King of the Hill, Megachurch, and Profit
King of the Hill--Church!
Outakes of an episode of King of the Hill, in which the Hills have a falling out with their pastor over the color of the pews and are "forced" to look for a new church.
Especially listen for the great lines:
Hank "what's it (the megachurch) got, 5000 some-odd members?"
Peggy "and it pampers all of them . . ."
Ohh, that hurts so good.
On a related note, I was actually in a real live megachurch just yesterday. While I was there, I happened upon a very, very slick brochure for something they call the "Equipping Center." I would call it a mid-week program, with topical classes like four weeks on the doctrine of the Trinity and three weeks on raising boys. Great, fine, normal.
But here was the weird part. They charge money for the classes. $15 a person, or $20 a couple, for a five week class. Some were more expensive, but apparently came with a book. The brochure says "a registration fee is usually required to help offset costs."
I personally know that paying for thing raises the value of it in a person's mind. So, I can imagine saying "a registration fee is usually required to help increase the value of this in your mind so you will show up and pay attention." But "offset costs"? What costs? The slick brochure? Are they paying the teachers? A/C and lights? Those things cost money, certainly. But, I thought that's what "tithes and offerings" are for.
Just a few days ago my wife and I were talking and I had an idea. "How about developing a for-profit church" I said. Yes, it is a theologically sick idea. However, what about it? What about a church where people don't make offerings, but rather are charged fees? Fees for this class, fees for childcare, etc? And they could join like a country club, with a joining fee and dues? And, that way, there would be less doubt about church income. And the church could pay for the best facility, hire the best staff. No volunteers perhaps, just paid people doing their job with excellence.
Of course, both of us realized how sick that is. That turns the Church from a family into a business. That makes the Gospel a commodity. Ultimately, its pagan (what we call "syncretism"). Just as pagan as sacrificing a chicken on the altar of some Catholic church in Mexico.
But, there it was. A church charging for services that I would consider part of its ministry. Sure, that is somewhat minor, and perhaps I'm just splitting hairs. But it reminds me of a bit of the Bible (Isaiah 55:1-2):
Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.
It seems to me that the church collects tithes and offerings precisely so we can offer everything we do--word and sacraments--for free to all who would come. Yes, there are costs. I have a salary, as do many other church workers. We have bills to pay. But, if you want what we have, you don't have to pay a penny. Just come and get it.
That's been the way of the Church for 2000 years, as far as I know. Indulgences and relics were sold, and sometimes the Communion Sacrament itself was sold. But those were heretical, horrible abuses.
Makes me wonder....