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Thoughts on life by Teri McCarthy

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My Steeple is Bigger Than Your Steeple!

Posted by admin in October 17th, 2008
Published in Uncategorized

I live off of 87th Street in a suburb of Kansas City. Within a four mile radius of my home there are four mega churches. By mega churches I am referring to churches that have congregations of over 1,000 in attendance and whose buildings cost more than 15 million dollars each. One is a monster of a church; it’s Southern Baptist. The church right next to it, yeah, right next to it, is a Covenant Church. One mile from those two there is a humongous Pentecostal number with its very own health club; three miles away from that one is, uh-huh, another SBC church. These churches are huge! They have lovely landscaping, perfectly laid parking lots, and steeples that, well, are the only man-made objects visible from outer space! In fact, one pastor believes his steeple can be seen as far as 30 miles away. Wow. That’s big! The largest of the four just finished phase three of its building program. The registration for the permit to build (yes, accessible online) the new phase estimated that the cost would be 9 million dollars. So, if you figure that they went over budget, which a member told me they had, and if you figure they spent about that much on each phase, we’re looking at somewhere in the ballpark of 27 million dollars for the entire outfit. Did I mention that particular church’s sanctuary only seats 1,200? I guess they needed a lot of space for Sunday School. Big buildings. Lots of brick and mortar. I think it is interesting that I can’t find brick and mortar in the New Testament. Is it in there?

I’m thinking about some of the stuff Jesus said, like in John 21, “Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ A second time Jesus asked, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter answered, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said again, ‘Tend my sheep.’ Then Jesus asked a third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter felt hurt, and he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.'”

Now assuming this conversation wasn’t just for Peter – if it is for all of us who follow Christ, then it looks to me like that if we love Jesus we are supposed to feed and tend his sheep. Okay, do I need a 27 million dollar complex to do that? Is all that brick and mortar really necessary?

What about the commands of Jesus (I don’t think they were just suggestions): (Matthew 25) feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, clothe the naked, care for the sick, visit those in prison, help the widow, the orphan, and the foreigner (stranger). Is it me? Or is “build a big, honker building” not in there? I can’t find anywhere in the New Testament where Jesus or the other guys tell us to build a building. In fact, James says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” Maybe buildings and Jesus’s words are not in conflict, but what if they are?

Look at Jesus’s words before he ascended into heaven: Go into all the world and preach the good news, make disciples, heal the sick, set the captive free. Feed the hungry. Preach the gospel. Clothe the naked. Preach the gospel. Care for orphans. Preach the gospel. Build big multi-million dollar buildings…uh…wait! That’s not in there.

Have you seen Haiti lately? How about Sudan? One billion people a year are chronically hungry. And, 18 children under the age of five die EVERY 24 MINUTES from hunger. Every 24 hours 35,000 people starve to death…here on our planet, in our time, today. Peter do you love me?

My sister and brother-in-law decided two years ago that doing Jesus’s words just wasn’t that hard. My big ol’ brother-in-law Mike said, “It ain’t rocket science to feed the hungry.” They are business folks living in Oklahoma City. They feed the hungry every Wednesday. Mike and Cindy said they wanted to feed the homeless of their city with food that they themselves would like to eat. So, every Wednesday, for the past two years, they head over to Subway and get sandwiches, cookies and bottled water. Rain or shine. Freezing cold or suffocatingly hot. Convenient or inconvenient. And they pass out lunches to anyone and everyone they can find who live on the streets and don’t have enough food. In the summer there are lots of children on the streets–homeless with their parents. Lots of stories out there too of people just like me and you who fell on hard times, had a crises and just couldn’t get back on their feet again. Once, a nice gentlemen said, “It’s so good to have some normal food again. I used to always eat at Subway.” Mike and Cindy don’t get publicity. They pay for the food out of their own pockets. They drive into some really rough parts of town. On Christmas and Thanksgiving they deliver hot meals of turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie–the works. Each summer Mike picks an abandoned parking lot and they do a big cook out of hamburgers and hotdogs. All are welcome. They always run out of food. But they feed the hungry. They just do what Jesus said to do. And dear Cindy prays as they hand out those sandwiches. She prays over her city; she prays over these whom God has given them. They feed His sheep.

These are the physically hungry, but what about the spiritually hungry as well? There are 1.8 billion people on this earth who have never heard the name of Jesus. They didn’t reject Him, they’ve just never heard of Him. There are no Bibles in their languages, no churches in their neighborhoods, no Christians living near them. They are called the Unreached People Groups of our world. To bring that number home it looks like this: 3 out of 10 people on this planet have never heard the name of Jesus.

I think Jesus said that they perish. I think Paul said they perish. I think those without Christ suffer horribly in this life as well as in eternity.

Feeding the hungry, taking care of orphans, helping Haiti, reaching the Unreached of this world is not an impossible task. It’s actually doable. But it is a matter of priorities. And, like everything else in life doing these things requires resources. Human resources. Financial resources. I just wonder if 27 million dollars towards feeding the hungry and reaching the lost would have been a better way to spend those resources than in a church building that will one day crumble and fall and yes, burn up. There are only two things that last forever (did Bill Bright say this?): People and God’s Word. Investing in these two eternal things, obeying Jesus’s words and giving of ourselves for these purposes seems to me a whole lot better than brick and mortar. Maybe I’m missing something. Maybe I’m wrong. I just wonder. Peace.

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23. Troy Campbell said,
October 19th, 2008 at 12:28 pm

Great thoughts…..we all can benefit from a consistent dose of reality!!!! I hope you keep writing….

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