A pet peeve of mine has been how much churches are willing to spend on buildings, all in the name of “ministry.”
I used to live in Dallas, Texas, the mega-church capital of the world. There are more mega-churches in Dallas, TX per capita, than anywhere else in the world. One street I was driving down recently contained four mega-churches in a one-mile stretch.
I don’t mind the number of churches so much. What gets me going is how much these buildings cost. First Baptist Church in Dallas recently spent close to $50 million to construct a new “ministry” building! They say this will help them better reach the residents and people of downtown Dallas. Truly, I hope it is money well spent, and I wish them well.
But I often wonder what that $50 million could have bought in Africa or Papua New Guinea. If they answer by saying they were trying to reach the people in Dallas, then I wonder how many meals for homeless people in Dallas that $50 million could have bought? If they answer that they were trying to build a place for people to come for education and instruction so they could better their lives and get a good meal, then I have to ask why the building has “clever accessories” (that’s their term) along with 9000 square feet of exterior glass, state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment, wi-fi hotspots, beautiful stain-glass windows, comfy couches and lounge chairs, etc., etc.
Don’t misunderstand. I am not condemning mega-churches. I attend a mega-church. Many mega-churches are doing a lot of good in their communities and around the world with spreading the gospel. I just wonder if all of us (big churches and small churches alike) could be a little wiser with our money.
I wonder if First Baptist Church in Dallas could have built their building for about $10 million less, and sent the extra $10 million overseas to plant about 2000 churches (It costs around $6000 to build a church in Africa). OR, what if they said to their donors, “This building will cost $50 million, but we need to raise $100 million so we can build churches overseas as well.”? What would happen if a church plant, from day one, decided to give at least 50% of it’s budget to missions?
The issue, of course, is “How do you define ‘missions’? By “missions” I mean anything that is helping you accomplish the mission of the church, which is to make disciples of all nations. If you can really, honestly say that you need a $50 million building to accomplish the mission God has given you in Dallas, then I say “build away!” It’s not what I would do with $50 mil, but if it is truly what you believe God has called you to do, go for it.
But here’s what really gets me going… I read today about a church that has alerted its missionaries that after this year, the church will not be able to support them any longer. Why? Because the church needs a new auditorium and can’t do both. You can find out more about this here. Certainly, I don’t have the whole story, and this church definitely does not answer to me for how they use their money.
But one thing I know: American churches are the richest churches in the world.
Yet our primary use of the funds God has given us seems to be to construct bigger and nicer buildings for ourselves and our “ministry,” I am just not sure this is what Jesus had in mind when He said, “I will build my church.”
So what does your church budget look like? What does your church raise funds for? Whose kingdom are you building?
UPDATE: FBC Dallas recently pledged $115 million for further renovations.
2nd Update: The final cost came to $130 million
I wholeheartedly agree with you on this Jeremy. Well done mate. I think you have given one of the more balanced take on this issue. Our church is in the middle of a building project ourselves. And we keep asking ourselves the same question over and over again: “What is necessary to accomplish God’s mission through our church?” Yes, we need to consider our “Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth.” but I think we need to remember our “Jerusalem” as well. I don’t think God mind spending, say, $10,000 to save one soul in Dallas, if that’s what it takes. However, many I wonder if that’s the real mindset of some of the mega churches. I wonder, as you said, if we could do with $10 million building instead of $15 million. I just wonder if thicker carpets would make any difference in the church’s mission to reach the lost.
Jeremy Myers says
Thanks again for the encouragement. You are right that no value can be put on saving someone. But we must always be asking ourselves if the cost of building is the best way to spend the money to reach people. And if we do decide to build, we need to decide how nice it should be to make it attractive and usable, but not wasteful.
Difficult decisions. Keep me informed how you and your church wade through this issue.
hay jeremy, good point, check out cornerstone simi valley, you will find a church that loves its neighbor as themselfs. quite simply by giving half of the money they take in, as a starting point. I challeng you to find a church that even comes close to that, there is somthing going on here in so cal that only GOD make happen. This is no small church 4000 members and growing curently giving about $4,000,000 a year. theres no dout in my mind this may become a true mega church, the mega being GOD.
Jeremy Myers says
Wow. This is the kind of thing I like to hear and read about. For those of you who want to see what Cornerstone Simi is doing, check out this link:
Here is a small sample:
On a practical level, Cornerstone has been unable to grow numerically for the past five years. This is due to lack of space. While many would be content to keep our church at the current size, our mission statement reads that we seek to reach “every individual” in our community.
The obvious solution would be to buy more property and build a bigger building. However, this would require spending an amount of money that none of the leaders feel peace about spending. This lack of peace primarily springs from a desire to give more to the poor who are suffering around the world.
The idea of building an outdoor amphitheater rather than an auditorium sprung from a desire to save millions of dollars. It came from a belief that God would rather we spend that money in other ways. It comes from a thought that God would receive more glory from seeing His children sacrifice for others- namely, those around the world who lack basic necessities. The idea then evolved into developing the property into more of a park-like setting that could be enjoyed by the community throughout the week. In this way, we would be giving to our community as well as to the needy around the world.
In reality, this is about more than a building. The park/amphitheater is an expression of a mindset. It represents a group of people who are willing to sacrifice their own comforts in order to better care for others. The following are not just reasons to build inexpensively, but they are the reasons why Cornerstone strives to be a “giving” church.
Good take on the mega church industry as it is definitely already a growing American trend unlike anything seen before. On one hand, all of these people need to sit somewhere to worship. On the other, 50 million for a church in a country already densely populated by other Christian churches seems close to, if not completely, ludicrous. Of course, they are also much more than a place of worship, they are a testament to the success of the religion. Monuments of strength and unity. I just wonder how it is imperative to God’s work. For example, 1 dollar will buy an African water for a month. A months supply of water is on average 16 gallons. That 50 million could supply 4,166,666 ((thats 50 mil/12 dollars (months)) Africans with 16 gallons of water a month for an entire year! The other fellow commented that 10,000 dollars seems like a fair price for the souls salvation in Texas. I say, if this staggering amount of impoverished people in Africa were to receive 12 dollars for a year of water you can bet that there souls will listen. They will listen for much less and the message will be spread astronomically farther. So, I suppose the decision remains: comfy seats and a enclosed parking structure for rainy days, or the possible conversion of millions. (p.s. kudos to those organizations who do take such considerations seriously)
Jeremy Myers says
I agree wholeheartedly.
Of course, although it is easy for me to become too critical of the way other churches spend their money, I need to look at my church’s budget and my own personal budget to see where I am wasting money as well that maybe could be used better elsewhere. As you point out, every dollar matters.
Thanks for the comment.
Ron King says
What really matters?
Maybe we should look at the heart of the church and not the size of the church. A small church could have the wrong heart (taking what little they receive for their own internal needs) about giving towards outreach and the great commission and there are 20 times more of them in America than mega churches.
You know Jesus rebuked the disciples for complaining about what the woman with the perfume did for Him. Well did Jesus really have to have that really expensive perfume poured on Him? That wealth could of been given to the poor.
Why did David hand over maybe billions for his son Solomon to build the temple? Those resources could of been used saving lost souls. Wasn’t the tabernacle enough?
If I live in a mansion and you live in a hut what does that matter to God… is it not our hearts that will be judged not how much we have or don’t have?
God went overboard in creating everything you see and don’t see. Maybe He could of done better for us by not going overboard with creation. But if He held back in creation…maybe I would not be able to see how awesome He really is. Maybe I would not have trusted Him with my Life.
scott reeves says
It sounds good to say “spend less on a building and send the extra money for mission endeavors instead”, but in reality that amount money would not be received and sent out by the local church otherwise. In a strange catch 22, some churches feel compelled to build physically in order to send spiritually. Some people who would never give $2,000, or $1,000,000 for that matter, for a church to spend on a mission effort, will give that amount for the church to build a facility that can attract and equip others to give and go. Large churches have some advantages that allow them to do a great works for the Lord locally and around the world. Church leaders should pray and seek God in whatever they do. After having sought God, they should act boldly, even in the face of critics.
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FYI, the church you have been using as an example to bash “mega churches” only spent $33 million on their new facility. Also, this church gives more to missions than your proposed $10 million, every year! I would know because I was a member of this “downtown Dallas” church…. So next time you want to use MY church as an “example” get the facts right!
Jeremy Myers says
I got the $50 Million number from the Dallas Morning News. I checked this, as you suggested, and not only did I find the $50 million number confirmed, but it looks like last year, the church unveiled a $130 million building project. If this is not accurate, where is the Dallas Morning News getting their information?
Here’s a few quotes:
Making a bold, expensive commitment to downtown, First Baptist Church of Dallas announced plans Sunday for a $130 million building program, with a new 3,000-seat sanctuary as the centerpiece.
The church also intends to construct a six-story religious education building with an adjoining parking garage; a sweeping, glass-fronted concourse; and a sky bridge across St. Paul Street. The project promises to transform a stretch of downtown not far from the attention-grabbing Arts District.
“The finest facility in this area should be one that glorifies almighty God,” said the Rev. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Dallas.
Plans also call for an acre of green space, and an outdoor fountain where in warm weather baptisms will take place, underneath a towering cross.
Jeffress said the church’s fundraising consultant, Doug Turner, had determined that this is the largest building program undertaken by a single congregation in recent history.
The new worship center will be about 90,000 square feet, with a mile’s worth of pews. Plans call for state-of-the-art lighting, sound and video screen technology.
The church will carry about $19 million of debt into the building program, including from its last project, the $50 million Criswell Center.
So my facts look right. I’m not sure what the church is telling you. It looks like your $33 million is what they have paid so far, and the remaining debt is being carried forward into this new $130 million campaign.
The article mentions that the weekend attendance at First Baptist is about 3200. So this new expansion is costing over $40,000 per person. Are you pleased with where your tithe is going?
Also, you mention that the church gives $10 million toward missions per year. That’s great! Out of curiosity, what is the total annual budget? What sort of mission’s projects are funded by this $10 million?
I’m aware of a mega-church in the midwest that claims to put 51% of its budget toward missions. However, when I investigated their total budget and how they spend the other 49%, and even what they call “missions” I was not impressed. For example, they have several “missionaries” who get paid about $100k each to be missionaries to the people of the midwestern United States.
Jeremy Myers says
I guess there’s even a video:
Im sure if they could have spent $10 million less they would have. no one would spend that amount of money for the sake of spending it. I hope you had the same outrage and post when your Cowboys spent over a billion on their new stadium and none of it goes toward saving souls for Jesus Christ.
Seriously, that picture you have for the inside of a mega-church is of the LDS Conference Center (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conference_Center). It seats 21,000 people. The Mormons will probably be the last denomination to build mega-churches because they don’t let congregations get much larger than 300 people. By the way, the Conference Center was built to replace the Mormon Tabernacle (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salt_Lake_Tabernacle) which only fit a few thousand people and is where the Mormons held their church-wide conferences for 132 years.
Jeremy Myers says
Ha ha. Well, I always wondered what church this was from… I think I got the picture from images.google.com when I searched for “mega church.” Now I know…
And you’re right about the Mormon churches.
Jeremy Myers says
I have fixed this image so that it is of First Baptist Church itself.
You wrote this a good three years ago, but I still want to leave my “I totally agree” comment.
I’m a bit biased in my opinion as I go to very small denominational church in “the mega-church capital of the world,” but I’ve always wondered why, while my small church does just fine (though we do have our own problems), the leaders of mega-churches feel the need to spend all this money to keep their churches mega. It seems like an awfully inward focus to me. Still, I’m like you when you say that you wish them the best. I have nothing against these leaders (most of them), I just don’t agree with them on a handful of things.
Just on a side note, I find the picture you used extremely funny after reading what Jacob said about it above. I just wrote a poem about a similar subject on my blog and I too searched “mega church” on Google images. It brought me to the same picture. I clicked on it and ended up here. I’m happy I took the time to read this. It’s a great post. Thank you for sharing. It just saddens me how many people took offense to it.
Peace to ya!
Jeremy Myers says
Thanks Marcus. I hope nobody minds, but I fixed that image so it actually reflects First Baptist Church in Dallas.
I realize this was literally five years ago, but what is the name of this very small church you went to/go to? I moved to Dallas recently and it’s been hard to find one!
Liz Dyer on Facebook says
First let me say that I didn’t know you used to live in Dallas. I’ve lived in this area most of my adult life. Like you I have a problem with the huge amounts of money that are spent on so many church facilities and living in the area I have been shocked at the numbers associated with renovations and additions to the First Baptist Church in downtown Dallas. I happen to know of a very small church (not even close to being a mega church – I think they have an attendance of less than 200 on Sundays) in Dallas (Cornerstone Baptist) that appears to be doing a lot more for the community than First Baptist. I have done some work with this church and they are amazing – they are in south Dallas and they minister to homeless people on a weekly basis by providing food, clothing and showers, they help people getting out of prison transition back into society by providing housing, guidance and skills, they have a homework and tutoring center, and they put on seasonal activities and events for their community each year that are geared to connect and provide for those in their neighborhood. Most of their work is done by them partnering with other faith communities and churches in the metroplex. Check them out here http://www.cornerstonedallas.org/
I can only imagine how much they could do with even 10% of the money that First Baptist has and is spending on creating, renovating and maintaining their facilities.
Jeremy Myers says
If only I we had known each other when I lived in Dallas!
I don’t think I remember hearing about Cornerstone, but there are SO many churches there. We attended Mosiac Arlington for the last year we were there, and really liked their mission focus.
Leah Sophia says
maybe they want to attract folks accustomed to rich, opulent surroundings? I’ll go read your blog now.
Leah Sophia says
Remembering the object lesson of the now former Crystal Cathedral 🙁
Redeeming God says
Yes, the Crystal Cathedral is another one of these opulent church buildings that we construct for Jesus…. or for somebody.
Leah Sophia says
“the poor you’ll always have with you,” but really, “what would Jesus think?”
Grace Haggart says
we are trying to raise money for Coats for the Cold. Last year out little church “By HIS Grace” Community Church in Lakeview AR, gave away allmost 400 coats. We do not spend money on a big building or fancy stuff, we support the community and ALL of God’s children. (Even those who have run away from HIS home)
Scott Kyles says
Jon Davis says
I don’t call them “churches” anymore, or at least I don’t align them semantically with Jesus speaking to Peter or anything that happened in the book of Acts. They’re day clubs for adults. These aren’t churches any more than lusting is loving. Same with the music; a concert is not “worship”, biblically in the New Testament the only definition of “worship” is self-sacrifice.
Daniel Yailus says
The building costing million of dollars I personally think not helping the people’s life. Cause Act17:24 says GOD is not in the building made by human hands.
Spreading of GOD’s word thru crusades and physically preaching gives direct chances of people giving their lives to GOD.
David Backus says
I once asked a decent sized church for help in raising money so my wife and I could go on a missions trip to Africa. We got our asses handed to us for even mentioning it. It involved letters designed to raise support to the surrounding churches. They looked at us like we committed some kind of sin! They told us that we had to raise our own funds all by ourselves. I suppose they need that big building and coffee bar…..
Catherine Seebald says
I’m absolutely positive that that building bigger and nicer buildings are NOT what Jesus meant.
Ed Underwood says
Matthew Richardson says
Having a meeting plac is essential if no one in your group has a large enough home to meet in. But big, fancy, grandios buildings is a waste of money better spent on other things. Also, I’ve never felt right in any giant auditorium-like church. They always seem very impersonal to me (if not actually evil).
David Backus says
When you run out of house, you have more houses. And if you all want to talk to the same people or be together, we have Skype.
David Bartholomew says
Sadly some large churches in Asia and South America are following our lead.
Robert Longman says
This is too familiar, yet strange to me. Strange, because so many congregations I know are *selling off* property assets (such as education centers and parsonages). Or renting commercial space to reduce permanent overhead. Or buying/renting previously-closed church buildings, or those of lodges and others who are also closing up. Or merging with other congregations to get critical mass and reduce expense. All in order to continue vital ministries. This, I would argue, is every bit as much a part of the US church story as the big palaces of the rich churches.
Ben Davies says
Thanks for your inputs on Jeremy’s inspiring article. I feel so glad that people would loved to build a Church of God. But when God builds a Church, it looks for a way for God to use the very Church to reach out to some people out there, who are desperately looking for the blessings to get one inexpensive place of worship.
People worship in dilapidated places around the world, where the Lord Jesus commanded that the gospel should reach; yet others put incredible money in one edifice. Why are they not thinking about how Jesus did his ministry: Preaching, healing and reaching out! Our ministry, established 2 years ago, has been looking for funding to buy a parcel of land to build a church. We have home services that are growing by the increase of the Lord. The need to build a Church in order to bring all the home services together is a pressing: We do not have the money to do so, yet the people are praying each day for a divine connection in that direction.
We have been reaching out for a year now for help. Guess what we heard from people who are believers, people who see the reality of our testimonies: “We are not sure that we want to invest in other Churches. We are enlarging our Church building, the funds are not intended to help Churches outside USA, etc.”
It makes me feel as if the believers who God has blessed with the ideas, connections and resources are not thinking that God has blessed them to reach out and bless those who are in extreme need to bring salvation to places they can’t reach. Well, again, this is where we are, a global Church with different ways of doing God’s work.
Thanks, again, Jeremy.