The Bus Stop is a series of true stories about my life, people I've worked with and events I've experienced. Of course the names have been changed. I hope these stories will brighten your day with a few laughs as well as give you encouragement. Hopefully you can avoid making some of the mistakes I've made and if you have already made them, then you can identify with me.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

House of Cards

I know all of you are familiar with this game and the metaphor it stands for, but just in case I’ll explain. A house of cards it built with caution and with care. The least little breeze, nervous twitch or sudden moves could cause it to come crashing down. One of the things that makes this project so unstable is it has a weak foundation. Then on top of a weak foundation there is nothing that is truly binding the cards together. It is done with delicate balance and one card leaning on another. If one collapses, they all go.

"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash." Matthew 7:24-27

These verses definitely apply to our daily life and defining our foundation. Is it on God’s Word or on all the flimsy things around us? However, I would like to take a look at them from the church perspective. In the last decade you all have seen a flood of the Mega-Church movement in our country. Many believe and want to believe that this is a great thing and finally we are getting it right. Look at all the people coming to church now. Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7:13-14

Well, the truth be known the church really isn’t growing, it’s just shuffling around. Many of the smaller churches are getting smaller or going under because many of the members are all moving to the larger churches. They see the pretty building, many programs and of course free coffee at some. Very few people are coming to Christ for the first time in these grand buildings of God. That’s only the half of it.

I’ve been really confused about all of this because I was seeing some good things and the pastors were preaching some good things. However, something wasn’t right in my spirit. I knew something was wrong, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I feel as if they are preaching at the congregation and not to them. They are preaching from the Bible, but not from their heart. Some may say I just have some kind of personal vendetta with the large church. I considered that too.

Along with the Mega-Church comes the expense of Mega-Millions to operate them. From what I’ve seen is these churches are using the Mega-Millions to build more elaborate buildings, (it’s called campuses now, not churches) expensive decorations and Broadway type productions for your entertainment. Oh, they do send a little money to missions and may provide some occasional program to help someone in need.

So where is the house of cards? As I said, it cost Mega-Millions to operate. Utilities alone have to be enormous not to mention salaries for 20 – 50 staff positions. People are starting to grow tired of seeing their giving being used for all these elaborate expenses as well as the unemployment continues to rise people don’t have money to give. Many of these churches are getting into serious financial binds and are getting desperate. They will begin to preach more sermons on giving or making frequent remarks about giving. To turn the heat up they will lay off 2 or 3 people in their staff to make everyone feel guilty about not giving more. I’ve seen this happen. The Mega-Church will eventually come crashing down.

The “Church” is getting weaker and the government is getting stronger. Why, because God has given the responsibilities of the church over to the government. Who is making a poor attempt to help the jobless, the health insurance problem, the elderly who can’t make ends meet or who comes to rescue those hit with disasters. Everyone around was in awe—all those wonders and signs done through the apostles! And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person's need was met. Acts 2:43-45.

The unemployment rate in Texas is around 8%. That’s roughly 400,000 people out of jobs from a state with a population of about 25 million. This doesn’t include the many elderly, single mothers and many others who are hurting at this time. $25 million is the yearly budget for some of these churches. Could we not provide some supplement on insurance for everyone in need in our state? I’m not talking about a bailout. I’m talking about following God’s principles and let Him deal with healing our land. Then imagine if all the churches in their own states would do the same thing. Wow! People would start looking to the church and to God instead of the government.

So why won’t the church give? It’s simple, they’re self-indulgent and stingy. Some pastors would rather have body guards to feed their egos than helping an old widow keep her electricity on. I remember a time many years ago when Karen and I hadn’t been married that long and moved to a new town. I had a difficult time finding work and we didn’t have any money for anything. We had enough gas to get to our church, but not enough to get home. I talked to the pastor about our situation and he disinterestedly got someone to give us $5. He was only interested in those giving, not taking. It was also done in a way to make us feel guilty for asking for help. This is the same attitude I see now, but on a larger scale.

I know this is long, but I felt it was something that needed to be said. Some of you may disagree and that’s ok. All I can tell you to do is sit back, watch and wait. Right now I think the church could make a difference, but if there is not a change made soon there will be a high price to pay in the near future. We can blame the government, the school system, Hollywood or anything else we can point the finger at, but it all comes down to the Church. If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14