My father worked for Ford Motor Company for 35 years. Today, I heard some news about one of our synod’s campus ministries that made me think of a story that made the rounds a few years ago.
During one of the slumps, the company needed to cut significant costs. This meant that the accountants began to wield enormous power. At meeting after meeting, they would suggest cuts in personnel, materials, manufacturing, and so on.
At one meeting, it was suggested that yet another plant be closed. They explained how much it would save to company, how much they could make from the sale of the plant, and how the bottom line would be strengthened. Many in the room thought it a bad idea, but no one wanted to be the one to speak up, because cost cutting was sweeping the company, and the accountants had the ear of those in power. Finally, a voice was heard, “You know, if we closed all the plants we could save 100% of our costs.”
The truth had been spoken. The plant was saved. At a certain point, it isn’t just about the money in your pocket today. It’s about the mission you have. For Ford Motor Company, it’s making cars. That means that you have to pay for plants in which to make them, people to build them, engineers to design them, and so on.
In the church, it means that you have to pay for buildings in which to proclaim the word, pastors to do the proclaiming, seminaries in which to form pastors, and so on.
Selling a church building so that you can do more ministry(?) is like selling an automotive plant so you can improve the bottom line. It only makes sense if the plant/church is not contributing to the overall work of the company/kingdom. Sometimes, churches close. Sometimes, churches need to be told that their time is over. But selling the property of a growing congregation that is becoming more financially independent each year while faithfully serving a campus community seems to me to be selling a valuable part of your mission to obtain a less valuable one.
I just do not see how it is a good idea.