Francis’ Crazy Building Project

23Jun08

I AM INSANELY CRAZY ABOUT THIS POST.

I LOVE WHAT Cornerstone Simi is doing, and I think their project REEKS! of biblicalness and good stewardship.

Instead of building a $50 Million building, they’re saving money, building a park and amphitheatre, interacting with their community, giving away a lot of their money to help people. And they’re influencing a lot of other churches, too. I think this is very, VERY, VERY biblical and wonderful (as you know, if you’ve read my other posts!) and I am beyond fired up about it!

Here’s what they said on their website:

“On a practical level, Cornerstone has been unable to grow numerically for the past seven 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 sanctuary 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 church and community throughout the week. In this way, we would be giving to our community as well as to the needy around the world. ”

Here’s the video explaining more:

thnku Church Relevance for reminding me.

What do you think? What do you agree with? What do you disagree with? No doubt many will disagree, I’d love to hear opposing view points =D !

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27 Responses to “Francis’ Crazy Building Project”

  1. 1 Jessica

    I’m all for churches investing their money in ways that benefit the community rather than in expensive buildings. That project sounds like a thumbs up. Of course we can see microcosms of that kind of mindset (though maybe not as much as we’d like) even locally in San Diego, I see Flood investing money to improve Kearny High’s Gym and to give backpacks full of supplies to the poor and such rather than a multi-million dollar building project.

  2. 2 Paulg

    This is genius! … it fills me with so much hope

  3. 3 Asher

    To ask the following question I’m about to ask is going to make me more of the odd ball and make me “that guy”. “That guy” who asks the annoying questions that no one seems to pose and “the guy” who’s questions seems to hinder the groups progress of discussion. At the expensive of being popular I rather proceed with caution and get things right. I assume in this forum is also striving to seek truth and righteous. So with that assumption I will proceed with my question.

    How is Cornerstone’s new building project anymore Biblical then building a mega-church? In fact, is there even a Biblical model for how a church would be built? Sure, ACTS records what the first churches were like, but I do not read Paul or anyone arguing that all churches should follow this model. Nor do I hear Jesus commanding it. God told Noah to build a ark (a ship) with specific dimensions. Does this mean ships/boats not built with the ark’s dimensions are not Biblical and therefore wrong? Surely not.

    If being Biblical means that we intimate exactly 1st century Palestine then alright. We need to also learn how to speak Greek and Hebrew, we need to stop driving cars (in favor of donkeys), and we need to all move to Israel. If being Biblical means apportioning the teachings of Jesus/Paul for our day and age then that is another thing. Being wholehearted followers of Christ who just happen to live in the 21st century. Being sensitive to the fact that we live in a specific historical context and social climate, yet loving God and people in this context. Not hoping to fit 1st century Palestine in America nor condemning Christianity because it is not like 1st Palestine. Christianity of the 1st century Palestine, the High Middle Ages, Europe in the 1500s, and Christianity in North America are all very distinctive of one another. Does this mean that every time period after 1st century Palestine is wrong or not as correct because it occurs at a different time period. Surely not. Rather we do not judge Christianity not be its time period in relations to the first century but rather at how Christian it is. How much love do Christians share with the world.

    So what do we mean when we say a church is more Biblical then another church building? For when we say Biblical we are really saying that one is more correct or better than another. So….Is it?
    1) Biblical means= copying exactly 1st century (or any time period) Palestine?
    2) Biblical means= apportioning, interpreting (the job of theology), applying Jesus teachings in whatever time period we find ourselves. Loving people as the first Christians did, not comparing buildings to buildings but hearts to hearts.

  4. 4 jessephillips

    Hey Asher, thank you so much for your comment!!! Please, please, please don’t think that dissenting opinions are bad!!! Please! My desire is for reasoned discussion on these topics! Thank you for your push back. Allow me to try to answer:

    I do think what they’re doing is “more biblical” than building a mega church. Biblical, not because it’s like Palestine (as you mentioned in 1.), but biblical as in 2) applying Jesus’ teachings to our time period. (I realize “more biblical” is loaded and perhaps harsh, sorry for this, perhaps I should use a different phrase).

    It seems to me that Jesus wants us to (among other things) a) be good stewards of our resources (thank you, Crown Financial), b) to help those in need, c) and engage outsiders with love and the gospel.

    I believe that what Cornerstone is doing will complete a, b & c better than they would have if they had bought a big ole building. Therefore, what they are doing is “more biblical” – in my opinion, based on my stated criteria.

    well, at least that’s my reasoning, but I’m open to differences of opinion and correction.

    What faults/disagreements do you find with my reasoning, I would love your pushback!

  5. 5 Asher

    Hey Jessie. Thanks for your quick response. I appreciate that. I’m glad I have found a place that seeks to employ reason in discussions. You don’t know how refreshing that is, especially in Christian circles.

    Let me see if I have you correct. You don’t believe Cornerstone is more biblically (I think this is another way of saying better) than building a mega-church. You believe Cornerstone is managing their resources better than if they were to build a large building. If this is correct can we use a different word that “biblical”. This way I think I can get a better grasp what we are talking about, and we can use one word that refers to one thing. Also we won’t be tempted to think that Cornerstone building is what all churches should strive to be, and that Cornerstone’s building is what Jesus would want. Can we use the word “stewardship” or “financial accountability”?

    The reason why I brought up the definition of biblical is because the beginning of your post you wholehearted embraced Cornerstone’s building. Not just because you thought they were using their money wisely, but also because their church building was more in lined in what the early Christians had/used. Its no secret that you have been advocating home churches and more community orientated service. Based on what the other people’s commented I got the sense that you (and others) felt that Cornerstone’s building is the way all churches should be because it is more biblical (correct).

    According to your last post it seems that you do not think Cornerstone is more correct than a mega church, but instead they are financially accountable with their resources.

    If I have your views correct then I would like to proceed with the next question. If a church wanted to spend 50 million dollars on a building, but argued that what they were building would help the surrounding community and beyond just as effectively (if not more) than building a cheaper building (like Cornerstone) would you object to it?

    It seems that Christians we more receptive of churches that are smaller and suspicious of large churches from the get go. Sure large churches have their problems, as do smaller churches, but I wonder if we have an ingrained notion that we unconsciously (or consciously) believe the smaller a church is the more Jesus like it is….

  6. 6 jessephillips

    Wow, Great Question Asher.

    Yes, YES! If their $50 Mill building will help the same, then sure. I, however, I’ve been on the inside of such an operation and I feel that it doesn’t work.

    Why? Because you end-up spending lots of money on design and parking and lights and etc, but it’s only fully used once a week. Dude, I was part of a church that used it’s buildings more in the evenings than 12Stone does, every room was full almost every night of the week (that is not at all the case with 12Stone), it was still a waste of money.

    Waste of money? Why? This is a matter of opinion right. I’m speaking in terms of ROI – return on investment. I feel that we would get a better ROI by investing our money in helping others – incidentally, that’s what the bible calls us to do, help the poor, the fatherless, the widow.

    IF we’re not really helping the fatherless and the widow very much (we’re not known for this for sure, although we should be), and were told to do this, but we’re investing in a big building to get more people in, but it’s not actually turning them into disciples who are helping the fatherless and the widow, I think we’d be better off helping the fatherless and the widow, and coming-up with other creative solutions for our meeting space (homes).

  7. 7 Asher

    Great response. Though this is precisely where I think we have a natural basis against mega-churches. We tend to think/assume that mega-churches do not actually deliver on their promise of being a church. Mega-churches spend lots of money on parking, lights, etc and they are not directly giving their money to the fatherless/needy.

    Just because every room in a church is not used 24 hours a day and just because a church is not building parks does not imply that a mega-church’s ROL is not high. In fact, mega-churches have a greater ability to reach out and invest more in the community. Mega-churches have the ability to create support groups for the widows and fatherless, and they have the ability to fund overseas mission trips. Mega-churches also have the facilities (which we think is not biblical) to accommodate a lot of different environments/events and to do it well. In a culture where the visuals and customer service matter deeply to people, a mega-church is able to perform just as well (if not better) than a non-mega church.

    It may be true that in your experiences you did not feel the ROI of a mega-church is low. But this assumes that assessing an ROI of a church is easy to define. How do you know that someone has actually accepted Jesus and how do you assess if people are actually loving other people? Can you honesty say that because you did not witness any conversions that it did not happen. Think about the thousands of other people attending the church and the millions of conversations and situations that happen in these people’s lives that you did not hear about or experience. Assessing ROI is harder when we actually gave it a critical eye.

    If you respond by baptisms and people personal testimonies (of the various support ministries) helps us to determine ROI then doesn’t the mega-churches have a large rate of ROI. After all they are “mega” for a reason and it is because many people have found the church helpful or attend it for another reason.

    Now I’m not naive in assuming that mega-churches are perfect nor do their ROI always outperform a non-mega church. But Jessie, mega-churches are mega for a reason. More people implies more conversions/ROI. Greater resources does mean a greater reach. Cornerstone might decide to build parks and other things, but what happens in 5 years when even more people join the church? Build more parks? Maybe. They will either build another big building or build satellite churches. Either way building bigger building or more buildings is a natural consequence of having a high ROI. It is a natural consequence. This applies to colleges, families, and business.

    For a personal example lets take 12Stone. For our purposes lets assume that 12Stone is a mega-church. Are you not astounded by the number of people who have accepted Christ. Since the new building has been open over 500 people have accepted Christ. 500 people! 12Stone has been around for 20 years and in 5 month period (with the construction of the new building) 12Stone has been able in impact more people than all of its combined 20 years!!!!

    Is every resource of a mega-church efficiently used. Probably not. Is all of a non-mega church (Cornerstone) efficiently used? Probably not. Do both churches (assume they are good churches) use their resources to help people (Christian and non) towards reaching Christ? Yes they do. For a park requires parking, lights, and other things just as building a large building does. Both these things cost lots of money so why do we privilege one form of construction over the other? Especially when Jesus is at the heart of what these churches do, and both churches are doing what is the best for them/community at their specific post on the globe?

  8. 8 Asher

    Also there are creative solutions for meeting in the homes. Small groups and bible studies are designed with this very thing in mind. Turning a mega-church experience into a personal/communal life walk. Meeting in people’s homes to minister to one another and use the gifts of the Holy Spirit. This is exactly what you wanted!!

    You will counter with your personal experiences and say that what your experience shows that small groups are not working. You won’t just say the small groups you have been a part of are not working, but that small groups globally are not working. This is not only a logical fallacy (apply a specific example and applying it globally), but I think it shows that perhaps you are not applying yourself fully. You have cited several ideas and suggestions for reaching further and digging deeper in the lives of Christian and Non-Christians. Have you actually implemented these things in your life? Do you share your thoughts with the small group you are currently in and begin to practice the gifts of the Holy Spirit? Do you try to build a sense of community that is life impacting and changing in your small group (or friends)?

    If all the churches you attend are not working or the small groups are not working then perhaps it is the small groups or the churches that are the problem. But I ask you.. how much have you done to actually improve the situation? Have your friends and relationship actually deepen and grown since you moved from California to Georgia or do you find yourself wrestling in the same issues?

    I’m pushing back a lot in this post because I want to see you actually push back against the church and the small groups you are a part of and say enough is enough! That your tired of small minded thoughts and your tired of Christians not becoming like Jesus. I would love to see you take a stand for what you believe in, and to declare that you will no settle for wasteful spending and for in-authentic community!

    You will offended people. You will make enemies. Some people will hate you. The same thing happen to Jesus. He told people that the God they thought they knew they did not know Him at all and Jesus was here to tell them. Yet, he changed a nation and consequently the world has never quite been the same. I urge you to follow your rabbi and do the same!

  9. 9 Aaron

    Wow, definitely some good discussion happening here. I think I must side with Asher on this one. I agree with both sides, actually. I love what Cornerstone is doing. I love that thier elders felt uneasy about the big building and such. That says to me that they are listening to what God says; that should be the main objective. Asher made a great point as well; we can’t dis the ‘mega-church’ just because it’s “mega”. Let’s stop judging each other and realize that God didn’t call everyone to reach the lost in the same way. God didn’t call me to be a part of XXXchurch.com, but those guys are making an awesome impact on millions of men’s lives. God didn’t call me to start my own church just because someone told me it’s better because it’s smaller. God calls each and every church to do reach the lost, but I believe He also calls us to do it differently. Cornerstone will never be like Angelus Temple, but Angelus Temple will never be like Lakewood Church in Houston, either. Let them do church as God has called them. It’s not our place to judge.

  10. 10 jessephillips

    That’s a good point Aaron! Thanks for the comment on the blog.

    I agree that we’re not called to do everything the same. I don’t think that’s what I’m arguing. I’m talking more about right and wrong.

    Aaron, Cornerstone feels compelled – they feel like they’re doing something wrong by God, if they spend their money on a $50 or $60 million building. Of course, it’s not that simple – there’s much more to it. But it’s not a question of “this is how were called,” – for them, it’s a question of right and wrong.

    This is a very serious matter. Would they be wrong to build a big old building? What is good stewardship? This is what I’m talking about.

    Thank you for your comment! I do agree that I could be straying in this territory of preference, but I’ll need some convincing to believe that this is a question of preference rather than right and wrong (albeit gray and fuzzy) – perhaps you’ll need some convincing to believe that it’s not a question of preference.

  11. 11 jessephillips

    ASHER!
    thanks for the push back. Unfortunately, I haven’t done or experienced these things, I’m just talking about what I’ve seen and experienced. I obviously have no right to have my voice heard.

    Yes, I should try to make a difference in my life, thank you for reminding me of that, Asher! God Bless you!

    does anyone else relate to my thoughts? Am I way off base? Does this smell right to anyone?

  12. 12 Aaron

    @Jesse: I am with you on this: It would be wrong for Cornerstone to hear God’s voice and ignore it. However, for you to say it’s wrong to build a building? That seems quite judgemental. How big, then, is too big? Is it okay for a church to build an auditorium that seats 1500? Or does “good stewardship” stop at seating for 1200? Honestly, it’s ridiculous. We can’t judge megachurches, or smaller churches. My point was that God calls different churches to operate differently. I don’t judge Joel Osteen for how he leads Lakewood and neither should anyone else. I don’t feel God calling me to preach the way he does, but that’s okay. You are right, for Cornerstone it was a question of right or wrong because it’s what God called them to. Again, God doesn’t call everyone to do things the same way. We all work for the same Boss, we just don’t all have the same way of doing our work.

  13. 13 Francine Phillips

    Hi Jesse,

    I have to go with the every church has their own situation camp. For instance, at our church, we can’t have an outdoor auditorium because we are surrounded by homes and it would be rude to have our singing and sermons invading people’s back yards. If you want a park for your church, why not just go to a park? Because the church is also about child care, fellowship in small groups, kitchens for sharing meals, knitting groups for prayer shawls etc.

    I went to the original Calvary Chapel for a few years when Chuck Smith preached from a tent. Some things were OK about the tent and some were distracting. It was hard to see and hard to hear, sometimes.

    The once-a-week use thing is a compelling point, however, and the accessibility to all people in the community for all uses is pretty important.

    Bottom line: it all belongs to God – the park, the building, the parking lot, the lights, the electric bill, the microphones, hymnals, chairs. It’s all His. And all we have belongs to Him, too. So, as Aaron says, who can judge the cut-off point between righteous use and selfish use? Not me.

    So, did you get your software?

    Mom

  14. 14 Aaron

    Amen to Mom! I believe that stewardship IS the main issue here, and that good stewardship is not an objective thing. It’s subjective. What may seem to some as bad stewardship, wether it be a large building or the church providing a cell phone for the pastoral staff, is not our judgement call to make. Cornerstone believes that in order to be good stewards they have to do what they are planning. That wouldn’t work around the country, so it’s up to the Elders of the church to determine what is good stewardship for them. In Michigan, building an outdoor amphitheater would not be good stewardship, as it could only be used for outreach during the summer months. It works great in so-cal, not so much Michigan. You see what I mean? In my opnion, I have no problem whatsoever if Cornerstone had built a large building as long as it is being used to it’s maximum for God’s glory. That, in my opinion, is what stewardship is about; making sure that whatever God gives us, be it building, property or parking lots, it should be used to its maximum for His Glory.

  15. 15 Paulg

    Eww, look at all you little relativists! 🙂 Yeah, I agree with the whole point of not judging and such, but I do so on a very practical level; it doesn’t do any good. It really is of no consequence what I think of people outside of my community. Until I internalize it and use it to bring the kingdom into my surrounding, I’m just deceiving myself as James 1:22 tells us. But, if we understand Jesse’s comments to mean, “in my community, spending 60 million dollars for a building would not bring glory to God” then we can see so much value in his thoughts.

    I think it’s rather obvious that the church in America hasn’t dealt with the conflict between the immense wealth in our country and the immense suffering around the world. This plays out perfectly in my context, I grew up three miles from the border with Mexico. I was born 15 minutes north of the border and i have friends who were born 15 minutes south of the border. By global standards, Mexico isn’t doing all that bad*, but by San Diego standards, there are millions of people just south of me, who live in poverty most of us can’t imagine unless we’ve seen it, and even then it’s unbelievable! I worked in a church which spent in excess of $70,000,000 on a state of the art building. Now, the good that money could have done to help our ‘neighbors’ in the good Samaritan sense can’t be underestimated**. So, when I see Cornerstone, a few hours north of where I live, decide to spend a fraction of the cost of building so they can help the poor in the world, I’m confident God is more pleased with that decision…at least in the Southern California.

    On the small group front…I agree with Asher about the temptation to use our own experience to draw universal conclusion. This is a dangerous game. Saying that small groups ‘work’, 1st depends on your definition of ‘work’. As a small group pastor for three and a half years, our team spent lots of time trying to decide on what we meant by ‘works’. In a lot of ways, I’m still deciding. We would go to conferences, read books, talk with pastors as far away as South Korea, see the various models, and then bring it into our context. Now, this experience isn’t by any means completely exhaustive, but it is more than just the small groups I have personally been apart of, though I have been a part of many groups. ‘Works’ can mean ‘helping to close the back door’ that is, people are more likely to stay at your church if there are people they know at church, so if they meet people in small groups, they’ll stay and your church will grow numerically. ‘Works’ can mean that the leadership believes life change happens best in small groups, so getting people into small group means life change. ‘Works’ also can mean taking care of the needs of the people. That is, in times past they church met the physical, emotional, and financial needs of their members. But in the age of the mega-church, this function can only be accomplished in the small group…now, where I agree with Jesse is that small groups don’t do all that I mentioned above for most of the people. That is, usually less than 30% of your church will attend small groups*** But, where I disagree with Jesse is that you can change the system all you want, but if you don’t change the underlying values of the people in the system, it won’t matter. You can have the best system for creating community, but if I’m fiercely individualistic, consumeristic, and materialistic, it won’t work.

    *GPA is over $12,000, though there is an enormous disparity between rich and poor, so the number is deceiving
    **As an example…There is a non-profit in TJ which gives legal aid to victims of domestic abuse whose operating budget for the year is less than $20,000.
    ***Only 58% of evangelicals attend Sundays weekly, if people tell you they have 70% or 80+% participation, they usually mean % of the weekend attendance, but this would only be a % of the people who attend church there. And often their reporting devices are weak at best and fraudulent at worst. At any rate, the 30% is an industry wide number give or take 10 percent.

  16. 16 Asher

    Well I would like to remind everyone where we have been and therefore we can try to attack one question at a time. By the way Aaron welcome to the forum!

    Jessie you started this post off by celebrating Cornerstone’s new building plan and you called it biblically correct (which as you say is a way of calling something right as opposed to wrong). I wrote a post to ask you what you thought biblical meant and gave you two definitions. 1) Imitating exactly 1st century Palestine. 2) Taking the teachings of Jesus and applying them correctly to our everyday lives in the 21 century.

    You opted to go with the second definition and you said that you did not mean that mega-churches are not biblical (wrong) but that their ROI are not that great. They spend millions of dollars yet have very little life change. I then asked you what would you say if a mega-church used its resources just as effectively as a non-mega church. This is where we hover now.

    Jessie, you are now wanting to know if Cornerstone’s decision was a matter of right and wrong or preference. Why don’t we take it out of the spiritual realm for a moment in order to get some clarity.

    Cornerstone feels that for their situation, community, and vision building a park (and the things that go with it) is the best way for them to share the Gospel. Not only did they pray about it, but they looked at the practical and financial issues as well. Cornerstone did not say that every church should copy their exact model nor did they imply that Jesus especially likes their building. For THEM (individual is not a bad word) building a park was the best option. Is serves people the best way they know how. Good for them. A church in New England may decide to build a bigger church (think mega-church). They have prayed about it and looked at the practical and financial issues as well. I think Aaron made a great point. A church in New England would not build an outside sanctuary for it would not serve the people well (cold, windy). It would not work for them in their post at their location. So should they do it anyways just so they won’t have a big building?

    I actually do think this issue is subjective (and thats not a bad word also). If you look at a business or a family they look for a house (building) that best suites their need. They first look at their core values (think Jesus for a church) and then proceed by getting the best location, price, and space. For us to idealized what the church building should be or should look like or how much a church should spend or how a church should always use their money is to get away from the New Testament. Which is ironically the thing we are trying to get very close to.

    The church is not about buildings it is the PEOPLE. I do not often agree with Paulg but this time I do. If the Church if ever to reach more people or grow deeper in their pursuit of God the values and virtues of the people have to change. Whether a church builds the best park (or building) in the world yet Jesus is not there, then it WILL be for nothing. At least in the life change arena.

    To me it just seems that we out to focus our attention and energizes in different areas. How do we actually be an authenticate community? We hear this catch phase all the time but no one has ever unpacked for me what that actually means.. and more importantly is it even possible? Or how do we actually try to tell people about Jesus after 20 centuries of Christianity horrible (sometimes good) history. I mean seriously. How do we actually expect people to follow Jesus when His people over the last 20 centuries have committed some of the worst crimes and mayhem.

    These are questions I think are worth wrestling through. I’m not trying to be-little you Jessie, or anyone else. I think the question of a church structure is important. But you got to convince me that we ought to spend a lot of time discussing if a church building (in their structure) should resemble Cornerstone. Is 1200 seats too much or 2000 or 2001 seats. Is 50 million too much or 20 million or is 10,000 thousand too much (we could easily go to somewhere silly and unproductive).

    Good for Cornerstone that they are doing what they are doing. Good for the mega-church in the next state doing what they are doing. Good for both of them for managing their resources well. May God help them to manage their resources even better.

    How does one actually build an authentic community? I mean what does that actually look like and is it even possible? Saying Jesus is not enough. What does that actually mean?

  17. 17 paulg

    Asher, I’m glad you agree:)…this is a very important conversation because the church communicates so much by what it does rather than what it says. The oft quoted “the medium is the message” is apt in this discussion. What messages do our buildings send? What message is Cornerstone sending to it’s community?

  18. 18 Asher

    And what message do churches send when people are in the buildings or at the park? What is “community” and is it worth all the hype and acclaim that we attribute to it? Is it really the solution (or rather a) solution to living a redeemed life?

  19. 19 Paulg

    Let me answer your first question… The message I’m speaking of isn’t about buildings or parks it’s about money. As it’s been pointed out, if a church built a park to meet in in New England, the message they would send to their community is “we’re crazy”. So, the message Cornerstone sent to its community is what I’m in favor of, not the method. Of course there isn’t only one message, but the one which stands out to me is this: we take our doctrine seriously. There are many instance where God sides with the poor over the rich (Ez. 16:49), where Jesus tells us he is the ‘least of these’ etc. If my community spends a reckless amount of money when a much cheaper alternative is available, we strip ourselves of the authority to speak the above truths. In other words, we send the message that we’re hypocrites, because we say one thing, “Take care of the poor” and do another “Take care of ourselves”. There are many other messages associated with it. If you’d like to look into it further, there is a GREAT book called The Shaping of Things to Come by Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch chapter 9 is called the Medium is the Message.

    I really appreciate your second question a lot. I feel the exact same way. I mean as I mentioned, I worked in the community creating business for years (in many ways I still do). I also feel the programmatic small group model is far from satisfactory. The word ‘community’ has been thrown around so much it doesn’t really mean anything. I use it all the time and i hate it, but I’m not creative enough to make up another word to communicate the same thing. But, in direct answer to your question is community all it’s cracked up to be? In a word, ‘yes’. Community is the gospel; it is Jesus coming down in human form and entering into personal relationships with humanity. This is a piece of the good news not quite as important as the cross, perhaps, but so wonderfully important we do a disservice to Gospel when we leave it out. When we do lives as though the God of the universe is creating a Bride for his son, and this bride is this nation of people from the ends of the earth who form his church, we miss the point of the redemptive process. Jesus took community very seriously. John 13:35 “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples if you love one another” He isn’t talking about love amongst strangers , but love in deep community. Or John 17:20-21 “I do not ask in behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also be in Us; that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me.” Jesus is saying that if we have true ‘community’ with each other, people will believe He was sent by God. The implications to that are huge. So, yeah, if we mean community to be obedience to those two verses(and many others), then community is the solution to living a redeemed life. After all if the author and perfecter of our faith was this passionate about it, it must be important.

  20. 20 Asher

    Let me address your first paragraph. You said if a community spends a reckless amount of money instead of a cheaper alternative then this is hypocritical. The reason? As you said Christians are called to take care of the poor and yet they are spending money recklessly. Yes, I agree with you on this. By only up to a point. Isn’t building a park going to cost a lot of money? Sure it may be a cheaper option as compared to a mega church, but regardless it will cost a lot of money. Can’t we imagine even cheaper alternatives. Alternatives that effectively care for the poor and widow? Surely we can. Cornerstone could surely build something that was even cheaper than building a park. You said if a community does not choose the cheaper alternative then it “strip ourselves of the authority to speak the above truths”. So does this necessary rob Cornerstone of the truth it is attempting to speak?

    I agree that a church message to a community should be “we’re crazy”. I mean why on earth would people come together and give their first and finest to a God they can not see or hear (audible). Why spend millions of dollars for the sake of the people that are not in the church. The church is the only place where as soon as you join it, it is not about you. Its about the people who are not insiders, built by people who are insiders. With that being said, I have said before that we have a natural basis for mega-churches and big buildings, and we tend to favor “smaller buildings” because it looks more biblical (which as I have said people mean this to say correct). We go to such extremes that we often discredit large churches because they “strip ourselves of the truth”.

    In reality, spending money on something is a risk. Its a risk because it does not guarantee any outcome. Whether you decide to spend 5, 10, 20, 50 million on something that is a lot of money. To determine how much money depends on many factors. Size of the surrounding population, God vision, outreach, number of members, expected members, technology, etc. Again I think what Cornerstone is doing is cool. Good for them for honoring their specific God lead. Other churches who decide to build mega-churches may very well be honoring God leads. Good for them. I think it would be helpful for you to allow the possibility that perhaps building a mega-church could in fact take better care of the poor/widow/gentile then a “cheaper” solution could. That perhaps it would be reckless not to build a mega-church. I think if you opened your view just a little bit you might be willing to grant that the size of a building is not of really important, and to de-spiritualize church buildings.

    By the way there are instances of God siding with the Gentiles and Egyptians over the Jews. Why? Because their hospitality was greater then the Jews. I say this to say that what we expect to find is sometimes not at all what we thought. I think mega-churches would surprise you. In their impact in their communities and their stewardship of resources.

  21. 21 Asher

    On community.. I’m doing some reading and thinking on it. Thanks for sharing our input. I got some wrestling to do ^_^

  22. Asher, I think you misunderstand Paul’s point.

    Neither of us suggest that people need to build parks, that’s pretty ridiculous – rather it’s a mindset or priority.

    Regarding the park – perhaps it’s not the least expensive thing they could do, but I think you don’t understand that they’re using it to engage their community – they’re getting people to interact with the church, in a positive way. The cost is relatively low for the ROI of 1) giving to the community in a tangible way 2) loving on them, and sending positive vibes for Jesus.

    Cornerstone is doing other things to help orphans and widows as well. They’re building offices for Feed the Hungry or something like that, on their property, plus they give like 50% of their income to an organization to help children in Africa or something.

    This, to me, is a huge difference from a mono-lithic mega church that is like a castle, with moat, that sits mostly dormant on the week days. It’s not really engaging outsiders, except perhaps on Sundays. Cornerstone’s strategy is to spend less on the castle, and making their space more inviting to the community, and spending more on helping others.

    I guess it’s really about the balance between how much to spend on your show and programs vs how much to spend outward on helping people.

    It’s a strategy difference. The strategy for spending on the building is this: make an awesome building, excellent music, lights, fog machine, screens, visuals = more non-Christians coming = more ppl getting saved.

    I’d argue that this strategy is flawed – in a several ways.
    1) God told us to take care of the orphans and widows and etc, and when we spend more on the show, we spend less on helping which isn’t what God said to do.
    2) when we don’t help the needy – that’s a turn-off to outsiders, we are super criticized (and rightly so) for not caring about people and not doing much to help those in need, even though we do do it, just not as much as we could
    3) outsiders don’t like the slick presentation, nowadays – they distrust it. Perhaps not all outsiders. But it’s not as effective at winning ppl to Christ as the authentic presentation – of course we may disagree on this.
    4) the castle with the moat doesn’t engage outsiders. 12Stone building is used pathetically little during the week – I know b/c I’m there. I have a meeting there on Tues, and Thurs. And used to do Mon. – basically no one else is there. And two of these meetings could be done in a home – Tues is switching back to a home b/c it’s better.

    But Cornerstone will be used a ton during the week. And non-Christians, people who dislike church, will begin to engage the church on their terms, not have to sit in a concert singing worshippy stuff that they despise. And the outsiders won’t be able to criticize the church as hypocrites b/c they’re helping others so much. Whereas outsiders can legitimately claim that a lot of mega churches don’t care about the poor or people, because they don’t really help them that much.

  23. 23 Asher

    Jesse, I have not misunderstood your point or Paul’s point. I understand what Cornerstone is doing is building a park to engage people. I understand that they could build a mega-church but are choosing instead to invest in other options. My point is that Christians tend to view large churches through a negative perspective and slant.

    Cornerstone seems to be doing wonderful. Helping the poor/widows, and engaging the community. Yet, why aren’t we recognizing that mega-churches do the same thing? Why don’t we recognize what mega-churches have and are doing for their respective communities. Willow Creek, North Point, and 12Stone. Why can’t a mega-church have just as much influence and influence than Cornerstone? There is no reason why they can’t, and it is our negative/narrow Christian perspective that limits what we can imagination.

    Now more to the point. You said that Cornerstone strategy is to spend less on a “castle” and make their space more inviting to a community. Cornerstone decides to make a “castle” horizontal (park) as opposed to vertical (building). A building can just be as inviting as a park. As you said its a matter of strategy and a park may work better in some areas as opposed to a building and vice versa. For instance what if there is already two parks in the surrounding area?

    The meat of your argument to me seems to rest on the assumption that the more one gives their money away the better they are helping the poor/needy/widow. Yet, is it not possible that a church like Widow Creek (30,000 attendants) should be able to give more money and support programs that support the needy/poor? Why is it we automatically assume that if a church does not immediately give a lot of money to the poor that it is not actually helping them. In fact, mega-churches have the unique ability to raise millions of dollars that less size churches can. They can support a lot more groups and organizations with the money they raise. How? Because they can support and host more people. Simple economics.

    Now I understand Paul and your concern. I understand that a mega-church has a lot of power and influence and a mega-church could mis-managed their resources and not do what God called them to. But no more than any church could. Cornerstone could easily become prideful and boast how much money they are giving away, or decide to mis-manged their funds as well. Again this only shows that we have a natural basis/fear against large churches and that somehow smaller is more biblical.

    As to your criticism of the strategy I will attend to them briefly.

    1) Mega-churches spend more not less on helping the poor and needy. Its the mega-churches that hosts/sponsors the events that help the poor and needy. Its the MEGA in mega-church that allows that church to gather the people necessary to raise the money.
    2) Non-Christians are not turned off by church because we don’t help the needy. In fact I have not met one person who criticized the church for not helping the poor around the world. The facts simply won’t allow it. What the Church does get criticized for is being judgmental and hating homosexuals. That is not a mega-church problem but a CHURCH problem. All churches.
    3) What is this slick presentation? Taking the time to incorporate lights, music, power point, video is how presentations are done now in this age. In fact, it shows how much dedication and skill one is willing to invest. Again, we have a natural basis against using technology (and using it well). Granted not everything rests on the preacher but preaching a sermon is an effective way of saving people. I mean asks your friends how they were saved. How were you saved?
    4) A castle does attract people. That is what one of the functions of a castle. A castle is a safe house for people. It symbolizes protection, warmth, and home. Could it be that the building is used infrequently through the week because people are meeting in homes? Or maybe the members are at a soup kitchen or hanging out with the elderly. The very thing that you ask for!!!! After all a Christian is supposed to be living their life outside of the church not only on Sundays. So what if the church isn’t filled every day of the week. Does that make it wrong? Lets not forget the staff work there throughout the week.

    Maybe Cornerstone wont be criticized about not helping the poor. Maybe they can do this without having a building. But Cornerstone can still be criticized for not doing enough. I mean seriously… how well does a park really serve the poor and widows? Couldn’t building homes for these people and building their church around these people make more sense?

    I would encourage you to look at finances of actual mega churches (12Stone) and investigate how much money actually goes to help people. Actually goes towards food banks and widow care. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

    By the way. Why is it that you continue to go to a mega-church? Why haven’t you found a church that is actually doing what you want it to do? If a mega-churches necessarily miss manage their resources why do you continue to attend?

  24. Cool, thanks for this feedback.

    It’s too large to respond to, however. I think we disagree on some stuff. I would love to talk about some things individually, sorry for my previously large responses.

    I wish there were an easier way to discuss this.

  25. Hey, please don’t take that as a “I don’t want to respond b/c he’s asking me tough questions.”

    Cornerstone is a mega-church. You reffered to it as seperate from a mega church, but it is a mega church that I think is being wiser with its resources.

    I see your points about the building, I disagree, but it’s too much to discuss.

    Your last question:
    I am looking for another church to attend.

    I don’t hate church, or mega church, or 12Stone. I don’t blame church for being the way it is. But, because it is this way and there is tons of momentum in the traditional direction, people have a hard time seeing outside of the current paradigm – it’s the water the fish is swimming in – but I believe that a sincere look at the texts, a look at our culture and the outsiders, a look at the insides of church staff and decision making, a look at “results” will show that the current direction is not what God intends and is not working awesomely – as many authors, leaders and speakers are now pointing out.

    I point with them in the New Reformation of the Church.

  26. 26 Asher

    There is a lot to discuss. Maybe we can narrow in our talking points. Or write short essays (thats how scholars do it). Or we can talk over a cup of coffee. In fact, I’m in Lawrenceville more often. Why don’t we do all three. Talk and hang out!

    The important thing is that we do talk. If we have much to discuss then that is a good thing that we should not shy away from..but engage.

    Yes. Lets look at the results. Its see if the current direction of churches is what God wants or not. I’m very interested to look at the results.

    What is this New Reformation of the Church? Is it fundamentalism movement? Lets keep in mind throughout the ages there have always been leaders, authors, and speakers that speak out against the church. This is nothing new. I wonder if this time they have anything valid to say and any practical solutions to offer. Please…do share abut the New Reformation of the Church.

  27. 27 Chris

    What’s with all the debating? What is there to debate? Unless you feel that the decision that Cornerstone is making reflects on you our your church? They’re just trying to do what is right and biblical: Love God and Love your neighbor as yourself. Simple. How can we love our neighbor when we spend MILLIONS on ourselves for a meeting 1 day a week. Maybe 2 days a week if you are a really good Christian 😛 The majority of the world’s population lives on less than 2 dollars a day.


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