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Church Overhead Ticks Me Off

As I have been sitting in church lately, I have been thinking increasingly about the administrative and financial overhead of religious institutions, particularly the Christian church entity. The business of the church has become… business.

All (but one) church institutions I have attended in my entire adult life have had a mission of executing large building projects — mostly with debt, collateralized by parishioner pledges. Many community churches now have debt service requirements in the mid-six figures — I can only imagine the tenor of the elder and/or leadership meetings that are filled with modern marketing schemes and extended spreadsheet financial plans.
I am now attending a church that has about eight people on the payroll (full or part-time) for the parishioner population of about 125. No one can clean the church, cut the grass, or play the piano for free any more, let alone visit the elderly and/or “shut-ins” — gotta get paid to do God’s work.

When I think about the mission of the big “C” Church, and many little “c” churches, I ponder the inefficient allocation of the entities’ resources.The mandate of the church is now seemingly to enslave the congregation to the building mortgage(s) and administrative overhead…

…and I think about Jesus sitting in the pew next to me…holy moly, would He be ticked off or what over all of this corporate garbage?! And I think about His approach to meeting the mission of the C(c)hurch. Perhaps He would start with a worship service out on the grass. Bring a blanket and a napkin; we are going to break bread and drink a glass of wine. If it rains…oh well, I guess we are going to get a little wet. And if you are hungry, stop by. Hang out on the blanket with us. Lord knows, we have plenty of food and wine.

I wonder what those of other faiths,or no faith, think of the commercialization of the Christian church?
It is probably similar to my understanding of social justice and the contemplated multi-million dollar investment by Kalamazoo College in the brick-and-mortar of a social justice center. Social justice conceptually seems quite Biblical…so I can only imagine embracing the principles. But when the salient point of reference is an elaborate edifice, I scratch my head like the non-Christians looking at the building of the mega-church complex.

As a senior professor who has been a practicing social activist for decades said (while shaking his head), “I have always understood social activism to begin and end on the sidewalk…”

…if we toss a blanket out on the grass and break bread, we just might find Jesus: Mission accomplished!

2 comments (Add your own)

1. West Nelson wrote:
Tim, it’s like you’ve been reading my mind these last 20 years. Well said and thank you.

Thu, January 12, 2012 @ 4:44 AM

2. Bridgett Blough wrote:
Sounds like a picnic to me…One that I would join!

Thu, January 12, 2012 @ 4:45 AM

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