Thursday, October 8, 2009

Church Health: When NOT to spend $90k on an organ

The vast majority of churches in the United States have them. Most church members wouldn’t know how to operate one. You risk your life if you leave your cup of coffee on top of them. They are emblazoned with the nameplate of the benefactor who donated them. It takes several brutish men to change their location.

No, I am NOT talking about the media center copy machine.

There was a time when an organ was considered against good taste, at best, and an instrument of the devil, at worst, especially when used in the church (gasp!) in which case the devil himself was attempting to sabotage the saints with the sort of frivolous diversion that characterized the theaters from whence they came.

Now, we say that about drum sets.

Perennial debates about how to spend resources in the church abound. Some things must be paid: salaries, insurance, licenses, mortgages. Other things fall within the discretion and wisdom of the church: how much to contribute to the Cooperative Program (for Southern Baptists), how much to give to local missions, how much to provide in local benevolence, and so forth.

Whether to spend $90,000 for repairs to an organ that is as old as the church is, contrary to sentiment, optional. That is, having an organ is not necessary for the ministry of the church.

Some will contend that the organ is like the furnace or the roof and must be maintained in order to be good stewards of the church’s physical plant. Yet an organ is merely a musical instrument, and if the furnace has outlived its usefulness and would cost more to repair than it’s worth, the church would consider buying a new HVAC instead.

Some will content that the people expect the church to have an organ and need it for worship. Perhaps that is why God broke the organ in the first place.

The decision to have an organ, or to fix one that’s broken, is certainly an individual church’s to make. But the church should consider other ways that $90,000 could be used to further God’s kingdom. For that money, the church could easily support two or three foreign missionaries for a year. It could purchase thousands of Gideon bibles, hundreds of copies of the Jesus film, or support many children in poverty-stricken areas of the world through organizations such as Compassion International.

Ninety-thousand dollars to hear wind blow through a bunch of pipes, or to hear the wind of the gospel of salvation blow through unreached areas of the world? It’s really not much of a choice.

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