Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Building Motives

Well, better late than never! This morning was my bi-monthly morning to volunteer in Trae's classroom. There's nothing like an early morning of test grading and craft preparing and general busy work. But it does put me into my daughter's classroom for two hours, twice each month and for that opportunity, I am very grateful.


Frank Thielman has written an insightful commentary on Philippians as a part of The NIV Application Commentary Series published by Zondervan.

In his contemporary application section of 2.5-11, Thielman speaks of how from infancy our nature is to urge others to meet our needs. A crying baby is evidence of desire to have an unmet need satisfied. For infants, their cries are a part of their survival instinct; for adults, our cries for comfort are often little more than evidence of our fallen nature. As Paul points out to the Philippians in 2.1-4, reigning in the desire to be the center of our world and experiencing personal discomfort and unsatisfied desires so that we might serve others, putting their needs ahead of our own, is inherent in the call to be like Jesus.

Thielman takes this fundamental insight and applies it on a corporate level with a penetrating conviction in a series of paragraphs that relate to modern-day congregations, specifically in the area of capital campaigns and building projects:

"With our minds assaulted by this kind of abusive power (the power to dominate rather than serve others) day after day, it is easy for us and the churches we represent to think that in our own way it is acceptable to dominate others in order to achieve our ends. It is easy to see this in advocates of the 'prosperity gospel' who enrich themselves by preying on the fears and superstitions of their followers about withholding or giving money to God. But we should probably ponder whether the same principles are at work in some church building campaigns and membership drives. Are these genuine efforts to see the gospel advance, or are they ways of enhancing the prestige and comfort of our own group?

Several diagnostic questions might help in determining whether such programs originate in good motives or in motives unworthy of the gospel:

1.) Is this strategy designed to meet the need for every sector of human society to hear the gospel or only for those parts of society with which I feel comfortable?

2.) Would the poorest person in the city assume that the new church building was a place for him or her, or would that thought probably not even occur?

3.) Do evangelism teams give more effort to affluent neighborhoods than to poverty-stricken communities?

If honest answers to questions like these reveal that we are building and recruiting for our own social group, then it becomes difficult to tell whether at the deepest level our concern is for the advancement of the gospel or only for making our own lives more comfortable by providing ourselves with more pleasant quarters and gaining legitimacy among our peers" (129-30).