“O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth.” Psalm 96:9
“Isn’t it wonderful?” a pastor preached one day to his congregation. “We only owe [X] million dollars more on our new church building,” he essentially said as though it were a praise beyond measure. This is a true story. I was there. In fact, I had earlier that morning walked into another church in a nearby area, the area that was the first stop on my going full-time on the road for the Lord and ministry. I had felt such a sadness when I walked into that other church building, a new building for an enormous congregation in the area. I was sad because the church building was exceedingly large, exceedingly fancy, with exceeding high-tech measures integrated into the building including electronic check-in stations, video screens in numerous locations including the café where people could enjoy coffee and such while watching the preaching, and a big stage set up with rock concert style lighting. I had been excited to learn of an upcoming women’s retreat at the second church only to find what for me was a sizeable fee and advertising telling the women to bring their money to enjoy all the shopping that would be offered at the retreat. Just months before in South Carolina, a congregation I was visiting would vote on spending a big chunk of money on new pews and carpeting while I sat in the perfectly fine pews on the perfectly fine carpeting asking for prayer for financial support for my work helping people to find and follow the Lord.
I told a pastor at the 2nd church how sad I was about the building given the apparent probable multi millions if not billion dollars that had gone into it. He couldn’t fathom my lack of joy and celebration over the beautiful building, explaining that in that wealthy area people wouldn’t want to come to church in a building that wasn’t that beautiful. He told me this was the “excellence” God would want, and that the building decision was made in line with the “spirit”. In the third church, a congregant said the new pews and carpeting would help first-time visitors want to return.
What “spirit” would lead Christ’s body to build high-tech exceedingly expensive and fancy churches to satisfy people’s desires and comfort while the world all around perishes? In this very same time frame, the church I attended for several years down south whose congregants are the poor, broken, and homeless was kicked out of its building and given 90 days to find a new location.
Are we not grieving the Holy Spirit when the expense and glamor of our church buildings are more about ourselves and our comfort than about glorifying God? These pastors and congregants clearly love God, but is it not time for us to purify ourselves for Him?