Church Media—At What Cost?

I've been reading a book lately called The Dangerous Act of Worship by Mark Labberton. The premise of the book is that if we are actually involved in the worship of God, the outgrowth will be our active participation in social justice and dispensing of mercy. Labberton argues that if we are not doing justice and loving mercy, we are not worshipping, or at least we are not worshipping God. As I've read, I've been wresting with what this looks like in my life. Am I really doing anything to help the cause of the poor and needy, or am I merely chasing the American Dream, consoling myself that part of my work week is devoted to leading others in "worship?" These are weighty issues.

Then along comes Sarah McLachlan and a new music video she recorded for $15. The song is entitled World on Fire, and speaks to social justice. Her premise is that the typical music video costs $150,000 to make, but what if most of that money could be used to help the needy around the world. You can see the video here, along with a list of donations for the other $149,985.

As I watched the video, I started thinking about churches and how much money we spend on ourselves. Month after month I read the trade rags and see church after church installing PM5Ds and Venues and the occasional XL8 sound consoles. There are $100,000 speaker arrays, and video and projection systems that cost more than my house. Now, don't get me wrong, I like technology toys as much as anyone, but should a church be spending $65,000 on a sound console? And that's just for the mid-range. The very first Midas XL8 in the US was installed in a church—at a cost of $250,000! What would happen if instead, they spent $20,000 on a M7CL and gave the other $230,000 away to the poor and needy of the world? A quarter of a million dollars would feed a lot of staving kids orphaned by war or aids in Africa. Seriously.

Now, I'm not saying it's absolutely wrong to make those big ticket buys, but can we really look God in the eye (figuratively speaking) and say we're worshiping Him in our multi-million dollar facilities with our hundreds of thousand dollars of AV gear while thousands of people die every day around the world of starvation? I was looking at lenses the other day for an article on IMAG. A single lens for a video camera can cost easily $20,000-50,000. All so we can see the pastor better? I don't know, is that really worship? If it is, is it of God or ourselves?

Whenever I see a video that asks those outside the church what they think about the church, the word "hypocritical" comes up a lot. As I've thought about this topic, I can't help wondering if those impressions aren't correct. We say we love God and desire to follow Jesus. Then we spend a ton of cash on stuff that benefits us, while ignoring those around us with real needs.

The other side of this coin is that people in the US have to be reached with the Gospel, too. Because of the culture we live in, we need to invest in a certain level of technology and media to speak to them effectively. But do even those we are trying to reach sense a certain disconnect between the message and what they see when they walk into our technologically advanced churches?

I don't pretend to have this all figured out. Like I said, these are weighty issues. Is it wrong to spend money on a soundboard? I don't know. But when those outside the family of faith have a better grasp of social justice than we do, it's time to start asking the questions.

What say you?