But. This Isn’t Consumer Church. Honest!

kinnon —  November 3, 2009 — 14 Comments

Two Things!


First, the Hanster pointed to this wonderfilled story where at Lighthouse Church of All Nations YOU COULD WIN $500 dollars if your seat number is drawn from a bag during the service. Two other lucky contestants congregants each win $250.

(Pastor) Willis concedes the cash prize is a gimmick to fill the pews. But he's unapologetic about the plan, because it's working. On a typical Sunday, his church draws about 1,600 people to its three Sunday services. But since the money giveaway started, about five weeks ago, the congregation has grown to about 2,500 each week, he said. The money for the giveaway comes from the church offering. [emphasis added]

Meanwhile, friends 'n' neighbors, in that severly underchurched area, known as Dallas/Fort Worth, First Baptist in Dallas is building "a $130 million expansion featuring a 3,000-seat worship center." [via] And one of the important things being solved by this $130 million expansion, PARKING!

Q: Will parking be improved?
A: Parking is an absolute priority in the plan.


Oh. Oh. And they've got a glowing cross, with a shallow pool, for…? I guess it's to remind them of Golgotha… or maybe not.

At the heart of the campus will be a towering stone water tower topped with a luminescent cross. The shallow pool at the bottom will be surrounded by green space, providing a common area for downtown residents and guests.

ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY MILLION DOLLARS. Are you people out of your frakin' minds.

Let me put this into perspective. I have a friend (from Texas no less) who builds 800 seater churches in East Africa for $60,000 US – with the local parishioners coming up with between 25 and 30% of that budget. (The church building budget when Imbi and I had our class in Kenya produce a video for them back in '02 was $50,000). They also build schools, orphanages and hospitals for the same kind of reasonable prices – using all East African labour and materials.

Which means, for one GREEN 3,000 seater church in the truly underserved Dallas market, we could build over TWO THOUSAND 800 seater churches in East Africa. First Baptist's decision makes complete sense to me – especially when you consider,

The design is filled with messages about our church. The glass, the water, the light and the spaciousness of the plan speak of openness, transparency and spiritual refreshment. In a way, the glass walls have an evangelistic effect: people walking by have a view in from the street and feel drawn in. The glass also unifies the architecture of the church by extending the aesthetic started by the Criswell Center, which was built in 2006, and thus capitalizes on our $50 million investment in that multi-purpose facility. As for long-term cost, modern technologies allow vast use of glass with surprising energy efficiency.

One might think all these asshats clowns took me seriously when I wrote this.



A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

14 responses to But. This Isn’t Consumer Church. Honest!

  1. Dang it! Everything is big in Texas, it’s just God’s way Bill. Seriously! it makes me sick.

  2. I’d siggest another message: By making the car parking a priority, it says:

    1. People coming here are from another neighbourhood.
    2. We don’t care about you, our neighbours having to breathe the pollution from our cars
    3. We aren’t really interested in you if you don’t drive here.

    But then I’m a liberal green treehugger, what do I know?

  3. Wow it’s as if some of you have never been to downtown Dallas, but feel qualified to judge from a distance. Public transportation in this town sucks and there are very few people who live in the downtown area who aren’tmulti-millionaires (the Perot family owns the penthouse at the W hotel downtown.)

    Parking in general sucks for every business downtown and First Baptist is not immune to this. So making parking a priority is an absolute necessity.

    The land costs alone reach into the millions. The architecture requirements to fit the area undoubtedly costs them a ton of cash. And the church’s annual operating budget is already well into the tens of millions of dollars.

    As for Andy’s comments: Texans use almost no public transportation; we drive everywhere. Climate is not conducive to walking. Dallas is very spread out, not compact like cities in the northeast or in Europe. In short, even the “treehuggers” drive almost everywhere in this town.

    Could they have expanded their facilities for cheaper? Maybe, but First Baptist’s situation is unique, so I would suggest keeping that in mind amidst the outrage.

    FWIW, I live in Dallas and attend a small church of about 200 people, and I have never attended First Baptist Dallas.

  4. Hey Gabe not judging bro’, but try and cram the idea of a 130 million dollar church expansion to the context of what the gospels, and the Kingdom are about. I was great at forcing things to fit when I was kid, for pieces of a puzzle into place even when they didn’t fit. Try as we might, I don’t think we can manipulate that one into place.

  5. Gabe, if nobody lives in downtown Dallas why build a church there?

  6. Jason,

    Thats simple, it is a central location for a lot of people all around Dallas to gather.

  7. 130 million dollars. That is all that needs to be said. So sorry, you Dallas boys, you cannot justify/contextualize that kind of spending. That is outrageous.

  8. Just a quick comment by a MEMBER of First Baptist Dallas here– not all of us in the congregation are happy with this. The Criswell Building–had to tear the old one down to build the new one– is not paid for yet, and the old sanctuary is not over flowing. The only thing going for a new sanctuary is that the old one is over 100 yrs old and leaks like a sieve. IF you know about the soil here, the old one is not just ‘run down’, it is a constant upkeep-er in a big way. As far as the new one needing to be so expensive and glassy…. no comment from me. I didn’t vote yes.

  9. My first impression on seeing this building is that if you took away the cross, I’d think it was a casino.

  10. Thanks stillthere. I went to the web page and watched all the videos of it. You have a strategic place in the city; glad God has you there. Criswell had a great ministry. But that is a whole lot of money; the videos talk about other buildings in the Dallas core, but our role in the body of Christ is not to keep up with the Joneses.

    All God’s best to you down there.

  11. That’s a lot of money… they believe they might do the building debt free; requesting offerings above normal tithes. If that’s a priority the congregation is willing to support, then it’ll happen. The location is very “downtown” and does appear to require parking garages. The church shows ~70 people on staff as well, so this is a rather large organization. It’s a lot to spend on anything (to consider the impact), but I can’t judge the church’s effectiveness on the people that it ministers to in Dallas or beyond. They might be reaching out and doing God’s work in amazing ways, and I’m not here to judge that. I hope their work glorifies the Kingdom in the lives of those they reach.

  12. Even if the money is raised debt-free there is still the question of opportunity cost, as Bill points out in the original post.

    Even in a major downtown core it does not cost $130 mil to make a parking garage, an auditorium, and a couple of offices and a few common areas. Let me put this in other terms: The American Airlines Center (also in Dallas) cost four times as much to build ($420 million adjusted for inflation is about $512 million) but holds seven times as many people (some sitting in luxury boxes) while having facilities needed to host premiere hockey and basketball franchises as well as concerts and conventions.

  13. Funny, today I posted a link to a story about First Baptist and the 130 mil on my Facebook page. I’ll have to add yours as well. Its in Dallas, so I wonder if there will be a retractable roof in the dome, uh, I mean ceiling, and a gigantic video monitor at the 50 yard line, uh, I mean over the pulpit. 🙂

  14. WWJP… Where Would Jesus Park?


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