Tony Romo, the Dallas Cowboys, and Church Building Campaigns
When you think about it, church building campaigns to churches are a lot like Tony Romo is to Cowboys fans! And when I say that I don't mean that they cause members a lot of heartache, disappointment, and grief – I mean that you have some that love them and some that hate them. Now if you talk to any true Cowboys fan you will find out quickly that there is no middle ground when it comes to my boy Tony Romo; he's either the savior sent from heaven or he is the spawn of Satan that will eventually find his place with Satan and all of His demons in the eternal lake of fire! In this heated debate you always have people who exalt him and call attention to his excellent QB rating, regular season record, and yardage/TD performance; and then you have people that always want to bring up his feeble body, his consistent choking, and his horrible consistency in the playoffs (when it really counts)!
Likewise, I have come to the understanding that there are really two schools of thought when it comes to doing a church building campaign. You have one group that says campaigns are manipulative, out of line, and focused on the material rather than the spiritual; but then you have others who are just looking for a God-sized vision to get behind and get excited about. So, what does the Word of God say about building campaigns and why should we even care about the way the building looks in the first place? After all, we all know that God does not dwell in a temple built with hands, but in the hearts and lives of real believers! Right?……. Well, where that is certainly true, it is also true that we (Christians) are called to join together in a specific location and worship God in fellowship together. As the body of Christ we are united together as partners of the gospel, and that partnership should include consistent fellowship and interaction with one another. So, although God does not dwell in temples built with hands, He does expect us to corporately meet together with Him. You say that's great, so why should it matter what our building looks like?
Well, really it shouldn't. I mean, when you think about it, the quality of a church is not determined by the looks of the building but the heart of the people. So, what determines whether or not a church is on fire for God has nothing to do with appearance, but rather everything to do with the hearts of the people in the congregation. That's why the Bible repeatedly reminds us that man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16: 7)…. But see, that's the problem. That's why I think that you've got to do what you can to monitor and maintain the outward appearance – because the audience we are called to reach as believers is not the one that looks at the heart, but those who look at the outward appearance; not God but man! Now don't read, what I didn't say. Our worship should be all about God. We should do everything we do to bring glory and honor to HIM. But we are only accomplishing our mission as the church if we are making disciples of all nations; and those disciples are living, breathing, human beings – not the Father, Son, or Holy Spirit!
So, we DO need to make reaching people a focus. And the Bible tells us that man looks at the outward appearance. So guess what? That means as the church we should be concerned about our outward appearance – not because it impacts our relationship or fellowship with God, but because IT IMPACTS OUR ABILITY TO REACH PEOPLE. See, the goal of church is not just to meet and grow, the goal of a church should also be to get out and go! So, with our audience (people) in mind, consider the following things about our culture and society. Think about the people we are trying to reach:
- We are highly visual: Think about all of the media we are constantly bombarded with – ads in magazines, pop-ups on the internet, commercials on TV. The media is constantly demanding our attention and we are consistently being visually stimulated.
- The world is doing a great job attracting people: Where the church might not seem very attractive, the world is not missing a beat. All of the world's solutions for a better, happier, life are being mass-marketed in ways that appeal to the general public.
- The world won't satisfy: Nothing the world has to offer can bring fulfillment and purpose – Only Jesus can do that. Unfortunately, Jesus is not being mass-marketed by the world. Instead, His message is being preached in and through the church.
- The first thing people notice about a church is it's appearance: Whether we are talking about the building they see driving by, the website they visit online, or the members they observe in the workplace; the first thing people see is external. The deeper spiritual condition of a believer or his/her church is not seen by the general observer, but can only be understood through deeper interaction.
- The greatest thing the church has to offer is not material, but spiritual in nature: It is not a building, a program, or an entertainment experience that makes the church a necessity for people; it is the message of the cross and the good news of the gospel. It is the hope that is found in knowing that Jesus died for our sins. It is the joy that we have in knowing that He desires to walk with us through every stage of life, and that He loves us despite our many faults and failures. That's what we have that no other organization or entity can offer – and that is what sets us apart. That is the message that we have to get across to the lost world. That is the message that the world needs to hear!
So, are there issues with doing building campaigns? Absolutely. Are there people that think that money can be spent in better ways? You bet. Are there people that get the wrong idea when we start talking about investing money in a building? Of course there are. But, should we do them? Without a doubt! If what we have to offer can only be found through deeper interaction, then we have to do what we can to foster the opportunity to get that message across. That means we have to share our faith consistently through personal one-on-one relationships, but it also means we have to compete with the visual world we live in. It means that even though the outward appearance of a person or a building has absolutely no bearing on one's spiritual condition, it does have an impact on our ability to make that spiritual condition known. So, let's make sure we are doing everything we can to attract the lost world. Let's build relationships with those outside of the faith, let's continue to share the message of hope in the gospel, and by all means – let's make sure our church buildings communicate that Jesus is alive and God is moving in our local church bodies!