"...When He [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." Matt 9:36

"Do not rob the poor, because he is poor... for the Lord will take up their case and plunder those who plunder them." Proverbs 22:22-23

Saturday, October 30, 2010

No Turning Back: First Baptist Dallas to Implode Its Buildings Saturday Morning - Meanwhile the Crystal Cathedral Implodes Financially

As reported by WFAA news in Dallas/Ft. Worth, this morning First Baptist Dallas will implode 6 buildings comprising 600,000 square feet, to get ready for their $115 million construction project, to be completed by Easter 2013.

Meanwhile this week, ironically, Robert Schuller's ministry, the "Crystal Cathedral" declared bankruptcy. The Wartburg Watch has two very insightful articles on their ministry, here and here.

About the demolition, FBC Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress said:
"No longer is there going to be any debate about whether we ought to do this or not," he said to laughter. "The new question is how quickly are we going to build this thing for the glory of God."
They're building magnficent buildings "to the glory of God".

That is the question really in the Southern Baptist Convention and in evangelical Christianity in the U.S. Are we American Christians to give sacrificially to build state-of-the-art buildings and worship auditoriums and beautiful downtown campuses? Is that what will be "to the glory of God"? Is God really glorified in this, or are we building to glorify ourselves and our personal religious affiliations?

Read what Jon Zens says in his book "A Church Building Every 1/2 Mile":
"Have we ever asked ourselves if Jesus - the Head of the church - would be pleased with the off-the-chart expenditure of money and resources on church structures? Are expensive buildings in line with the Kingdom of the One who had no place to lay his head? Shouldn't our financial resources be poured into helping people in need, rather than into erecting and maintaining institutions that perpetuate our unique beliefs which separate us from other believers?" Jon Zens

Don't like what Jon Zens says? Then definitely do not read Chapter 2 of Frank Viola's book "Pagan Christianity", and what he has to say about our devotion to church buildings in modern Christianity. It will disturb you, but it is something I urge my readers all to read. It is a book that your mega church pastor most certainly does NOT want you to read.

It seems that the Southern Baptists have an identity crisis. On one hand convention leaders are telling us there is nothing more important than raising money for missions through NAMB and IMB to send missionaries around the world to save souls before Jesus comes, and we need to start churches in parts of our country with little evangelical influence. Yet our flagship churches like FBC Jacksonville and FBC Dallas are asking people to dig deep to finance renovations of their campuses. New buildings, new pews, new carpet - for the "glory of God", of course.

Now, what does the implosion of the FBC Dallas buildings have to do with the Crystal Cathedral financial implosion? Plenty.

To understand, you need to read this New York Times article by Laurie Goodstein in which she writes about what led to this financial disaster at the Crystal Cathedral:

"Mr. Schuller [the younger Schuler who was ousted out of leadership in 2008] said he also inherited a sizable debt. His father, he said, had believed that striking new buildings attracted donors who would continue giving. It worked with the church’s original building, designed by the midcentury modern architect Richard Neutra, which enabled Mr. Schuller to preach from a balcony to people sitting in their cars in the parking lot below. It worked with the Crystal Cathedral sanctuary dedicated in 1980, designed by the famed architect
Philip Johnson and quickly paid off by thousands of donors who had their names
inscribed on windows, seats and even the struts that support the glass.

But the strategy failed with the church’s “welcoming center,” designed
by Richard Meier. It was finished in 2003, and when some major donations fell through, the church still owed $40 million for it, according to the younger Mr. Schuller."
There you have it. The elder Schuler believed that if it worked in the past, that magnificent buildings will attract worshippers, that it would work in the future. Apparently their "Welcoming Center" costing millions put them in financial straits. Notice it was "major donations" that fell through that contributed to the problem. One of the things I was critical of in FBC Dallas project was the reliance on several major donors who committed large sums of money to the $115 million project.

Whether Jeffress is successful in their $115 million building program or not, I think the great disservice that preachers like Mac Brunson and Robert Jeffress do to Christianity is they actually try to connect Christians' spiritual condition and growth to their willingness to give money to a building project. Robert Jeffress did it during the capital fund raising campaign as I blogged here, and Mac Brunson did it last month when preaching out of Hagai connecting the unwillingness of the Jews to rebuilding of the temple to Christians not wanting to help renovate the auditorium of FBC Jax.

That is dangerous ground, and is just a modern day form of indulgences that were marketed and sold by the Roman Catholic Church in exchange for alms given to help rebuild St. Peter's Basilica in the early 1500s. And we know how that turned out, a little thing called the "Reformation".

Perhaps another "reformation" in evangelical Christianity is just around the corner. And maybe the Crystal Cathedral financial implosion is a sign of things to come.

28 comments:

Lynn said...

This is hilarious. What scripture verses do they use to back up all this building?

Plenty of businesses build nice buildings. What makes it hilarious is when the builders claim to be the salt and light of the world, claim they are so worried about people burning in hell, claim they care so very much about the poor.

Oh well. I guess they are stimulating the economy. If this stuff is what people want to spend their money on-more power to them. And it is entertaining for the rest of us.

stt said...

Churches should not have long-term debt. The construction should be paid off at the time building projects are completed. I would not have membership with any church who thought otherwise no matter how many massage tables they have in their locker rooms.

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of Europe centuries ago...the people were dirt poor but there were beautiful cathedrals "For the Glory of God".

I confess to loving old cathedrals in Europe and early American churches and their beautiful simplicity.

There's a church in my area that I have visited. SBC. They have been crowded each time I went, almost to the point of being uncomfortable. They finally added on...and instead of the big beautiful brick structures you see going up all over, they chose a very simple metal building. I say good for them!

Richard Jones said...

Europe is full of beautiful large cathedrals that are truly architectural wonders. However they serve as little more than tourist attractions as the church is pretty much dead. Where you do find vibrant congregations they meet in relatively modest buildings and struggle against the tide in the secular cultures that surround them. Is this the future of the church in the USA? May God send us true revival before it is too late.

Ben said...

How many people who post here could live in a cheaper house? Drive a less expensive car? Let their children go to a private school? Eat out less? Curb their spending so that, as the dog suggests as he quotes Zens:

"Shouldn't our financial resources be poured into helping people in need, rather than into erecting and maintaining institutions that perpetuate our unique beliefs which separate us from other believers?"

making this statement personal:

Shouldn't our financial resources be poured into helping people in need, rather than into bigger houses, nicer cars, private schools,dining out more than we ought and maintaining our personal empires that perpetuate our unique beliefs which separate us from the lost people we need to reach?

Is it a matter of cost or of principal? if it is principal, I hope all who say big churches are wrong, then living beyond what we need to is also wrong.

I really do not expect many on here to get this fair and balanced principal, the thought is on the enemy not our personal lifestyle. Right?

Anonymous said...

Men, such as this pastor, live in a bubble. They have been in "church" their entire lives, and are in reality, clueless to the true suffering and lost estate of much of the world. What a waste of GOD's provisions. Very disouraging.

Jonathan

Anonymous said...

I am wondering how much $$$$ FBC Dallas spent on advertising for this implosion. There have been CONSTANT commercials about it all week long. At 9:00 a.m., there is a 30 minutes program on FBC Dallas past, present and future. Can't imagine how much that cost. How many people could be helped with this money?

FBC Jax Watchdog said...

Ben - I agree with you.

We all should make it personal.

But if we all DID get smaller homes, pull our kids out of private school, bought cheaper cars, stopped eating out so much...if we did that so we could free up more resources...HOW SHOULD WE USE THAT EXTRA MONEY IN MINISTRY?

Should we do as Robert Jeffress says and give it to the $115 million building program? Or should we help FBC Jax renovate? Or should we go on a Danube cruise to enhance our spiritual lives? Or should we buy more Christian books?

So it just rings hollow when a typical mega church preacher calls for financial sacrifice, tells people NOT to be so connected to their money, that they should be living more modestly....when they themselves live a rather high lifestyle, and they are building grand and glorious buildings.

Anonymous said...

Like a Good Neighbor....

News

Mayor of Dallas happy and excited for expected growth $$$

Fox News


Dallas Morning News

comments

buckeyes57

9:28 AM on October 30, 2010

How long before this mega-church goes the same way as Crystal Cathedral? Seems to be Jeffress is more concerned with the building than the real message. Jesus didn't need a million square foot church to preach in.
1 replies1 reply 1 replies1 reply Please wait while we perform your request.


supertr

10:07 AM on October 30, 2010

You have no idea what Jesus' needs were. This is a decision the church members, themselves made. I'm certain they prayed about the need to renovate, to assist with spreading Jesus' message, before making this decision. The fact is its their money and it creates construction jobs so desperately needed right now.

Anonymous said...

Great post! I must give full disclosure here, I am a pastor and our church is in a building campaign. We are a very small church that is building it's first building, we have been renting. Yet, we are not pushing and driving our people to make such irrational moves, we are going to pay CASH for the building and we will build it when the money comes in. I have only asked that our people consider making sacrifices such as drinking Folgers rather than Starbucks's and use that money to give to our building program. I have not asked let alone demand that they chop off a chunk of their retirement. If they do, they will do so on their own, and not out of guilt!

We are in no hurry, when God allows us to raise the funds then we will build. And it is exciting to see what he is doing!

Kyle

Anonymous said...

I am reminded of a missionary who lives on meager funds who said to me that she does not understand those who are well off and live in beautiful homes yet express their desire to have more and build bigger homes.

God expects us to be content with what he has provided. I guess it is just human nature to want more and have more.

It was sad to watch on TV this morning a church building that was destroyed just to have a bigger and better facility. Was it a Need or a Desire?

Anonymous said...

Is it a matter of cost or of principal? if it is principal, I hope all who say big churches are wrong, then living beyond what we need to is also wrong.

I really do not expect many on here to get this fair and balanced principal, the thought is on the enemy not our personal lifestyle. Right?

October 30, 2010 8:48 AM

You might think it is fair and balanced but it is a moot point. No where do we see building programs or designated buildings for worship in the NT. It was unheard of until about the 3rd Century when Constantine appropriated the pagan temples as churches. Then it became my building is better than your building.

Another reason your point is moot is because the PASTORS of these monstrosities are living WAY beyond their needs.I seem to remember you defending their lifestyles on another thread implying it was none of our business. But then, I guess, that is only for pastors. you have no problem preaching to the non preachers. Follow Christ not man

Lynn said...

Ben,
I like what you said. People who have been frugal all their lives (not me) have money that they can help people with-their relatives or friends or strangers or charities. I can't understand why anyone would want to put it into buildings.

I had a chance recently to help a relative in a small way. It felt so good to do that. Made me feel useful and happy. The ability to help others is more fulfilling than getting something for ourselves.

Anonymous said...

Jesus the savior will be proud of this great building of god. many will be saved and pockets loaded. The economy is saved! All is saved! The world must not be in the last days. All repent for the glory of god is reaching the heavens.

Ben said...

"But if we all DID get smaller homes, pull our kids out of private school, bought cheaper cars, stopped eating out so much...if we did that so we could free up more resources...HOW SHOULD WE USE THAT EXTRA MONEY IN MINISTRY?"

Using your own post as the example:

"Shouldn't our financial resources be poured into helping people in need"

If we provide information about other people and how they use and should use their resources, shouldn't we first make sure we are using our own resources in the manner we expect of others?

"So it just rings hollow when a typical mega church preacher calls for financial sacrifice, tells people NOT to be so connected to their money, that they should be living more modestly....when they themselves live a rather high lifestyle, and they are building grand and glorious buildings."

Is it about the amount of money being made and spent or the principal of spending all our money in a manner which best befits the kingdom?

So it just rings hollow when a blogger calls for a mega church to sacrifice and live without the new buildings, tells the maga church NOT to be so connected to their money, that they should be living more modestly....when they themselves live a lifestyle which is above necessity (private schools for the kids, nicer houses than needed, newer cars...)

If it's about principal then all those who speak against the churches like FBC Dallas and their new building ought to be ready to cut back on the wanted things and live by just the needed things. If it's about the amount of money being spent, then your blog is ill focused.

Ben said...

"We are in no hurry, when God allows us to raise the funds then we will build. And it is exciting to see what he is doing! "

If God has told you to raise the funds first, then do that. If God said build and I will provide, then build.

I am sure glad Noah didn't wait for it to rain before he started to build the arc.

Ben said...

"Another reason your point is moot is because the PASTORS of these monstrosities are living WAY beyond their needs.I seem to remember you defending their lifestyles on another thread implying it was none of our business. But then, I guess, that is only for pastors. you have no problem preaching to the non preachers. Follow Christ not man."

First: Me a preacher? LOL

Second: I guess it is about money (cost), unless you are living without any of cultures perks like a nicer house than you need, or new car that needed. Gotta keep our kids out of the bad neighborhood.

Living above our needs is not in scripture either but I must ask... Do you live above your needs?

Who is following man? Bot no, its the American dream. You can't mean I have to give less to my kids and wife. We have earned it, my degrees and years of experience...

ughhh

Ben said...

"I had a chance recently to help a relative in a small way. It felt so good to do that. Made me feel useful and happy. The ability to help others is more fulfilling than getting something for ourselves.

October 30, 2010 12:29 PM"

Lynn - You are a rare one... Good for you.

Of course I would think many on this blog exchange would rather point out what FBC is doing than reveal they are doing the same thing, only with lesser funds.

Anonymous said...

If the Rapture occured now, we would know for sure if all of this ostentatious show in churches was really for the "glory of God. "Even so come quickly Lord Jesus". It's absolutely amazing that anyone ever got SAVED in small country churches. You know the wooden ones with only one front door. Isn't it supposed to be about getting people SAVED. I hear very little emphasis on SALVATION anymore, it's all about who can spend the most, live the millionaire lifestyle, and build the biggest "BARNS".

Anonymous said...

Ben-

We are not talking about building a building for the salvation of God's creation before judgement, hence your ark comment is moot. We are called to minister to our community and are doing that in our current location, however, we are running out of space and doubling up on the use of our rented facilities.

We do believe that God is moving us to build and we have already paid cash for the land! And we also beliseve strongly that it is good stewardship to pay cash. The delay in building our building is not keeping us from ministering to our community.

Kyle

Dee said...

I attend a church which bought some land about 20 years ago. The pastors made one pitch about money to build a church on it. The church was overcrowded and each week there was standing room only. However, the pastors never said another word. The new, modest building was finally built about 10 years after the initial plea. No coercion, no debt.

Trusting God means not trusting in coercive tactics, public relations tactics, etc.

Here's a guess. More people will not be saved because of the FBC Dallas building. The folks of Dallas will just have a nice place to park their cars listen to a nice sermon and will make relatively little difference in this world.This is about them and not about God, despite protestations to the contrary.

Anonymous said...

Are you really running out of space or is that an illusion. Or do you what better things in your buildings. A modern space to gather. jesus dose not need buildings space but saved beings.
Are you saved or is that an illusion

Anonymous said...

Ben said...

"I am sure glad Noah didn't wait for it to rain before he started to build the arc."

Oh that's a great thought, a sovereign god not being able to find someone to build his arc before destroying everything. Then he'd have to start over from scratch. LOL

Anonymous said...

WD: Some of these comments border on blaspheme. They certainly offer nothing to the blog.!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

"Some of these comments border on blaspheme."

Guess we should have to have an old fashion OT stoning..... but could we check it out with Jesus first?

Ben said...

Kyle - "We are not talking about building a building for the salvation of God's creation before judgement, hence your ark comment is moot. We are called to minister to our community and are doing that in our current location, however, we are running out of space and doubling up on the use of our rented facilities.

We do believe that God is moving us to build and we have already paid cash for the land! And we also beliseve strongly that it is good stewardship to pay cash. The delay in building our building is not keeping us from ministering to our community."

Ben - I am not against you waiting to have the money on hand to build. My point, which probably could have been clearer, was that God may call some people to wait on Him to provide before they break any ground but He may ask others to break ground and build before they have one dime in the bank.

Both take a level of trust but whichever the church chooses it ought to be what God told them to do.

My point with Noah was: God told him to build and that is what He did.

Anonymous said...

The problem with buildings is this:

We build the building, then we have to decorate it.

There's a significant price different from some desks at OfficeMax and desks handcrafted out of imported mahogany. We're talking add a zero to the cost difference per desk. We talking having granite in the bathrooms rather than a laminate. We're talking Pews with cherry hardwood rather than a cherry veneer. Marble flooring instead of stone tiling or even stone laminate flooring. Bamboo hardwood flooring instead of a hardwood laminate flooring. A full-fledged pipe organ instead of a high end keyboard. Hand crafted pulpit instead of a lecturn.

I could keep going on and on and on.

A building is cheap, taste isn't...

Anonymous said...

What is disheartening about this blog and the several comments that have been made here is that there is no distinction between a legitimate desire for the church to purchase, build, or renovate their property - having the means and freedom to do so, and an illegitimate desire for a religious establishment to make a name for themselves, extort the poor, and wastefully spend on opulence.

Now while I believe there are certainly some who waive the banner "to Glory of God" in order to legitimize or win tacit approval for any social endeavor or enterprise under the auspice of "Christianity," I do not think that is the motivation or intention of this church in building new facilities (I live 1,000 miles from Dallas).

The church will have to evaluate their own stewardship of giving, missions, evangelism and capitol campaigns. I've read some of the most outlandish comparisons - everything from Crystal Cathedral to the Catholic Church's selling of Plenary indulgences in the 1500's - to what the church at FB Dallas is doing in building new facilities. These kind of equivocations are neither fair nor accurate. Schuller's message hardly represents the kind of message coming from FB Dallas. Schuller is a product of Dale Carnegie and positive thinking, not Christ-centered preaching. In addition, the Catholic church was renovating St. Peter's Basilica - alone, that is no crime, but the problem was the buying and selling of "grace" and absolution of sin.

Readers of this blog: be careful that your frustration and dissatisfaction not turn toward an inward root of bitterness that shies away from the Gospel. Churches can/should/must build buildings and are free to do so, and for God's pleasure. Do we not work to the glory of God? Do we not live to the glory of God? Churches can legitimately build to the glory of God?

Be careful that your outlook is not always negative and negating what God could intend to be good. Be careful that the real perversion is not your own or the writer of this blog who might be turning you away from the church and Christ himself - disguised as a discontent with certain church leaders. I am no judge here, but I certainly am concerned.