I write this morning with a heavy heart — a conflicted and torn heart.
Soon, my daughter will be turning 10. As a rule in our house, every other year they are allowed to have a birthday party with friends. Alternating years are spent doing something special with the family. We do this because we have six children and would otherwise be having a birthday party every other month and go completely broke! Even still, their birthday parties with friends are quite modest.
This morning my daughter told me about a Christian concert she wanted to go see. We haven’t bought her a birthday present yet so I asked how much the tickets cost.
“The cheapest ticket is $32,” she said.
At $32 a ticket (plus fees & tax), this was going to be at least a $100 birthday request if she wanted to take a friend and needed a chaperon.
My thought was: ‘Maybe we can swing one ticket, then I could ask each of her grandparents to buy one in lieu of a gift.’
I understand a concert has to make money to provide for all the expenses that goes into producing and promoting it. I figured the price of the ticket was reasonable.
But then I asked, “How much is the most expensive ticket?” I don’t know why I asked this. I was just curious.
“Five hundred dollars,” she replied.
“What!?” I said. “That’s ridiculous! For a Christian concert?”
The price was $528 to be exact. (This ticket price is based on a ticket reseller. Tickets for the event range from $25-60 from TicketMaster. But all front row tickets are sold to the ticket reseller making them unavailable via the normal source.)
This is where my heart was torn.
Employed by an American Church Building
My husband and I both know how a majority of churches work. We’ve worked in a church — we’ve seen first-hand how a church tries to operate by having more volunteers instead of paid workers. The saying is true of volunteers: ninety percent of the work is done by ten percent of the people (and ten percent of the work is done by ninety percent of the people).
During that time, we’ve experienced the pain of being paid employees (which also included unpaid volunteer work) while not being able to make ends meets at home.
We understood that we were doing work “as if unto the Lord” but when you are on welfare because you can’t afford health insurance, you wonder about the way the American church operates.
- Is this Holy Spirit led?
- Does that church really need that $1 million building fund?
But then you see that people are being blessed and the church is flourishing, so you ignore that feeling.
You bear that cross.
But when you place that gallon of government-purchased milk on your kitchen table knowing that the same position you have in a non-church job pays $10k more — you just wonder, ‘Is this really God’s handiwork?’
the problem: The alternative to a well-paid gig is a poorly-paid gig.
Which isn’t a great choice, either.
Once out of the employment of the church building, we swore we would NEVER. WORK. AT. A. CHURCH. AGAIN. Because:
Money + church = funky
The American Church: A Broken Body…in all the wrong ways
I’m not placing blame on any one person. The problem is so complex and involves so many entities and traditions that it would be impossible to say that the performer, the preacher, the layman, or the facility manager are the source of the issue.
To place blame on a specific person would be like blaming the president for the broken governmental system he inherited. Of course, he can damage it more…but he’s not the sole cause of EVERY SINGLE complaint or problem.
Like the government, the church has been damaged and misled over time.
Over time We’ve Taken a series of steps outside of the leading of the Holy Spirit, causing us to walk further and further away from the truth of God’s word. Further away from the right operation of His true church.
And I’m part of the problem…because, you see, if someone offered my family some $500 tickets – you better believe I’d take them – even though it would totally perpetuate the matter! I’m sinful…not above reproach. I wish I were, but I’m just like the rest of the church. Broken.
It will take a real move of the Spirit of God to change me…to change us!
I’m am NOT issuing a boycott of Christian concerts (or churches!). I’m not angry. I’m just sad. Because we are all victims as well as victimizers.
The price of gas, airfare, hotels, equipment, facility rentals, salaries, meals are continually on the rise – as not only a symptom of greed, but also of a weary earth that will “wear out like a garment” and a broken economy that has gone awry.
And given our own long hours working at a church facility for minimal pay, I don’t begrudge ANY church worker their proper pay. (Nor am I the one to decide what “proper” entails!)
The American church Charges for the Gospel
Today’s discussion about the concert ticket isn’t our first brush with paying to “worship” God. A popular worship band regularly comes to Austin and charges $25/ticket. Maybe it barely covers the cost of the facility? I don’t know.
My husband is a video guy who works first-hand with events at his full-time job. I know how many people, places and things it takes to get an event to run smoothly. Just the price of necessary equipment can rack up fast — so I get it. Twenty-five bucks. Fine.
But what about when it is hosted at a church? I’ve been to “worship” nights at churches that featured these types of musicians and had to pay the same price. The past couple years, I’ve even heard about some churches charging for their Christmas productions. Charging to hear the story of Jesus’ birth!
I wonder how someone who has never heard the gospel would justify spending $25-32/ticket much less $500/ticket to hear someone sing God’s words? I understand that perhaps we can justify it by saying the performers are there to “build up the church body.”
The Church (meaning the People) Was Designed to Spread the Gospel
The people of the Body of Christ were commissioned to share The Good News of Jesus…yet we probably spend more money and time on ‘Christian things’ rather than doing the ‘Christian thing.’
A very small portion of people of the thousands of people that go to any mainstream Christian concert are walking out those concert doors and spreading out like wildfire to share the Good News (or else we’d have a REAL revival on our hands!).
We go to Starbucks and drink lattes. We discuss how we “felt God’s Spirit” during the worship. I know because I am one of those people. I believe that God works even when we “get it wrong” in our ministry efforts. People are still blessed and even encouraged by a misstep. But does that justify our actions?
No, but I think that’s what makes it even harder to change — because we see some semblance of fruit.
But God says in John 15:2:
Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away;and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
Perhaps we should sacrifice the small fruit we are seeing for a greater harvest.
I am not trying to cast stones at the music industry or anyone else for that matter, because I am part of the problem.
The precious Body of Christ is withering underneath the weight of our prosperity.
If the American church body (people not the building) doesn’t rise up to the task it was CHARGED with completing, God will take away our lampstand. (Rev 2:5)
I’m reading Brother Yun’s devotional Living Waters and my breath was taken away by this quote:
“If you do not go to the heathen with the gospel, they will come to you as revolutionaries or as occupying forces.” – Brother Yun, Living Waters
He was writing about foreign invaders, but what if they come in the form of other American citizens? Perhaps denying us the right to worship freely at our $500 Christian concerts.
Could there be a different way for the American church?
I know a family who ministers the gospel on their own dime. The don’t charge for their services. All they ask is that the use of the facility be free to them and to their attendees. Of course, the facilities they perform at are meager in comparison to a Christian concert. Their attendance is far lower. But their impact…wow. Life changing.
This family incurs expense. The facility’s owner incurs expense. And the public is free to come without expense. They are free to be ministered to.
The unsaved are free to come without financial obligation.
This family (and those associated with them) are really living out the scripture that says:
Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. Acts 4:32
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t get paid for our wares. If you have a free concert to worship God, perhaps you sell your CDs. If you have a book you’ve written, charge a fair amount – but do your speaking engagements for free. Or have a smaller event — having larger facilities and a bigger attendance doesn’t intrinsically mean the Holy Spirit is active.
I’m sure there are arguments for and against these ideas. They are just thoughts…ideas to be considered. I’m no expert. I don’t know how it would look like in the end.
But there has GOT to be a better way — a way that doesn’t cause people to pay in order to hear the gospel or worship God as a body of believers.
All I ask and can dare to pray is that the Holy Spirit will change us before it is too late. I hope that you will join me in this prayer for revival in how the church (meaning us not the building) is operated because it cannot happen on a mass scale until if first happens in our own hearts.
Head covering Christian woman who loves good wine, coffee, stinky cheese and missionary books. My favorite dessert is Peanut Butter Chocolate Cheesecake. I am a Christian author, blogger, and speaker. I fell in love with my husband because he had rain drops on his glasses (true story). In my spare time I homeschool my six children (5 girls, 2 boys).