Mindi Welton-Mitchell writes that the church needs to “let go of the building” in Letting Go. She builds her case well but stops short when she states, “I’m not suggesting everyone go out and sell their buildings.”
I disagree. We need to go that far.
Until we give up our property, the church will continue to be viewed as — and in fact be — hypocritical. When Jesus called his first disciples, “immediately they left their nets and followed him.” (Matthew 4:20 NRSV Read in context.) They left the security of their fishing business.
They left security and control behind to follow a scruffy messiah who didn’t seem to know how royalty should act. Jesus was the President without secret service protection or Air Force One. He took on tasks considered beneath royalty. Jesus washed the filthy feet of guests, went to the outcast, ate with them, touched the untouchable, and in the process gave hope to the oppressed.
He did not build a synagogue and call people to him. He walked among the people.
The cost of discipleship to Jesus is ceding control to God. Following Jesus requires disruption of our lives of consumerism to seek justice in a world of unjust actions and systems that oppress. Leaving our safety nets behind, we hear the Spirit along a path that branches away from material security.
Followers walk among the people, learning from and with them. Though we sometimes fail, we strive to be God’s loving, empathetic presence in a world of indifference. The church, however, is too often about security. The institution of the church itself possesses capitalism’s symbols of success: property and financial investments.
Property has become Christians’ idol that keeps us from God. We feed our property-god with new roofs while people sleep under bridges. We slash Educational ministries, missions to those in need, and even Evangelism budgets when our golden calf demands new paint, carpet, or stained glass. With every expenditure we fear opening our doors to those in need will spoil the splendor we’ve created.
The time has come for the church to leave our nets and business behind and risk it all for the One we claim to follow.