Consciences, that’s the issue

From Tim Owens, pastor:

Tebow’s address was scheduled as one of the events surrounding First Baptist Dallas’s grand opening of their new $130 million campus, which is the largest church building campaign in modern American history.

Another quick recap: A prominent evangelical declines an invitation to participate in the celebration of the most luxurious church building ever constructed in America, and the issue of spending $130 million on a building doesn’t even make it into the debate.

Look, I haven’t seen the plans, I don’t know all the pertinent details, and I’m not involved in the decision; I ultimately do not know if this was the right or wrong decision. But I do know I used to help a local soup kitchen feed the homeless less than a mile from there. I do know of a struggling refugee community full of Christians roughly 15 miles from there. I do know of one or two other churches around the world that would benefit if some of their brothers and sisters shared.

Here’s my hunch–building the most expensive church campus in America is probably wrong.

My view could very well could be incorrect–Jeffress’ decision to build a $130 million building may be the right decision. The decision in and of itself isn’t really the point of this post. A church in Texas deciding to build an expensive building isn’t enough to make me feel like I’m taking crazy pills. But the fact that our national conversation about the gala focuses on Tim Tebow, Robert Jeffress, homosexuality and Mormons while absolutely ignoring the price tag just seems like crazy talk to me!

We’ve been so busy arming ourselves for the culture war that we’ve barely even noticed the hardening of our consciences.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://www.psalms4thesinner.blogspot.com/ lawrence

    Check the spelling in title. Scot
    Harding of their consciences, would been they would have one in the first place.

  • http://restoringsoul.blogspot.com Ann F-R

    I would surmise that the same hardening of hearts / consciences is at the root of your post on Ron Sider & income inequality, as well as in TX. What “temples” of worship were Jesus and Paul talking about as being central to the gospel, anyway? Whether those temples were cared for, fed and clothed mattered more to Jesus and James than any building.

    I recall feeling out of synch when I visited the beautiful cathedrals in Europe, coming as I did from Quaker meeting houses. I appreciated the beauty in the architecture, windows, statuary and frescoes, but the experience felt so disjointed from my understanding of Christ-following. I tried to find words not to offend my guides who were trying to impress me, and I came up with, “if the workers loved God in all the beauty they created, they loved God dearly.”

  • Merv Olsen

    My sentiments are the same as yours Ann (2).

    How tactful and thoughtful were your comments to your guides around the cathedrals! Blessings on you for being so positive when you were at the same time feeling `out of sync`.

  • http://www.grizmo.biz dave

    not only does the price tag depress me, but what about the price of upkeep over the life of the building. wow, we are all flying upside down.

  • Phil Miller

    Not that I’m saying we shouldn’t be asking these questions, but I do question the notion that $130 million is the largest church building campaign in modern history. For example, the price tag for the Los Angeles Cathedral came in at $189 million in 2002. I also think if you went back and looked at some other large church facilities and adjusted for inflation, the numbers may be similar.

    It is interesting to me as well that people will express outrage at this, but yet we see little outrage for the cathedrals we build for professional athletes that only get used 7 or 8 times a year. For example, the Minnesota Vikings are building a new stadium, and the price tag for it is $975 million. Much of the public funding for it is coming from gambling in bars. So it truly is being paid for from money from the poorest people. I know it’s apples and oranges to an extent, but at least a church facility has the potential to actually do more good than an NFL stadium. It really depends on how they use the facility.

  • Robin

    I agree with Phil. This is $130 million in 2013 dollars, but I have often looked at magnificent churches built in the 18th and 19th centuries, in poor immigrant neghborhoods, and it blows my mind the facilities that were built in a time without automated equipment to even help. I mean, these were palaces in the middle of ghettos.

    60 minutes did a story last week about “God’s architect” and a Cathedral in South America that has been under construction for 130 years. Sagrada Familia. Construction began in 1882 and it was consecrated and celebrated its first mass in 2010, but construction is still continuing.

  • http://inexhaustiblesignificance.wordpress.com/ Tim

    Phil, thanks for the observation! You’re right, I made a mistake by calling it the ‘most expensive church campus.’ I got the phrase ‘largest church building campaign’ from an article in the Christian post (linked below). I’m not quite sure what that phrase means in light of LA Cathedral’s $190 price tag. Perhaps FBD raised more $$ public campaigns? Anyhow, thanks for the observation, I’ve corrected my post to read ‘one of the most.’

    As for the sports complexes… lot of topics to cover on that one!! For me the key factor is that sports complexes are built by businessmen who are trying to make gobs and gobs of money. They’ve got a distinctively different mission than the church. It’s certainly worth bringing up from a social ethics point of view, but that would be a different post (meaning, how we ask non-Christians to handle their money is a different topic than how we expect Christians to handle their money). And, while certainly tons of money is wasted on sports complexes, it’s a bit more complex than home games vs price tag: the venues are used for sporting events, concerts, etc, and they also tend to create revenue streams for the local economy. The question is, does the income they create offset their cost of construction? To be honest, I’m far less qualified to talk about civil economics than I am about ecclesiological ethics.

    Lastly, I’m fairly positive that Jeffress once said that part of the motivation for his campus was to ensure that God’s house was the nicest house in TX (outdoing Jerry Jones’ Texas Stadium). But I can’t find the quote anywhere, so I couldn’t include it. I thought it was an interesting linke in light of your comment.

    http://www.christianpost.com/news/dallas-megachurch-of-robert-jeffress-to-open-130-million-campus-in-march-90086/


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