So, I wrote a few weeks ago about when Christians occasionally rise up and surprise you with their devotion to the mission of Christ rather than the construction of their own private enterprises.
Well, sadly, this week I was reminded about how often many Christians do otherwise.
Just north of Seattle, a small church (400-500 people) owns two properties due to their merger with another church in their city of the same non-denominational brotherhood. The merger, several years ago, was broadcast at the time as a unique story in the quest of “unity” among believers. In fact, I remember being very impressed at the decision of two leadership groups coming together (setting aside small differences) to be one body in their community.
The strange thing is that in the middle of all this a smaller ethnic (Filipino) church of about 110 people was renting the now vacant building of the church that had merged with the other. This Filipino church, though, was of the same non-denominational brotherhood as the other two, but somehow strangely left out of the “unity movement.”
Several years later, this conglomerate church has experienced tremendous upheaval in leadership and membership attendance and is now strongly pursuing a land sale of the building being rented by the Filipino church. Though the property is totally paid for and bringing in money monthly due to a cell tower and renters fees, this conglomerate church is approaching a multi-million dollar payout in a sale. Faced with this prospect of large sums of capital, the church is proceeding with the sale.
Now, the sad part is that this unique Filipino church, of their same brotherhood, has absolutely no place to go if this sale goes through. They have investigated other rental partnerships with churches in their city, but to no avail. They have looked into land purchase, but they don’t have enough capital.
And though the leaders of the conglomerate church are aware of their situation and have made small attempts to convince future buyers to consider a continued rental relationship with the Filipino church, the overall sense is that this little ethnic church is not their problem.
As I thought about this situation this week, I wondered what kind of leader I would be in the same dilemma. Millions of dollars, but small church dies? Or modest monthly income, but church continues?
Sell-out or status-quo?
My question is: Isn’t this more than a financial decision? Isn’t it at a deeper level a very spiritual one as well?
I guess my problem is that the whole situation gives me the same feeling as when I read about a large grocery chain taking over a small mom-and-pop store. It is the same feeling I get when an apartment complex is sold to a developer who changes them into condominiums and gives the un-expectant tenants 60 days to move.
The only difference: it’s the body of Christ evicting another part of the body.
1 Corinthians 12 says that we are all members of one body. Do we really believe that? Do we think it only applies to the individuals in our own pews? Does it only apply to people of our ethnicity or in churches we would label as financially legitimate?
Somehow I think that Jesus’ prayer in John 17 that “we would all be one as He and the Father are one” (my paraphrase) meant more than this. Maybe it is time that we embrace one another. All of us. Not just our own local church members, but the members of the local church down the street. Maybe it is time we see beyond our walls, beyond our pews, beyond our race, beyond our definition of success, beyond our own small empires and realize that we are all on the same team.
What is good for Christ’s name in this world is good for us all.
We are all on the same team.
“May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.” — Jesus’ prayer.
Maybe us realizing we are on the same team is what the world is waiting on.