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?


Karen H. said...

Good Afternoon Brenda,
Well since I'm a Southern gal like yourself, I've never been brought up in those big fancy Churches. I've always attended the smaller Churches where everyone was known and after the bills were paid they did help the needy. I just don't understand a Church having all of that. Now to me, that's not right. It looks like they are wanting to have all the glory instead of giving all the glory to GOD. I belong to a small Methodist Church here in town. I was brought up as a Baptist, but married a Methodist. It's not the name of the Church that's going to get you to Heaven anyway. Girl, I could stay here and "Preach" on this subject, but I won't. But I'm sure you feel the same way I do. Thanks for sharing this with us. I've never been inside Bellvue, but have passed by there a time or two. Take care my friend and have a great Wednesday. May God Bless You and Yours.

Karen H.

Karen H. said...

Hey Brenda,
It's me again. I forgot something. I gift shop in a Church? Now that is just unheard of. Sounds like the Church is money hungry to me. That's just my opinion tho. Take care and God Bless You.

Karen H.

Joan said...

We have about 10 of those huge monstrosities here in our city too. Religion has become a business; and it's pretty sad.

cassie-b said...

That's some church! It makes you wonder what their main goal is.


Mary Lou said...

You are so right Brenda. It is the big splashy fancy churches that are bringing the bad name to church going. I do mine privately. I give privately, I pray privately. Jim Baker and Tammy FAye sure didnt get very far after their BIG HUGE Church crumbled around them did they? And look at what is happening to Oral Robert's Church.

What a shame. And to charge for a CHRISTMAS CONCERT? ack!!!!

PEA said...

I think the same way as you do Brenda...when I start seeing a church with all these types of riches, it galls me no end. I would rather go into a humble little church with the bare necessities...I feel so much closer to God in them. xox

jazzi said...

Even the little churches stack up their money. One of our old ones has over a half a million they're sitting on "for a rainy day". But the old guard of the church couldn't be convinced to part with a nickel of it to be used for missions. Or anything. And since all things had to be voted on by the committee, the pastor couldn't just go out and do something. It was pretty maddening.

AndiePandie said...

At least you liked the program though! :)

I'm keeping my lip zipped on the other stuff just because I don't like how most churches operate anyway.

Cindra said...

We have a couple of really big churches in our area and I will say something that they do and that is they provide a great place for young people to congregate. Many of our churches have built gymnasiums and social areas for young people to play sports and socialize. They don't have any fancy lighting (although they do have fancy presentation screens.) I think much of this is because our children are used to this and it does manage to keep their attention. They do many outreach programs that involve the kids.

I don't really like the big organized religions, but if they can give kids a safe environment and good clean fun, then I applaud them.

I do, however, agree with your view of the fancy trappings and then requesting more money. I like to see the money at work, not shown.

Virginia Gal said...

You pose an interesting question..its funny when studying religion in undergrad, I was turned away from the opulence of the Catholic Church, whose churches and services can be quite fancy. I think this was because, like you, my religious experiences were in small very "humble" surroundings. Yet I think does it matter the size and environment of the house of worship (big or small) as long as praise to God is going on? But like you it does make me wonder, is all that money going to keep up the opulence, in which case it would be better spent on charity. Good post!

Sarah said...

Hi, Brenda...I wanted to email you privately, but your email link wasn't working for some reason. I actually ran into your blog by accident, just browsing on the net. Let me say thanks for coming to see the Tree this year. We were very excited about some of the new stuff (including our brand new director Mark Blair), and we had a very good response. In case you haven't already figured out, I've volunteered as part of the production crew for Bellevue for several years and grew up performing in it through jr. high and high school. In fact, I've been at Bellevue since I was a baby and Dr. Adrian Rogers was my pastor for 25 years.

Please don't take my comments the wrong way - I only want to respond to what you and some of your other readers have to say about Bellevue. Sometimes when you look at something for the first time or are looking from the outside in, you don't quite know the whole story and as a result your perceptions can either be right or wrong. For instance, I would never want to assume anything about your church or any other large church because I don't really understand how your church works or might do things. It is true that many large churches and ministries are a bit greedy for money and they're more interested in fame and fortune than they are in reaching people for Christ. I agree that those ministries do more to harm the church than to grow it. I also agree that many churches (large or small) are there for their own interests and the people simply come for their own spiritual enlightenment instead of growing more like Jesus so that they can minister the way God wants us to.

I can understand from your point of view why you would think that Bellevue falls into that category. It is a big church, but so is Chuck Swindoll's, Charles Stanley's, and all the great Bible preachers of our lifetime have growing churches. It makes sense that they do because if God blesses them as great teachers of the Gospel, then people are going to be drawn to their ministries. That's what has happened at Bellevue. God has blessed us with very high-caliber pastors, not because we were looking for them...God lead them to us. As a result, our membership has grown exponentially in the last few decades from just a few thousand to 30,000. I don’t say that to brag. We don’t take anything we have for granted. I don’t know why God chose Bellevue to become the size it has, or why he’s given us the blessings he has. But every God-centered church has a purpose, and Bellevue is no more important to the Christian ministry than the small church on the corner with an attendance of 200 every Sunday. But God has ordained Bellevue to do things that smaller churches can’t do, and smaller churches do things that Bellevue can’t do.

Let me share with you, as a very active member of the church, what God is doing through Bellevue. If you still believe the way you do about Bellevue after you read this, then that is your choice. But it saddened me to see that so many people have these preconceptions…and a lot of them are from smaller churches. I thank God for smaller churches because many people need that type of atmosphere to grow in their relationship with Christ. Like I said before, smaller churches are able to provide ministry opportunities that larger ones simply can’t meet for one reason or another. But that also works the other way around. On the other side of the spectrum are people who enjoy the benefits of a larger gathering of Christians and that’s where they choose to plant their families. It has nothing to do with money and everything to do with the ministry of the church to its members and to the community or world at large.

First, let me say that Bellevue’s size can be overwhelming and feel more impersonal than a small church might. Yes, the architecture is beautiful to look at sometimes and they want it to have a nice presence. It’s God’s house, a house of worship and the architects wanted it to reflect that. Secondly, it’s big because frankly there are a lot of people who attend regularly and we have to have space to put everyone. The church wasn’t built that large for show. In fact, we’ve already outgrown some of the facilities as they are. I know it’s hard to imagine, but Bellevue as always been a growing church. When we stop growing, I’d be worried that we’re not doing our job reaching other people for Christ. Thirdly, every square inch of our property, from the parking lots to the buildings, to the ball fields are all paid for. The church is not in debt, and that was a big deal for Dr. Rogers that we not be making payments on the church and instead use the money to support our ministries and evangelism. Yes, it was expensive to build, but any building that size is.

As you might know, the Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary is right across the street from us. Bellevue owned that property and when the seminary outgrew its old space, Bellevue gave them the property free of charge to build their new school, and our church paid for them to build a brand new housing complex for their students which is right down the street. Before, their students were having to drive 45 minutes from the school to the housing. Also, Bellevue holds an annual shopping spree for the seminary so that the students and their families can be provided for materially at extremely discounted prices. We all know that seminary students struggle financially especially if they have families. Bellevue’s former minister of music starting a music ministry program there, and Dr. Rogers, before he died, began the Pastoral Training Institute which partners through the seminary to help teach and train new ministers of the Gospel. Even though he’s gone now, the Institute remains in service to the students and their ministries. Also down the street is another housing complex for many of our senior citizens who can’t afford living elsewhere or who might not have family to help take care of them. They live there at reduced rent and Bellevue provides services to take care of their needs.

Bellevue has planted two other community churches/mission centers that reach out to the underprivileged in the Memphis area. They share the gospel, provide food, clothes, and activities including summer music camps, vacation Bible schools, and other mentoring programs. We’ve also adopted a Spanish ministry to reach out to the growing Spanish population in Memphis. Bellevue provides ESL classes for them free of charge, and special Spanish services for them to fellowship in, as well as Spanish interpretation for our main services. I have been a part of one of the Spanish festivals they hold in Memphis as a puppeteer sent to share Christ through puppets.

There are numerous other community mission/outreach ministries that Bellevue has – too many to mention all of them. They don’t charge anything to be a part of them and they take a lot of volunteer hours from Bellevue’s members.
On Wednesday nights, we offer CARE classes for people who are working through very difficult life issues. Everything from suicide, to cancer, to divorce, to addictions where people can come and meet with a support group and a leader who can minister to them from a Biblical standpoint. Again, these classes are free of charge and open to anyone who wants to come. We also offer free Biblical counseling…but I suppose most churches do.

This year, Bellevue’s annual love offering went to support community ministry, and in a separate offering, we raised over $50,000 for teachers in our public schools to buy school supplies for their classes. Bellevue loves Memphis and we are striving to broaden our community missions every day. I’m the director of our youth puppet ministry and we perform for local schools, hospitals, nursing homes, festivals, and other places where we can share the gospel and encourage Biblical principles especially to kids who don’t go to church. We do it all free of charge, and at our expense of many practice hours and transportation. But it’s not really an expense because we gladly do it. And the great thing is that we in the ministry grow together and minister to each other by ministering to others.

As for our productions, we don’t do it for show. We do it only for one reason and that is to bring people to Christ. Over 30 years ago, God gave a vision to Jim Whitmire who was then our minister of music to begin putting on these productions. He had seen other churches do it and knew what a great outreach opportunity it was. We started small and as more people began to come, the production grew over the years until it became what it is today. In those 32 years of the Singing Christmas Tree, we’ve had nearly 70,000 professions of faith. That’s why we do it. Our Passion Play isn’t quite as popular, but too has produced somewhere around 40,000 professions of faith. These productions are elaborate, but they serve to bring in people who would never step foot into a church on Sunday morning or go see a typical church pageant. Here in Memphis we have Broadway and the movies to contend with. That’s what our society (especially younger people) are drawn to. If it’s not of the caliber to compete with some of these other forms of entertainment, then we will have missed a lot of opportunities to share Christ. We could do just a regular Christmas concert (and we actually do in addition to the Tree), but that won’t draw the number of people that our bigger productions do. Also, these productions cost several hundred thousand dollars of our own money to produce. Why do we pour so much money into it?...over 100,000 lives changed for all eternity. Why do we ask for your help in covering the cost?...because we can’t do it all on our own. As rich as the church might look, that’s only superficial. We may have a larger budget, but we don’t have money to just throw away. Plus, there are a lot of people who want to contribute to the ministry and be a part of reaching others for Christ. A lot of Bellevue members purchase those sponsor tickets to help underwrite the costs and pay for guests to come see it. Bellevue doesn’t expect anyone who paid or had someone pay for them to donate anything. We don’t want anyone to donate who doesn’t want to. But you can believe that every cent goes to help pay for the costs of production and nothing is used for other purposes. Also, everyone except for the regular staff members involved are all volunteer. That’s hundreds of people, months of volunteers work, many take vacation time from work to do this show, and the kids (including myself) are taking finals while working many hours through rehearsals and shows. We do it as a ministry, and it’s also a lot of fun to be a part of something like that. Now that we have a brand new director, we hope to make the production better, change things to keep it fresh, and find new ways to provide for everything.

I’ll also mention that Bellevue has an extensive international missions outreach and we have missionaries in dozens of countries, and we do several mission trips abroad every year. Yes, the people going do have to pay for much of the expense, and Bellevue covers the cost where it can. But believe it or not, the church is not rich enough to pay for everyone’s expense. But that’s okay. It’s a willing sacrifice that everyone makes. Bellevue does support many of it’s missionaries as much as they can. Also, our television and radio broadcast is another huge ministry that reaches millions of people all over the world, and I’m not sure the number of people who have been brought to Christ or encouraged through the ministry, but I’m sure it’s a very large number. I’ve heard and read some testimonials from people who have been ministered to through our television broadcasts. No one but our own members through the tithe pay for that. And the Love Worth Finding ministries that handles Dr. Roger’s broadcasts aren’t even a part of the church…they’re a separate ministry but Bellevue helps support it.

So, please don’t let first impressions guide your perceptions. Bellevue’s ministries may be different than that of a smaller church because we have the resources to do them, and I’m mean more than monetary resources. We’ve been blessed with many talented people as well with a heart for Christ. We pray before every performance of the Tree for there to be people who’s eternity changes forever because of something they see or hear. Our first and foremost purpose is to spread the Gospel to the community and to the world using whatever means God allows us to. Our pastor is a Bible-believing, God-fearing preacher of the Word of God, and God is the center of our church family. He cares about people coming to know the Lord and preaches to that purpose. Our church family is all about Christian fellowship, ministering to others, and sharing Christ. We at Bellevue understand that to whom much is given, much is required and we try to stay true to that as best we can. I didn’t mention a lot of other things Bellevue offers from choirs, to performing arts, to band, to Evangelism Explosion, weekly home visits, block parties…the list goes on and on. We don’t get nor want the glory for anything we do. All the glory goes to God; He is the reason we do what we do. Think about it this way: would God truly bless a church who wasn’t doing His will? Would a church continue to grow if God wasn’t in it? Like I said, the day Bellevue stops growing and dreaming is the day that the Lord is no longer our focus and it should be a wake up call that we’re not doing what God would have us do. I know that there are large congregations of organized religion who are after the wrong things. People can be deceived into believing anything, especially where money is the main focus. Unfortunately, people assume that about Bellevue or any large church and it’s just not true. Maybe some churches deserve that kind of label, but take it from me, Bellevue’s not one of them.

Anyway, I just wanted to share the other side of things with you because I don’t want anyone to have the wrong idea. Maybe after reading this you still feel the way you did. I would just hope that we could all band together as the body of Christ and not be concerned with how big or small a church is, or what kind of carpet they have, or how many parking lots there are. Our main concern should be reaching the world for Christ, and it’s a lot easier if we all work together to do it. So, let me say thanks again for coming and I’m glad you enjoyed the performance. I hope you come again and bring someone with you who needs to hear about Jesus – whether you buy a ticket or not. That doesn’t matter. All that matters is that those who need to hear about Christ, do. Thanks for your time.


Brenda said...

It's wonderful that you are able to do good things through your church Sarah, but I think you've missed my main point. The costs of the carpets and lighting, the glitter and glitz, could have provided even more housing for the elderly, at perhaps even less cost to them, could have provided even more school supplies for children in need of them, could have provided more of the expenses for those who do Mission work for the Lord, could provide even more CARE classes for those in need of them. I see the glitter and glamor as waste and I believe the Lord does too.

Donna said...

Well now.......Hi Brenda!!!! Ahhhhhhh....How 'bout those Cowboys!!! What???? Love You!!
My,My...Well...Hello there Sarah!
Passion is a great thing isn't it?
I just love passion...And you're right about Big churches...little churches and so on..I've always thought it wonderful what the larger congregations could get together and do for people in need...wonderful thing...yes it is..But...(you knew there would be one)lol It's always been beyond me why a church feels that mankind is doomed to the pits of Hell if he does'nt join in with the rest of the "saved" souls of a congregation. Even the people of the most backward of nations on this earth believe in a higher "Source","God"...I (ME) simply believe God hasn't told me to go next door and tell my neighbor that unless he repents all his sins, and believes in Jesus, he's going to Hell...period.
Oh yes, the one about, you can't talk to spirits...because that's of the "Occult", and you'll go to hell....Ahhhhhh...well....Jesus? Whom I Dearly love...last time I looked, is a spirit...Hmmmm...I was raised Catholic, and attended the Baptist, Pentacost, Luthern, Church of Christ, The Holy Cow, please give me your Money Church...Put simply, I've checked a lot of places, of worship, out.
Not much impressed. Know why? Love. Couldn't find it in Any of those places. Know where I found it? In Me. In my home, my children, grandchildren, friends, the stars above, the people whose hands I held while they lay dying and the newborn babies I full of life and love...and promise knowledge. That's what's getting me to heaven...know what? I'm already there. So Big churches are fine, little churches are fine...My Grandfather (Cherokee Nation) said to me once apon a time, "Little one! Do not look down when you pray, look within!"
Never understood what he meant until many years later. It was inside Me the whole time...funny that......
Sorry Brenda, for taking up so much space on your comment section...just wanted to say hello to Sarah......Night all......

Leeann said...

Amen, Brenda. I attend a small church although we visited a very large one for almost a year before deciding on the smaller one. The main reason is because we aren't comfortable in a "seeker friendly" church but more than that, we want to know each of the members personally when we lift them up in prayer.
Just my two cents.

Houston said...

Well, like Sarah said, yada, yada, yada, yada.

I think it's a reasonable question to ask Sarah how much the Big Honcho gets paid and what are his expenses? Notice I assumed it was a he. What are the administrative costs of the mega-church? What is the proportion of spending for salaries, facilities maintenance, and good deeds? Hello, Sarah? Not to pick on you, but you came over here and typed a two thousand word commentary talking about how good your church was. You tell me, Sarah, is less than a hundred words, how do you people handle money given to you? And by the way, how much money is given to you? Fair question.

Me? I never give money to anyone or anything that makes more money than I do. It's just a thing I got.

Hey, Brenda. Hope you're enjoying the holidays.

Sarah said...

Well, apparently I'm not welcome here, and no matter what I say you're going to find something wrong with it, but I'll try anyway. I apologize for writing such a long comment, but I just wanted all of you to know that Bellevue isn't as superficial and shallow as you seem to think it is. It's not a perfect church, and I certainly didn't intend to put down your churches or any small churches. I hope you didn't read it that way.

All I can say is that according to the Bible a Christian's first mission is to share the Gospel and then to do good works. Good works alone doesn't get you to Heaven. I'll quote Dr. Rogers and say that there's no one so good that he need not be saved and there's no one so bad that he cannot be saved. After all, in the end nothing else matters except that you know Christ as your Saviour. It doesn't matter what denomination you are (I hate them anyway) it's what the Bible says. Some churches (obviously) focus on the good works part more than evangelism. We care more about people coming to Christ than providing school supplies. If that sounds skewed, take it up with God. We could take that money and give it all to the poor, but we'd be doing it at another cost. I'm sorry if our fancy lights offend you. I guess the only way you'd be satisfied is if we just didn't do the production at all. Or maybe we could do it and just use flashlights instead. My point is that there are many ways to minister to people and entertainment is one of them. We do flashy stuff because that's what draws crowds. If you don't believe in entertainment as a ministry, then we might as well end the conversation here and now. Your church can pass out more blankets, and our church can reach more people through productions. See how the body of Christ works together? That's how it's supposed to be.

As for the budget...I don't know. I'm not privy to the specifics, but I do know that the people working at the church could be making a lot more money in a secular environment if they wanted to. The paster, Steve Gaines makes a salary analogous to his responsibilities. But it isn't enormous like you think it is. I don't get paid...I told you that I volunteer as a lay person and I have no problems with that because I know that the church isn't squandering money on itself. How? I know very well a lot of people on staff. I've been to their homes and I've seen how they live.

We don't do anything without a lot of prayer first and the peace that God wants us to do something. God gave us the opportunity to do these productions and we took it. God has blessed us so that we can do "good works" as well. It doesn't have to be all or nothing.

Frankly, it sounds to me like you have something against all big churches and that we are up to no good. It also seems to me that smaller churches think they have the superiority on praying for one another and being able to minister without being hung up on themselves. I guess I can't expect you to understand because you come from a small church and have no true concept of what it's like as a member of a large church. If you visited a church and didn't find the love you were looking for, you were visiting the wrong church. I wish you could look past the facade period, because the last thing I want to do is argue with any of you. Bellevue is not Tammy Faye's church, and it's been around for over 100 years....we're not crumbling anytime soon. I wouldn't wish that on any church. If they're doing something that God doesn't approve of, then He'll deal with them as He did with the ones you mentioned.

What do you want us to do? Knock down our church walls, break up into a dozen small churches, stop doing productions...? I'm not sorry for us putting the Gospel ahead of what you think a church's agenda should be, and I'm sick of you guys from small churches thinking that somehow you're doing the will of God above and beyond larger churches because you're so humble about everything and your pastor may not make as much as ours does. Yeah, I may sound defensive and a little upset right now and it's because I am. You're making ignorant accusations without the knowledge to make them. You're assuming things without understanding things. I bet some of you making comments have never even been there before or know what's it's all about. Frankly, I've been to a lot of small churches and I have nothing against them, however I don't feel comfortable in a small church environment just because I'm not used to it. There's nothing wrong with that. You don't see me questioning you about your church and what you do to minister to the community. I know that there are a lot of small churches who don't do anything. But I'm sure yours does its share.

I simply can't put into words all the answers to your questions. It's something that you have to experience (at Bellevue) to understand. So, I'll say nothing more and hope that one day you won't think that small churches have the monopoly on what the ideal church should be.

If I sound less than loving right now...I'm sorry. But even Jesus got upset occasionally.

100 words...impossible. I hope all of you have a Merry Christmas. Now you can all go back to accusing me, Bellevue, and large churches everywhere of our next crime to Christianity.

Donna said...

Sorry Brenda.....Ahmmmmm...
Sarah- Sweetie, take a deep breath!
It'll be alright! No one, who has commented, has tried to upset you. You put out a long description of your church. It's wonderful that y'all do everything that you do! Never said it wasn't. What I Am asking you to do, as a Christian, is to put a smile on your face and understand that this medium (blogging) is about journaling thoughts. For each of us, it's a way to keep our thoughts and happenings in some kind of order for our future generations to read someday. Most of us have a lot of silly fun (like me). What Brenda expressed were simply, casual
thoughts about some things she "wondered" about. Crime committed? No...We all wonder about things everyday.And we enjoy chatting about those things with each other. If you already know your church is wonderful, Thats great. I'm truly happy for you and rejoice With you! Your anger? You'll have to deal with that...but don't assume "you're not wanted" here, or on any other blog...Get to know us! Politics aside, we're a great bunch of people! And loving...Come for a visit! You're always welcome! Please prove me wrong!!! Have fun today!!
Thanks Brenda for the time spent here. I promise not to do it again..LOL..

Brenda said...

I didn't realize that my thoughts would cause such controversy. I truly apologize for that.

I'll repeat that I was in awe of the wonderful program that Bellevue hosted. I did feel God's love during the time I spent there, most especially though seeing the joy on the children's faces as they watched and listened.

On the other hand, those are my thoughts and this is my journal and I hope I don't have to begin editing my thoughts more than I do already.

I've often said that I'm quite sure that God looks down on me pretty often and just shakes his head and sighs over some of my life decisions. This is probably one of those times.

Whispering Hope said...

I couldn't comment due to keyboard acting up yesterday. But, I must tell you, Ms. Brenda, I applaud you for your honest opinions, and hope you will continue to share with us. You have a beautiful heart which, in opinion, is where church resides. It's not a building.

Anonymous said...

Did you feel any spirit in that big place? It is hard to feel the Lord's spirit in places like that. They represent the New World Religion. They are of the world, not what we are were taught. Revelations coming to past...I know you think I'm a little kookie about this stuff, but I really believe that the Lord is not happy with things of today.

WatchingHISstory said...

This Church was founded by Adrian Rogers. He also founded Love Worth Finding, a national Radio/TV ministry.

Bellevue is a tribute to his greatness. His followers have been willing to committ much to him.

Anonymous said...

Charles, SHAME on you! Bellevue (the buildings AND the people) used to be a tribute to God's greatness, not that of Adrian Rogers. He was just the glue that held so much together for so long.

For those who haven't noticed, Adrian Rogers has died. Steve Gaines is the Pastor now, and MOST of the seats are now empty on Sunday mornings.

Brenda, PLEASE excuse HIStory's interruption on your otherwise interesting (and almost a year old) blog thread. I agree with you. Sometimes big is better, but sometimes it is just too big for it's britches.

Anonymous said...

"I see the glitter and glamor as waste and I believe the Lord does too." From your comments Brenda, I can deduce several things:

1. You have no carpet in your home, and all furniture, lighting, appliances, fixtures, etc. are the simplest, plainest, and cheapest in order that you can give the most possible money to the poor, underpriviledged, and needy. I'm sure you also NEVER give any unecessary birthday, Christmas, or other gifts to anyone that is not absolutely necessary for their basic survival. I assume this because I am sure you are far too nice a person to condemn others for what you do yourself.

2. I assume that the great amount of your income that you do give to the poor you give in some direct fasion to ensure that no money is used for administrative costs, building upkeep, staff salaries, etc.

3. I'm also sure that you have some insider knowledge that the rest of us do not have that enables you to know that when the church building was built there was no one who designated their gifts to be used in certain ways, no one who wanted to purchase certain things as a way to memorialize a loved one or family member, no one who had good connections and was able to purchase quality items at a discounted price, etc.

And, in case one would wonder, I've never been to Bellevue, I don't know anyone there, and I live up north. As a Christian I just find it amazing that others go around making such huge assumptions and sweeping statements full of judgment and condemnation. Brenda, I certainly hope your friends and family are more kind and gracious to you than you have just been of the thousands who call Bellevue their home.