“Given our culture’s growing sensitivity to economic injustice, including among younger evangelicals, how would you respond to accusations of hypocrisy against megachurches with costly facilities?” That was the question Skye Jethani posed in his recent post, “Do Megachurches Hurt the Poor?” I started to write a reply which quickly grew into this response. If you haven’t already read his article, I strongly encourage you to do so now. As usual, he makes some very thought-provoking points.
As I’ve mentioned in the past, Pete and I go to a megachurch. Last I heard, our regular attendees number in the 10,000 range. Our “living room” (as our auditorium is affectionately called) is one of the largest venues in Colorado Springs, with full stage lighting, huge screens, and an elaborate sound system. While the basic building design was an economic one, it cost millions of dollars to build, and we’re still paying off a mountain of debt on it (incurred by our previous pastor).
When our daughter was in the eighth grade, she joined a short-term mission team from her youth group. Working with a ministry dedicated to this type of ministry, the teens built a house for a Mexican family who until then had been living in a cardboard hut.
It was a great experience for her, and a great blessing for the newly-housed family.
Construction projects are very popular among short-term mission teams. You don’t need to learn another language, you can use skills you already have, the project can fit into a short time frame, and you are providing tangible results for appreciative locals. With all the hugs and smiles, you certainly return home feeling as if you have accomplished something worthwhile. Our friends and family have roofed churches, built medical dispensaries, constructed playgrounds, and painted sanctuaries.
But is it always appropriate to travel to another country to build something? Is that the best way to bless the people and encourage the church there? Or is it sometimes just a way to check off “good deed” on our spiritual to-do lists?