Thursday, August 14, 2014

Somewhere Between a Shack and a Palace


Yes, that's the English meaning of the name of the village development area where we are planting a church. The name of the town is Sangla. Our church is the only church in the entire village area. It is the only Baptist church for an even larger area. The very few others that dot the region are charismatic.

The drive to Sangla is somewhat of an adventure. It's one of those drives where you need a four wheel drive vehicle, you feel like a milkshake, you don't eat too much before you go, and you can hear the vehicle scraping on the bottom several times as it rocks all around going over hills.

But there is something that catches my eye each time on the way to the new church building.

On the side of the road, up the hill, there is a shack. Wood and sheet metal were fastened together. Wonder what that shack is?

It's a church. (It is charismatic, but we are not sure if it is the cult charismatics that have a female goddess, or if it is just a plain charismatic church. Both are labeled Christian here.) Now, it isn't so shocking that the shack is a church. We live in a poor country. People live in places like that. But what is shocking is the home of the Pastor of the church right next to it.

That house is practically a mansion here. A huge, beautiful palace.

And the people of the area see the discrepancy. They see the priority. And they see it labelled Christian. In a country where the people will worship a dog once a year, feeding it foods they cannot afford to eat themselves, the people see "Christians" investing so much in self and so little in the church. No, the church isn't the building. We know that, but the people here don't. No, a building isn't to be worshiped, nor should we be bad stewards with the money God supplies by spending it on things that don't really matter.

But at the same time, money should go to what is important to us. Missions, helping people, investing in family... and, yes, church.

Matthew 6:21 "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."

Sometimes it is so easy to see where people have their hearts and see what they treasure.

I think of King David.

2 Samuel 7:2 "That the king said unto Nathan the prophet, See now, I dwell in an house of cedar, but the ark of God dwelleth within curtains."

He didn't like the discrepancy between his house and the place the ark rested. He treasured the things of God. His heart was in the things of God. And his desire to invest in honoring God showed it.

As we are preparing the new church building, we are having to make so many decisions. Every decision matters. Every choice we make potentially impacts how the people here view Christians and Christianity. As we set up the church and the Sunday school, we are trying to consider what messages we are conveying to the people. We don't want to start anything that the people here cannot financially maintain when we move on to plant the next church. We also want to be sensitive to the culture.

But in our minds, we also think about the shack church and the "palace" house. We don't want an ornate building that screams RELIGION. The people have enough religion here. They have elaborately decorated temples and statues. No, we don't want a religious place. But we want a building that says, "We love being here. We take church seriously. It is our favorite place to be." We want it to encourage fellowship among the believers. We want it to be conducive of worship, teaching, and learning. We want it to be inviting and welcoming. We want it to reflect who our God is. Most of all, we want it to glorify God and uplift the name of Christ.

What should a new church building look like? It certainly depends on the field and the perception of the people to some degree. Finances and facilities available matter. There is no perfect formula. But may the people never see in us the discrepancy of the church shack and the palace house, whether it be a church building or in ministry.


Amy Meyers said...

The prosperity gospel is all over the place here. We see discrepancies like that as well, and it is frustrating to work with the misconceptions of burned over territory. May God grant you guys wisdom as you labor through these decisions. It is very important to think through what you're communicating. It is also exhausting! God bless you guys!

Anonymous said...

Urubamba, a town in Peru, means "the evening resting place of the common house spider"... Delightful!