Lining the Walls with Gold

Last week, in response to my post on technology fading away, a reader named Steve C left a thought provoking comment. I started to write a comment back, then I felt it turning into a post, so here we are. You can see his full comment on the original post, and I will re-print portions of it here. I’m doing this because I think he raises some valid questions. I don’t agree with his conclusion, but I think it’s always important to challenge our thinking with why we are doing this in the first place. 

And if you read this, Steve, don’t consider this an attack. I appreciate your questions and am glad to have the opportunity to explain my position on these issues. 

Here is a summary of his comments (printed verbatim, edited only for length):

How does a ridiculously expensive digital mixer really improve someone's walk with Christ over a modest 16 channel analog mixer? IEMs? Really? How much does it cost to set up everyone with their own monitor? $1000?

I don't see how improving any of that would truly bring anyone closer to Christ. If the relationship isn't there in the first place, no amount of feel-good entertainment is going to get it going, and if the relationship *is* there, then it doesn't matter if there's an SD signal going to an old 13" TV in the nursery. 

Steve, I know where you're coming from, but I think you have to consider the context. Part of what we do comes from a desire to give God our best. We have historical and biblical context for this. Take a look at 1 Kings 6:20-22:

The inner sanctuary was twenty cubits long, twenty wide and twenty high. [That’s 30’x30’x30’ Ed.] He overlaid the inside with pure gold, and he also overlaid the altar of cedar.

Solomon covered the inside of the temple with pure gold, and he extended gold chains across the front of the inner sanctuary, which was overlaid with gold.

So he overlaid the whole interior with gold. He also overlaid with gold the altar that belonged to the inner sanctuary.

Did they all need to be lined with gold? I mean, how much did that cost? Did that improve anyone's walk with God? Probably not. But it did send a message to everyone who walked through the door that these people were serious about worship.

In some circles the "poverty" mentality is the way it is. I once heard an elder pray for his pastor saying, "God, you keep him humble, we'll keep him poor." Some churches make a point about how little they spend on anything, but again, I have to wonder if that's helping either. In fact, I believe it can even become a point of pride. It's easy to point at a church like ours and say, "God, I thank you that we don't waste money on technology like they do." But listen again, that has a familiar ring to it. Jesus condemned such comparisons (Luke 18:11-14). 

Most of the church techs I know do what we do because we love God and want to give Him our best. We believe that one way we can best express both our worship of God and help communicate that to others is by creating the absolute best worship environment we can. We may not be lining the walls with gold, but we're sure going to try and make it sound good. 

If my church had a "technology" system like the one you described in your comment, few would come to our church anymore. Why? Because some of them are shallow and demand a certain level of production to stay engaged. But rather than condemn them, I want to encourage them to keep coming. Over time, they will see that we don't do it for show, but out of love for our Creator. We use art to worship Him. By coming week after week, God softens their hearts and their lives are changed.

You also have to consider scale. In a small country church of 60 people, spending $15,000 on IEMs (yes, that’s closer to the actual number) seems patently absurd—especially when the annual budget is $120,000. And while we may have spent a few hundred thousand over the last few years upgrading our technology, we’ve also spent over two million dollars on local, national and international outreach programs. 

And we’ve used technology to empower that outreach. Last summer, our VBS program—which utilized a lot of technology; full lighting, sound, video, Skyping in people from Africa—raised enough money to build a large group home and a school for 30-40 orphans in Africa. Did that change someone’s life? You bet it did! Not only the kids who now have a safe place to sleep, but the young believers at our church who learned a little bit about being generous and sacrificial. Did it require a big show of technology to enable that? Maybe not, but it was a huge part of the experience.

So yes, I think it’s important to wrestle with these questions. When is enough enough, and when is it too much? The answer will be different for every congregation. What works for us won’t work for you and visa-versa. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking we’re wrong and you’re right (or we’re right and you’re wrong). Churches come in all shapes and sizes with all sorts of congregations and missions. 

Thank you for raising the question. It’s helped me re-think what we do, and I’ve again come to the conclusion that we’re on the right track—for our church. 

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