Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Church of Riches
As we parked in one of the parking lots of the Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis last Saturday I looked up at the huge church and thought, "Wow, this is a church? How does a church do what churches are supposed to do and still become rich enough to build all this?"
We chose an entrance to enter (out of many) and passed over lush carpets below sparkling chandeliers in one of the lobbies. We passed by a gift shop and circled around the amphitheater-type sanctuary which had many doors marked with letters of the alphabet (reminded me of the gate areas of a big airport) to lead you to your seating.
The tickets to the Singing Christmas Tree program were reasonable at $10 apiece, but just at the matinee performance there were over 5000 visitors, so I was pretty stunned when just before the grand finale the pastor came out to do a little preaching and had the ushers pass around the collection plates.
I was much impressed with the lovely program but I was not impressed with the image of riches that the sight of this church gave me, this church who's services are televised every Sunday morning. I am unimpressed in their church ministries to the poor. For one thing, I never knew that there were participant costs for Mission opportunities. A church this magnificent should be able to afford to send those church members who have the desire to participate in Mission trips to foreign countries, yet the costs per participant is from $1,500 to $2,500?
They do have a program where members can chose to adopt a needy family at Christmas, but does the church also provide for these families? I could find no information about this.
Maybe I have the wrong idea of how churches should operate because I've only ever attended small churches where every member is known and the offerings that are taken up every Sunday go to the needy after the bare necessities such as electricity and a living for the Preacher have been paid.
I was raised in the knowledge that the people who gather to worship are the church, not the building they worship in. Is something wrong with my way of thinking?