A bad.hack (read more about it here) is a manipulation of a Christian system either using illicit means to achieve an end, or achieving goals that leave the system worse off and less open than before. Read on for the hack!
Hope you have your tissues handy. Northpoint Church has a terrible problem of being a mega-church but having only one entrance/exit to their location. Their pastor Andy Stanley outlines the problem:
Are you tired of sitting in the parking lot for twenty minutes after church?
Do you hesitate to invite friends to church because of the complexity of getting on and off our campus?
Have you ever skipped the closing song to beat the crowds to lunch?
I’m teary. I wish there was something they could do.
Oh, there is.
Build a $5 million dollar bridge to create a second entrance!
Well, if you answered “Yes” to any of those questions, we have some great news for you. We are about to start construction on a bridge that will connect our campus to Old Milton Parkway.
Really? $5 million of church dollars for a bridge that will save everyone 20-30 minutes and allow the church to “grow to capacity?” Really?
While I like to hulk-smash things when I hear of churches spending money on infrastructure rather than helping other people who are dying, we all have different understandings of the gospel and we all have different roles to play. Fair enough and we trust in God that we are following roles faithfully and thoughtfully, diverse as they are.
But their rationale is that it is a missional value to build this bridge. What? Really.
If our mission is to be a church thatʼs perfectly designed for the people who already attend, then we donʼt need a bridge. But if we want to continue to be a church unchurched people love to attend, then yes, itʼs worth it. From my perspective, this is not a “nice to have” option. Honestly, I donʼt want to raise money for, or give money to, something thatʼs not mission critical. I believe creating a second access point allows us to stay on mission. That is why weʼve been working on this for nine years.
Building a bridge for the purposes of allowing more suburban people to get to church cannot be legitimately defended as a missional value.
First, the expansion is for the purposes of allowing more people to worship in their church. A fine decision, I’m not against creating new and better avenues (in this case, literally!) for people to worship, but look at their rationale (PDF):
Currently, we can seat 4,800 people in one service using both auditoriums. But our infrastructure only allows us to comfortably accommodate around 3,500 people. Once we pass the 3,500 mark, the trafﬁc becomes exponentially unbearable. A second access point will allow us to accommodate 1,000 additional people at 9:00 and 11:00, achieving maximum use of our existing facility.
So the problem isn’t getting more people in, it’s getting 30% more people into a particular worship service time slot that is convenient. I would think a truly missional decision would be one of the following:
- For people in the 9am and 11am service to attend the 12:45pm service (which isn’t mentioned so it probably doesn’t have the traffic problems) or to begin an evening worship service. But that would be inconvenient for people to change their schedules, wouldn’t it?
- For the congregation to build and move to another campus. But a longer commute outside of the suburb would be inconvenient, wouldn’t it?
- For people to carpool or drive in together (and a suburban megachurch with $5mil to burn probably has a lotta 2-person SUVs). But asking people to carpool would be inconvenient, wouldn’t it?
I realize it is easy to criticize a church decision from an armchair, or even question the idea to build a 4,800 seat capacity with only a 3,500 parking lot from an armchair, but really the above are missional responses that don’t involve building a $5 million dollar bridge but do involve, oh, sacrifice.
Second, the “missional” value of bringing in more people is conflicting with the missional cost of building the bridge to the surrounding community.
This bridge will span 1,000 feet of flood plain and wetlands. It will be three lanes wide and include a pedestrian walkway. So, donʼt think cute wooden bridge. Think Haynes Bridge.
This means their decision helps people get to their attractional worship space, but actually does harm to the surrounding communities. How is that a missional value?
Finally, I think a commenter at Thomas’s Everyday Liturgy blog put it best:
I heard that $1 can provide a 3rd world person clean water for an entire year. So instead of helping 5 million people GET water, they are helping 500 or so people AVOID it?
I know there’s bleedings of anti-mega-churches in this post and that’s stereotypical of me. Stereotypes are offensive because they lump people into small categories and don’t describe the individuals therein. But if the stereotype of megachurch-goers is that they are individualistic and come for convenience rather than the cost of discipleship, and that megachurch-leaders will bend over backwards to accomodate them…then this project does nothing to shatter that stereotype.