“Then He said to them, ‘Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions'” (Luke 12:15)
There was a wealthy church located in the middle of a thriving urban center. The ministry field around the church was fertile and very productive. Through the faithful sowing of the seed of the gospel, the field yielded a bountiful harvest of souls. Grace was abundant; many were baptized; lives were transformed.
The plentiful harvest created problems – good problems, but problems nonetheless. Where would all the people park? What about Sunday School space? The once roomy sanctuary now seemed crowded. The church moved to multiple worship services and multiple Sunday school hours. Some were concerned that the flock of God was being divided into sub-flocks, functionally segregated according to market demographics like musical preferences and age groups. But these concerns seemed trivial in light of the obvious success which the church was experiencing.
Soon, even the multiple service solution was insufficient for the growing congregation. The pastors and deacons met to discuss the dilemma. “What shall we do, since we have no space to accommodate all these people?”
One particular man, quiet and unassuming, yet very mission-minded and who never seemed to fit in with the other, very outspoken, very business-minded leaders, made a suggestion. “What if we divided our congregation into 300 member segments and planted churches all over the city? And each time one of these new congregations outgrows its facilities, it would likewise plant a new church until the light of the gospel shines in every corner of this metropolis!”
The suggestion was met with a deafening silence. No one, it seemed, liked the idea. Some did not like the thought of dividing the church’s financial resources. Others did not think people would want to drive across town to attend church. Still others shuddered to think of the kind of people who lived in other parts of town.
Even the pastor was silent. He had grown quite accustomed to the healthy annual raise he received as a result of the previous year’s growth. He quite enjoyed seeing himself on television, when the church’s service was broadcast all over the region. He liked to open up his denomination’s annual report to see his church at the top of the list of baptisms and attendance.
Of course, none of these concerns could be voiced aloud because they all seemed so unspiritual next to the proffered suggestion. So they came up with a spiritual-sounding counter-suggestion. No, what we should do is tear down our church and build a bigger church where we can accommodate all our members. Think of the people we could reach with state-of-the art facilities, glistening fountains, and a new and improved worship center!
This suggestion pleased the group very much. Some thought of the increased revenue which would be brought into the church. Others thought of the prestige of attending the largest church in the state. The pastor liked the thought of preaching against the backdrop of himself on giant screens so that everyone in the church whom he did not know personally could still see him up close and personal, if only the digital version.
And so the new facility was constructed… all $130 million of it. The dedication of the church was something to behold – a testimony to the church’s greatness and glory. City councilmen, state representatives, the mayor, and even the governor were in attendance, as were all manner of “Christian celebrities,” proving to everyone that the blessing of the Lord was certainly upon this church. The golden age of the church’s ministry had dawned.
Sitting in the back row of the balcony, overlooking the thousands of people packed into the glistening and guilded sanctuary sat one quiet, unassuming, mission-minded man. In his lap was a well-worn Bible, open to the Gospel of Luke, chapter 12.
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”