Wednesday, March 8

Asking the right questions


Last night, Quest didn't have it's regular meeting. Instead, we participated in the church's informational meeting about the potential sale of the church's property to our neighbor, Wal-Mart, and relocation to another piece of property.

Most people in the church are pretty excited about the possibility. The church has been stymied for years by a lack of adequate space in our building. The sanctuary isn't big enough. We don't have enough classroom space. We don't have a big enough foyer. The church has proposed a building program that will take at least two phases before everything is done. While there is no timetable for finishing the final phase, it will certainly take years before everything is finished.

If Wal-Mart purchases the property, it will allow the church to get all of the new space it needs, all at once, and at much less cost to the church. There is every reason to be excited, and to see it as a miracle in the making.

In the middle of the excitement being expressed in the meeting, and the details being requested, our friend Alan asked an excellent question. He asked if the church leadership had considered the controversial nature of Wal-Mart's business practices, and whether or not the church should support or try to stop Wal-Mart.

The short answer was that the church tries to stay out of political arguments, and that the church leadership does not see the decision to sell or not to sell to be either a support of or statement against Wal-Mart. The decision is going to be based solely on the best interest of the church. It was also brought up that, even if Wal-Mart were bad (and this is not a given), that there are plenty of places in scripture where God used bad people or events to accomplish His work. A good example, although far from the only one, is the story of Joseph being sold into slavery.

But Alan raised a series of very good questions. What exactly is the role of the church in addressing social issues? Should the church (either the local church or the Church as a whole) weigh in on issues like this? Should the church base decisions on social concerns? How big of a role should social concerns play in the decision-making process? How do you decide?

I've thought a lot about these questions in the last 24 hours. I don't have any answers yet.

13 comments:

TheBGRT said...

Very interesting. I am curious as to how this will turn out. Please keep me up to date. If the Church does move I would like to know so that I don't go back to Elk Grove and not find LHC there.

lpangelrob said...

Ahh. The church and social issues. Something discussed long before Wal-Mart ever came around. John the Baptist got beheaded (eventually) because he tried to tell Herod what wasn't right, and taking your brother's wife very clearly isn't right.

But I'm on the fence with regards to business practices. As has been mentioned, you shouldn't be treated poorly just because you got capitalism right.

Any other thoughts are invited. :-)

Tim Gleason said...

"You shouldn't be treated poorly just because you got capitalism right." Maybe that's a question we need to ask.

For the last 100 years (maybe even more), capitalism and the church have been intertwined. But I certainly don't think we can say that capitalism is necessarily Biblical. Capitalism, at least modern, Western capitalism, wasn't around at the time the Bible was written.

So to what extent does capitalism match what we see in the Bible? To what extent does it seem to contradict the principles of the Bible? What do we as the church do if (where?) there is a disconnect?

I still have more questions than answers.

Jennie said...

I won't pretend that I have more answers than questions - I don't - but as far as the whole social issues thing goes, I have an answer that works for me. It all comes down to my motivation. If I get involved in a social issue and my motivation is love for the people involved, then I'm all for it. If at some point, my motivation comes from self-righteousness, then there's a problem.

On a larger scale, it's so easy for an individual church, a group, a denomination, or even the Church as a whole to start out with good intentions and then to let it become political, or an us-vs-them situation. A lot of what we see coming from Christians on the news - boycotts and protests - don't do much to build others up or to shine like stars for Christ. While it's true I don't know the motives of those peoples' hearts, I do know that most non-Christians see things like this and assume Christians are uneducated, intolerant, and unloving. Not to mention obnoxious. Sure, part of that is media portrayal ("Local Christian Gives Homeless Guy a Sandwich" is hardly a headline that will sell papers), but shouldn't we be at least a little concerned by that?

As for the capitalism thing... I've written and rewritten my response a zillion times. Suffice it to say...I have no idea. =)

Scott Wilder said...

I love Alan's heart. What a guy.

I'm a little disappointed by the response "The decision is going to be based solely on the best interest of the church". The CHURCH was not established to think of itself. But to work in the lives of others.

I don't think that selling to Wal-Mart is an excplicit endorsement of their business practices. The fact of the matter is that if LHC put up a big for sale sign in the front lawn and left it up to God; Wal Mart would probably make the best offer bid by far.

I agree with Tim in that we have to examine our hearts long and hard in the areas of motive and method. How we do what we do is just as important as the thing we do. I love you guys and will be in prayer for God's explicit leading in this expand or relocate decision. Someone give Alan a high five for me.

Tim Gleason said...

To be fair, I oversimplified the response to Alan's question. It wasn't ignored, or talked around. It led to 5 or 10 minutes of discussion. And when I mentioned the best interest of the church, those were my words. It was made clear throughout the meeting that the purpose for a move (or even expansion on the current location) is because it will give the church more space to do more and better ministry. If I gave any other impression, that was my mistake, and I appologize.

TheBGRT said...

All very interesting. I am not well versed enough to talk about the involvement and interwining of the Church and capitolism without making myself sound as smart as a rock.

I supposed all that I can say, is to echo off what has already been said by Scott and then reclarified by Tim, in that whatever descision is to be made should be for the well-being of the Church, not the church, and not for those in leadership. I know that is not the point, nor was it brought up, I mentioned it because I felt as if there is a connection, however great or small, with business dealings and those in power doing things for their own gain. Again I am not suggesting this, just puting it out there.
Hopefully you all understand what I am trying to desperately in vain to clarify, haha.

ash_loren said...

i don't think it's necessarily about capitalism itself. it's about the way capitalism sometimes, very often actually, manifests and maintains itself.

this is the basis of what i have to say right here. i think not supporting walmart is in the best interest of the church. when i say the church, i mean the Church at large. one of the central themes Jesus taught on was to love our neighbors as ourselves. okay. yes. i've heard it a million times. how seriously do i take that, though?

the reason i am against walmart in general (i'm a huge hypocrite though, cuz i still shop there sometimes) is because of their use of cheap labor overseas. not necessarily walmart itself, but many of the companies that sell their products through walmart. i think this is obvious to most of us, considering one of the questions on the scavenger hunt for frontline a few weeks ago was along the lines of taking a picture of something from walmart that was made in the usa. okay. obviously, that's something that could be rather hard to do.

i understand that eliminating sweat shops is not an option, because local economies in all of these poor nations depend highly on the income they make from them. but we still have to ask ourselves if it's just simply okay to continue buying products from companies that use them. is it okay to support the sexual abuse of women and children in these factories? is it okay that they make a few cents an hour just so the companies can make a few dollars more? is that loving our neighbor? do we too easily turn a rather blind eye? (it's also been argued that, gosh, well, that's just the physical though. the spiritual is more important. and i agree. but STILL.)

and as far as capitalism itself goes...gosh. we can say that everything's fair and that anyone can make what they want as long as they work hard. but that's just simply not true. the american dream is beautiful! too bad it's not a reality. it's an idealogy that i think we continue to literally buy into. and in some ways, we're just perpetuating the unfairness.

all of that said, yeah. God works through the bad to do good things. do we not allow someone to do good just because they do a lot of bad? no. but at the same time, the good isn't being done for our sake, it's for their own. which is normal and would be just fine with me if again, they didn't indirectly/directly support sweatshops, not to mention crush most if not all competition.

i am not completely against this deal going through. i am just very confused. very conflicted. it goes beyond this possible deal. i am very conflicted about the part christianity should play in social issues. in one like this, i think it should play a big part. i'd like to sugarcoat it and say that gosh, that's just how God is leading me particularly, considering i'm probably going to end up doing social work of some sort for the rest of my life (and by social i also most definitely mean "missionary" work), but i feel like that's going too soft.

i am praying hardcore for any necessary changes in my heart and mind to take place. i am also praying the same for everyone else. God's leading needs to be first and only. all of our jabber doesn't matter if it doesn't go along with what He wants.

ash_loren said...

i also wanted to add, just so ya'll know that i'm not just trying to be totally biased or something, that two of my uncles have been high in management within walmart. one of them used to be the manager of our walmart. the other was higher up. walmart's been very good to them. i just don't think that excuses being bad to others just cuz they can get away with it.

lpangelrob said...

Jennie said:

On a larger scale, it's so easy for an individual church, a group, a denomination, or even the Church as a whole to start out with good intentions and then to let it become political, or an us-vs-them situation. A lot of what we see coming from Christians on the news - boycotts and protests - don't do much to build others up or to shine like stars for Christ. While it's true I don't know the motives of those peoples' hearts, I do know that most non-Christians see things like this and assume Christians are uneducated, intolerant, and unloving.

Ashley said:

the reason i am against walmart in general (i'm a huge hypocrite though, cuz i still shop there sometimes) is because of their use of cheap labor overseas. not necessarily walmart itself, but many of the companies that sell their products through walmart.

Robert says:

It seems, more than ever, that every situation in which a Christian body deals with a "worldly" body, prayer should be involved with regards to what to do. Because at this point there's plenty of things to do. Among the questions that should be raised:

1.) Do we serve (and rescue) more people by being somewhere else in a bigger building?

2.) Should social causes be carried by the individual, by the local church, or by the global Church?

3.) If we know in advance that opposition on an local church, or global Church level will (100%) negatively affect our ability to minister in the future (in the same way that holding public boycotts absolutely shuts out some unbelievers from ever taking Christianity seriously again), is it wise to continue?

Again, more questions than answers. I think this is sort of a variation to the question, "At what point should we stop (or start) holding people to our own standards as Christians? Corporations?"

Tim Gleason said...

One of the interesting things to me is how this situation leads to all kinds of different questions.

Another thing to throw into the mix is that Wal-Mart has always been an excellent neighbor to LHC. Wal-Mart bought land from us that there was no way that we could use, because it would cost too much to make it usable for our purposes. As a result, the church was able to build the entire wing with the gym without the need for a mortgage, and the additional parking we needed without having to build a parking lot. They have been generous in donations to events and ministries at LHC. They even rent the church for their holiday party.

Whatever you think about Wal-Mart and other corporations like them (and I think informed people can take either side in that debate), I think that the relationship that has been built over the years as neighbors has to enter into the issue as well. How exactly do you do that? One more question for the list...

Scott Wilder said...

You guys rock. It would be so easy just to take one side in a black or white conversation. Instead, you guys are willing to wade through all the shades of grey in order to find the heart of God and serve the cause of the cross. This encourages me and makes me smile.

I love you guys.

Scott

ash_loren said...

jennie said:
"I do know that most non-Christians see things like this and assume Christians are uneducated, intolerant, and unloving."

robert said:
"(in the same way that holding public boycotts absolutely shuts out some unbelievers from ever taking Christianity seriously again)"

i say:

maybe i just come in contact with people vastly different than those you are mentioning. i can see how what you said would apply to christians' involvement in other issues such as abortion or gay marriage. those don't seem to be as widely accepted as "immoral" issues. but we don't seem to be backing down much from those, do we? this sweatshop stuff, though...well...since it's so engrained in our OWN lifestyles (whether we like it or not)...maybe we're just too scared to address it. scared is not really the word i want. gosh. i really do mean that, but i don't intend to be mean about it. i just know that that's how i've felt personally about it for myself in the past, and still do.

but i guess i just know a heck of a lot of people who are very interested in this sweat shop stuff. i've felt that i've been taken MORE seriously as a christian by non-christians because of my convictions regarding that. people are getting sick of self-focused christians. i understand that as far as sharing God with others and being open about who we are is something we do fairly well. but there are, overall, larger lifestyle choices at hand that look very hypocritical to many non-christians.

but i understand that this is kind of shying away from the deal with walmart, though they indirectly go very much together for me.

again.
prayer.
clarity.

it was said tonight: don't do the good things for God, but do the God things for good.