Is the Church a Building?

After describing the long evolution of the church building sanctuary, the authors describe the pulpit, which “elevates the clergy to a position of prominence… it puts the preacher at center ’stage’ – separating and replacing him high above God’s people.”


Remember Pope Leo X, who had the vision to save Christ’s church by building St. Peter’s Basilica?  If you haven’t watched the 2003 release of “Luther”, it’s a MUST SEE!!!  In this movie, Pope Leo makes the following statement to one of his underlings:  “Rome itself has become an open sewer…and this new Basilica of St. Peter is not just a building.  It’s a symbol of my intent to restore Christ’s Church.”
Unfortunately, Pope Leo planned to fund his massive building project in Rome by having indulgence preachers throughout Europe CON the commoners into buying worthless pieces of paper so they could rescue their relatives from purgatory.  In God’s sovereignty, Martin Luther turned the Christian world upside down.
Here’s the part of history that we find most fascinating.  Martin Luther was formally excommunicated from the Catholic Church on January 3, 1521, by Pope Leo X.  Before year’s end, God would strike Leo dead with Malaria on December 1, 1521.  At least that’s how we view Pope Leo’s premature death at the age of 45.  Leo died so suddenly that the last sacraments could not be administered.
Is Robert Jeffress’ intent similar to that of Pope Leo?  He wants to advance Christianity in one of the most churched cities in the United States?  We’re still combing through our Bibles to find the passage where our Lord explains that magnificent buildings are what most please Him.  If any of you find it, please let us know. 
If you’ve ever been to Europe, you have no doubt seen the many magnificent cathedrals that were built prior to the Reformation. Incredibly, many have been abandoned by their congregations and turned over to the cities where they are located to serve as venues for concerts and public assemblies.  There are just empty shells of a faith that was once practiced within their walls.
Who funded these massive cathedrals built during the heyday of Catholic rule in Europe?  Plain and simple…they were built on the backs of the peasants who could barely afford to take care of their families.  The movie Luther provides some idea of how these poor people were guilted into giving.  A half a millennium later, all that’s left in some cases are stone skeletons.
Will history repeat itself in the United States are we place our emphasis on religious structures rather than the body of Christ?  Don’t get us wrong…  We believe in supporting the Lord’s important work through our TIME, TALENT, and TREASURE.
Now let’s consider what is being proposed at FBC Dallas.  Do you really believe that Jesus Christ needs a fancy new building to draw people in Dallas unto Himself?  We are not to cling to the things of this world; yet Robert Jeffress is passionate about “keeping up with the Joneses” (surely FBC Dallas can afford to enhance its facility by spending 1/10 of what it cost to build the Cowboy’s new playground). Remember Dr. Jeffress’ comment that we included in Monday’s post:
"Jerry Jones recently unveiled a new $1.2 billion 'temple to sport.'  In these tough economic times, why can't we use our gifts to build a church building that provides a spiritual oasis and matches the splendor and majesty of God?"
Does that sound Christ-like to you?
How will this $130 million building project be financed?  According to Dr. Jeffress, the church has received pledges and/or contributions totaling $62 million.  Only time will tell whether those pledges materialize into moolah…  And just who has pledged that $62 million – the congregation?  That leaves the church with a $68 million deficit.  Will that money be borrowed from financial institutions or will Dr. Jeffress apply pressure to the 11,000 member congregation to fork over the money?
Remember this quote from Monday’s post?
“In two special services this morning, Dr. Jeffress informed the congregation that already more than $62 million has been committed to this campaign. Mark Lovvorn, chair of the church's Planning and Development Committee, further noted that the economic downturn has led to unprecedented potential savings in construction costs, citing research showing that for every dollar spent the church will receive up to $1.30 in value”. 
The Church Report article we referenced gives us a glimpse into what will happen to pay for this massive building project:

“As a part of the next steps, First Baptist will ask its members to make a three-year commitment, above and beyond their regular contributions, to the building program, with the total committed being announced on May 16, 2010.  If all goes according to plan, construction will start in the fall of 2010 and be completed debt-free in 2013”.
Debt free in 2013?  Dr. Jeffress is obviously counting on a “miracle”!
As far as we can determine, the size of the congregation of First Baptist Dallas is around 11,000.  Of course, the congregation was 25,000 under the leadership of W.A. Criswell.  Bring back the glory!  
Let’s do some simple math.  We do not know the make-up of this congregation, so we will assume that there are 5,000 households that are financially supporting FBC Dallas.  By the way, we think this number is high.  $130 million divided by 5,000 equals $26,000.  If the church will be debt-free by the end of 2013, that means each family will contribute an EXTRA $8,666.67 per year over the next three years over and above their regular contributions.  Or is something else in he works that the congregation is not aware of (i.e. a big-time yet to be revealed donor or the sell of the Criswell College property and radio station?).

Finally, let's link this story back to the debate between Ehrman and D'Souza. One of our criticisms of Ehrman involved the problem of world hunger. He claimed that we now have the ability to cure world hunger. However, he did not or would not explain why we, the human race, have not. One answer to this question is the sin of selfishness. If I have mine; I don't really care about what you have. Imagine the witness to the world if First Baptists took that $130 million and adopted a small country in Africa and committed to ending hunger in that area? Anybody can build a building. God knows there are many such buildings in Dallas. Will this building actually glorify anything but the pastor and a few people whose Christian identities are mixed up in obtaining the biggest and best facility in the world (and Dallas, in the eyes of these folks is the center of the world).

We have heard the sad canard that they don't build church buildings like the cathedrals in Europe anymore. How beautiful those buildings are and how they point up to God! Has anyone stopped to think that those buildings were built on the backs of the desperately poor peasants? Has anyone ever thought how those buildings now function mostly as museums? The few that function as a gathering place for the faithful rarely, if ever, preach the Gospel. May God convict those whose understanding of the Way is wrapped up in the superficial appeal of a really expensive building. This is shallow Christianity on display.

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