Believers will not suffer under these judgements but those who reject God will prefer death to the judgements but not find it. 

As always, Billy Graham’s heart is for those who do not believe.  He takes great care in showing how current events have been arranged to bring us to the doorstep of judgement.  He points out how there are numerous pauses in the book of Revelation that give unbelievers the opportunity to change their hearts and follow God.  Billy Graham uses these situations to ask unbelieving readers of his book to pause  and consider their eternal destiny.  Billy Graham’s desire is for his unbelieving readers to change their minds about God.  

Storm Warning provides reassurance for believers that God is sovereign over the affairs of men and his judgements are just.  Storm Warning calls unbelievers to wake up, gain understanding, and change their hearts toward God so that they may have eternal life.  It is a  resource for evangelism and a wonderful book to give to a friend that does not believe.