$130 Million Dallas Mega Church To Open In March
Friday, February 15, 2013
Think about this number for a second: $130 million. That's an enormous amount of money. To put it in perspective, a person making $250K per year -- which is not a small income -- would have to work 520 years to amass $130 million. So we're not talking small change here.
And so when I learned that the notorious conservative Baptist pastor Robert Jeffress is opening his new $130 million mega-church in Dallas this March, I was rather disturbed. I can think of far, far more worthy things to do with that much money than putting it into the construction of a new mega-church. Because we really need more mega churches, right?
According to the Christian Post article (linked above), the 500,000 square foot campus (that's 8.5 football fields) features "a high-tech 3,000-seat Worship Center, a five-story Horner Family Center complete with children's and youth classrooms, a gymnasium and three age-appropriate indoor playgrounds, and a seven-story parking garage, among other things." It is, evidently, the largest church building project in modern history.
The new First Baptist Church of Dallas campus will be part of an effort to revitalize downtown Dallas, which recently included the debut of several multimillion-dollar museums, theaters and parks.
Tom Leppert, a member of the congregation who was the Mayor of Dallas when the project was first announced, noted at the start of the announcement of the construction project in 2009 that: "This is a critical and important investment in downtown Dallas ... It will have an impact on this community and what we're trying to accomplish of creating more of an urban setting that is vibrant and exciting and brings people downtown..."
Maybe it's me. Maybe I've just become cynical toward mega-churches and their intentions. Or maybe my feelings are shared by many others who cannot help but feel mightily uncomfortable with a church's purpose being directly tied to commerce and economics.
But what else could've been done with $130 million besides building a massive religious complex?
According to FeedingAmerica.org, 18.5% of Texas households between 2007 and 2011 were food insecure (a word I despise, so how about we just call it "living with hunger"). That's a total of 1.6 million households (calculated from statistics at the U.S. Census Bureau, which indicates there are 8.6 million households in Texas). With $130 million, every one of those 1.6 million households in the state of Texas could've been given $81. That's not a lot of money. But it would have helped feed hundreds of thousands of hungry people and hungry kids. At the very least, it could have given them their "bread for the day." (see Matthew 6:9-13, TNIV) And as far as I'm concerned, feeding a child's hungry belly for a day is far more worthy than investing in a city's long term commercial interests.
Now, if we were to focus only on hungry households in Dallas, the amount that could've been given to them would be significantly higher. If Jeffress wants to help Dallas, he should help feed the hungry of Dallas with his $130 million.
Of course, there are many other important human causes worthy of receiving $130 million, such as combating child abuse, or advocating against child slavery, or bettering children's education, or helping abused and battered women. But helping hungry children is a big one, and a really important one.
And nowhere did we see Jeffress make any mention of "the least of these" among us.
So let's just come right out with it: a massive $130 million church built for the purpose of economic development (and Jeffress' vanity, let's be honest) is not only absurd. It is immoral.
But it strikes me that materialism has become such a regular part of everyday life that few people will understand why this is even an issue.
Your point about materialism is right-on. The mega-church complex alone is a tribute to materialism. And it's being celebrated as some sort of religious triumph in the name of God.
Somehow this strikes me as worse than materialism.