Rich Church Poor Church

*Before everything, bagyo nanaman. Expect power failure and water supply interruption. We only have rice until the next two days and vegetables until three days. Our LPG gas has run out sana hindi magbrown out.

Another typhoon another lesson...?

I'm publishing this incompletely because I feel that baka magbrownout. As usual my very slow Internet connection is slowing me down. Don't judge the text before I reach my conclusion. 

Were churches ever meant to become this monolithic, influential and rich? 

Some congregations actually feel like they’re “franchised” and "branded" in the same manner as businesses. One moment, there was nothing or just a small 'humble' group, the next pops out a brand new building with all the shiny bells, whistles and air-conditioning. Then another. Then another. Parang jollibee.

But again let’s delve back on the definition of 'church'. News Advent, a ‘Catholic Encyclopedia’ website defines it as:
The term church (Anglo-Saxon, cirice, circe; Modern German, Kirche; Swedish, Kyrka) is the name employed in the Teutonic languages to render the Greek ekklesia (ecclesia), the term by which the New Testament writers denote the society founded by Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Society. Congregation. Assembly. Group of people worshiping and following Jesus Christ.

Yes, it can also mean the building. But imagine for instance, a place like Syria. Imagine a Christian church there that was obliterated by war. Let’s say the building was bombed by the Russian, French, American and German air forces all at the same time. The building is gone, but what if the people are still around in the neighborhood?

The church stands if the people are still there even if the building is gone.

So if the church 'is the people', and not just the official organization or the building then it’s possible to have rich churches in the sense that it’s possible that the group will have rich and influential members.

Rich Church

Everything spiffy, has air conditioning, fancy lights, sound system, music band, production team, staff, screen projector, huge financial wherewithal, security personnel - primarily due to founding members capacity and outside contribution from foreign entities. 

Location of the church building is prime commercial or residential lot, mall. Accessible, with ample parking.

Lots of expats and youth going to 'good schools'.  Primary base is Filipino middle class yuppies, professionals, college students, businessmen and government employees, leaders. Celebrities and politicians. Usually, two English services, one Filipino service in the afternoon. 

Members pay tithe (10% of gross income as income is received, theoretically on a voluntary basis, but there are churches express this as dogma) PLUS Love Offering, Offering, Gift, Scholarship, Building Fund, Mission work, etc.

Personal problems of individual members are resolved through prayer requests, testimonies given, financial miracles happen - except, (except with pointer finger raised) miraculous healing. (This is important, I'll discuss later).

Retreats and spiritual activities are held in 'nice' places. 

Generally, membership problems run the gamut of middle class family problems. This includes business problems, personal problems related to relationships, rebellious teenage children, academics, financial provision, health, business related concerns, substance abuse, etc.

I've read somewhere that some churches have investments in some major blue chip corporations and in the stock market. I leave it up to you to be scholarly to search on your own.

Poor Church

Services are held in members' homes. As the group grows bigger, they look for a bigger spot. Warehouse, garage, whatever. 

Member base is blue collar workers, unemployed, employees, small businesses, farmers, barangay level politicians, occasional white collar - try to imagine a lawyer or a doctor attending a poor church. It's rare.

Tithing is the same at 10% on a voluntary basis, but the base of income is smaller. Problems can sometimes overwhelm members, leading churches to shut down or break up. 

Problems are very similar to rich church problems except the issues are scaled. For instance, whereas rich church members' problems can involve business closure or financial insolubility, poor church members' problems can involve a 20,000 peso loan from loan sharks, involvement of children in petty theft, substance abuse and contrasting problems with rich churches but on a smaller scale.

Matthew 19:21

The Rich Young Man
20The young man said to Him, "All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?" 21Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."

Luke 12:23

33"Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys. 34"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Mark 10:20

The Rich Young Man
20And he said to Him, "Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up." 21Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, "One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." 22But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.…

So What?
Pros and Cons
We have to go back to the objective and aim of founding a church - any church, Catholic, Protestant, whatever. Atheists and agnostics take note. 

With orderly lives comes peace. With peace comes prosperity. 
As I have written before, religion is not the cause of war - it's mainly used as a reason to justify it. It's used by influential and Machiavellian political leaders to justify killing or dying to people they would send out to battle. When you're on the battlefield, I assume that a lot of war activity is actually about waiting. Hold this position, wait for orders, wait for supplies. The action that we see in movies is maybe about less than 10% of war. What do soldiers do when they're waiting out there on the field? I suppose most of them talk, but in the quiet moments, they think. In their misery, they think about what they're doing. They think about whether the justifications for what they're doing is right and wrong. Take this away from a soldier and see what happens.
The ten commandments, though very controversial in modern secular states and in particular the U.S. judiciary, was not founded out of thin air. The Bible and some interpretation leads us to believe that it was given to Moses with lightning and thunders galore. 

But I see it now as a natural reaction of Moses when he saw the behavior of the Israelites after they were liberated from Egypt. 

The Golden Calf

32 When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods[a] who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”
Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods,[b] Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”
When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord.” So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.

In short, nag-fiesta sila. They had a feast. Some interpretations actually note that the key word in Exodus 32:6 is "to play". In, the interpretation of "they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry was taken to mean they indulged in indecent dancing and sexual orgies." (Source)

This is also reflected in's pulpit commentary,

"And rose up to play. This "play" was scarcely of a harmless kind. The sensualism of idol-worship constantly led on to sensuality; and the feasts upon idol-sacrifices terminated in profligate orgies of a nature which cannot be described." (Source)
The context, take note of the emphases I put on the boldfaced words:

The Israelites having been freed from a literal slavery in the land of Egypt, and having been left to their own devices in the absence of moral leadership in the form of Moses, became enslaved to themselves, this time to a form of idolatry in the form of the golden calf. They ate, drank and made merry. 

"Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you will die." Sounds familiar?

Without the ten commandments and in the absence of Moses, this is what they did. Hence, they wandered around the desert far longer than they should have before they could reach the promised land. 

Order came from the ten commandments...

Again, with order came peace, and with peace came from prosperity. Churches and religions were established to bring order to personal lives and then later on to social groups. Remember, that in the absence of the law, these social groups degenerated into all forms of idolatry and bondage to sin (mostly sexual in nature and reflected in the labor of people). 

I understand that I'm beginning to write somewhat incoherently, but the truth of the matter cannot be denied. Without a God mandated order imposed through the law, people would revert to this kind of pagan like and hedonistic behavior. With the weakening of churches, we are beginning to see this degeneration again. (Suddenly we have leaders who brag about killing, brag about cussing the Pope, brag about womanizing - what's scarier is that people cheered said candidate on.)

We see this in secular societies that have turned their backs on God's law. They claim to do so in the name of absolute freedom - but in exchange and in truth they have bonded themselves to sin or disobedience with varying consequences.

Name me a nation that does not have laws.
~ o ~
My point is, churches that grew "blessed/rich" should be the manifestation of that order. 

In my own humble personal opinion, any church should not start out like it was franchised like a business opportunity. I understand the basis for doing so that God's word may be more efficiently spread. Pastors need to be fed, missionaries cannot teleport or fly in burning and flying chariots, cement does not manufacture itself, precious real estate doesn't just get offered.

But having a church that feels artificial, creates a wrong impression and brings people with the wrong expectations and mindset. It creates a form of elitism that borders on arrogance and pride.  

Rich churches tend to become like elite, business clubs. Maybe not in actual reality, but in appearance to the seculars.

Poor churches

I have vague ideas of how poor churches start out.

I haven't seen one or been to one in a long time. I can only imagine. I can only imagine that there are no rich trendsetting, influential and powerful members.

I can imagine that there's no airconditioning.

I can imagine that there are many problems that are beyond solving by the equally poor pastor. I can imagine that there would be a lot of sad stories.

But think about it, there's nothing wrong about poor churches - in the same way that there's nothing wrong about rich churches 
Except, (I wanted to boldface this but the preceding sentence is already boldfaced).

There's nothing wrong about both EXCEPT the perception that both create. Now is that important? After all, Christianity should be Christianity should be Christianity.

But in today's modern society, we cannot help how people perceive us especially to those who don't know us.

I think applying marketing and business precepts to religion is just plain questionable if not wrong.

Come on?!

You are using the law of attraction to find more rich believers?

The subject is very much debatable and my reasoning at this juncture is not infallible. (Another thing I haven't touched upon here is the trickle down strategy. Influence the influencers so that there would be a trickle down effect along the economic and social strata.)

I said there's nothing wrong about rich churches, because through their own context, they're not rich, they're "blessed". They're blessed because their way of living is correct - there. (I fixed it)

But if you have a pre-made, seemingly "franchised" relatively and materially successful congregation you are selectively targeting the population!

And it shows. 

Christ's walk was one of suffering and prosperity should be in spirit and in life. The rewards should be in the other life.

I somewhat recall having a conversation that goes like this, "Oh you know, this celebrity attends at this church."

I wanted to say, "I don't care." but instead opted to say, "Ah, okay, ganun din pala sila?"

Yes, Christians whose walks are blameless and righteous will never see their kids begging for bread. But the shallowness, posturing and materiality that I see today, is just, too strange a phenomenon.

That's how I can describe it.

My wife was right, "masyado maka-mundo". 

Will Poor Churches Eventually Become Rich? 

Maybe. Maybe not. Should they? Does it matter? Let's go back to "order brings about peace and prosperity". Families with blameless walks would tread a path to better and improved lives. In the same way that churches that bring about order in their members lives would do the same.

I've seen it.

But the process is gradual and even generational.

It does not happen overnight. I don't think that it should be artificial.

P.S. I know that a lot of these statements are not perfectly grounded. As always, I would appreciate any corrections or adjustments to this current schema.