People or TV’s?

I saw this post on Collide Magazine’s blog a few days ago and wanted to pass it on.

I’ve blogged about the tension between building a great church facility and the precious dollars that requires before, but I feel like there is still more to say on the issue. In my previous post, the jumping off point was Sarah McLachlan’s “World On Fire” video—a music video that was created for $15 instead of $150,000 and told how the surplus cash was donated to causes around the world. I’m still wondering what this concept would look like in local churches, and I’m wondering how pastors and budget committees decide what to spend on media & technology vs. what to spend on feeding the hungry.

My church is a great church. I love the church’s sense of community, concern for others, and commitment to Christ. We’re a large church with a lot of resources, so we have things like flat-panel TVs on the wall here and there. I wonder what it would look like, in Sarah McLachlan fashion, if instead we hung a sign on the wall that said, “We were going to spend $1000 on a TV for this spot, but we sent the money to this fill-in-the-blank cause.” Would that be cool, or would it be weird? Would it inspire churchgoers to do the same thing, or would they leave and go to the church with the TVs?

The reason I bring this issue up again is I stumbled across a news blurb about a church in the Detroit area that opened a new $65 million facility. Folks, that’s a lot of TVs. It’s also a lot of winter coats for Detroit kids who’ll be cold this winter. I’m not criticizing the church’s financial decisions in any way, but I am curious about how they decided on the $65 million number and whether or not to include certain pieces of wonderful technology. The news blurb mentions that the church hopes the facility will be a great resource for their community, and I hope so, too. Perhaps one of the worst possible outcomes of an outstanding facility like the one is question is that it is plunked down in the midst of a community that has fallen on hard financial times. The church wouldn’t be a symbol of hope and grace for that community, just a reminder that this materialistic world consists of haves and have-nots. Church, after all, is a place for the needy—spiritually, physically, emotionally, and financially.

So what do you think?  Should the church spend big money on technology?  Should any of us?  I have a few thoughts…  I’ll post about them after they’ve had a little more time to stew in my head.


  1. Dennis

    tough one…I look forward to other’s comments. Communicating with any degree of relevance means we have to use the tools of our times and our culture. Can we go to far? And who is the human judge of too far? If you can afford it, should you get it? Sometimes we do lose sight of the fact that a home budget and a business/church budget are different. For example, electric was around $10,000 for the building last year. That’s slightly higher than our homes, but I can’t use my home as a point of comparison. I think I am just adding mud to the water. I’d love to hear what Jim Henry has to say on this…he’s an arts guy who is pretty cutting edge.

  2. Jim Henry

    Here’s a few things to look at. Any church worth its salt is all about reaching their community. These days, most communities are filled with people who are being bombarded by popular culture 24/7. That leaves a church with a decision to make.

    1. Do we leverage that culture for the gospel?
    2. Do we ignore the culture and just “do” church?

    If you choose option #1, then be ready to spend some cash to make it happen…It’s not uncommon for 10-15% of a churches budget to be targeted towards technology and the arts.

    Before you make a move however, make sure you have the “pulse” of your community. In the case of an inner city type of church, it makes sense to budget for good technology, but it also makes sense to budget a large portion towards ministries and programs that will help the community.

    It’s all about balance. Technology in the church is here to stay and has proven to be a vital tool in reaching people…but we can’t spend so heavily on it that we are forced to ignore the more important work of building community relationships. When that happens we lose that balance and even if we leverage “pop culture” effectively, we’ll lose the personal touch.

  3. Erik

    @Jim & Dennis

    Honestly, those have been my thoughts all along. Money can be spent in a multitude of ways. While some people still thrive on the wooden pews, hymn board on the wall and giant, spaceship looking pulpit on the “alter”, I think the vast majority of seekers, are looking for something more relevant. The church (small c) is there to equip the Church (big c) to fufill the great commission. Our culture is changing. If people can’t get closer to the throne, how can they be effective in the world?

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