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Against the Church Culture of “Bucks, Butts, and Buildings”

Stan Moody:

The Beginning of a Long, Painful Journey:

It is Saturday, April 23, 2016. I am on a self-imposed “in-service sabbatical” of 5 weeks away from my senior pastor duties at Columbia Street Baptist Church in Bangor, ME. The purpose: To reflect on where we are, where we are going and the path to getting there by the grace of God alone. It caps a 3-year journey out of which has emerged faint hope against declining relevancy of church culture to the outside world, attrition of the aging faithful, and the encroaching demise of the homogenous church-growth movement of seeker religion in the least-churched State in the Union – Maine.

Out of our struggles has emerged an urgency to become Christ in the neighborhood into which we have been planted, a neighborhood fraught with social upheaval. The difficulties are legion, not the least of which is a clash of cultures –middle class against the so-called poverty class, never before in such need of each other.

The future of the Church of Jesus Christ is in calling the “saints” to follow Jesus outside the city gate, becoming His presence in the community through lives lived in the shadow of the Good News.

The Good News is this: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches (Rev. 3:22). …if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and dine with him and he with Me” (v. 20).

Pride vs. Submission:

“Pride of ownership becomes the obstacle to submitting to the

call of our Lord ‘go and tell’ where we live, work, and play…

The expression, “bucks, butts, and buildings”, is not original with me. To put it in familiar language, “We need new people (younger butts) to provide the resources (bucks) so that we can expand and support our programs (housed in our buildings)”. Pride of ownership becomes an obstacle to submitting to the call of our Lord to “go and tell” where we live, work, and play.

Mired in the Status Quo:

It is characteristic of declining churches to find purpose simply in staying the course – toughing it out. Nothing falls faster and louder, however than a successful suburban church, with its huge and accessible parking lot, spending its dwindling resources trying to recover. Middle-class congregants can’t seem to head for the exits fast enough, while the “underclass” remains condemned in the court of the prosperity gospel.

The Scriptural teaching on the equality in Christ of male and female, Faith seems to get serious at

rich and poor, slave and free, and all races and nationalities must find exactly the point

new resonance in the life of the Church. Sadly, we live in an age when at which cash flow and

the active presence of Christ in the community of worship has yielded endowments end.

to politics, power, and money in pursuit of the elusive American Dream

of prosperity and success.

The unanswered question that hangs in the air is, “Have we reckoned so long outside the grace of God that we have lost touch with His will for us?” The answer will be embedded in a future that takes us through unfamiliar territory, demanding trust of a God who, while personally present, is too often seen in the assembly as distant and detached.

Where Can We Go From Here?

The administration of justice without love for mercy is no justice at all. As well, justice and mercy cannot endure without a humble walk with God. To promote housing, mentoring, job training, and mental health and substance abuse intervention as the holistic answer to a balanced life offers only fallible, humanist tools for surviving within our capitalist system. Minus the overarching umbrella of faith, survival has as its goal the acquisition of goodness over despair, helpful in keeping order in a free society but missing the intrinsic purpose of life that the Church has failed to demonstrate as ultimate hope.

The question might readily be asked, “Can we truly sum up human goodness in public awards, newspaper articles, obituaries, epitaphs, or even in wildly successful churches?”

We invite our sister churches to hold our feet to the fire of becoming Christ to our neighborhoods through mutual accountability.

We invite our brothers and sisters in Christ to unite with us in common fellowship and purpose, depending on God alone to provide the increase and lead us together in common mission as we struggle to break free of the chains of “bucks, butts, and buildings”.

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