This section is from the "How To Pay Church Debts And How To Keep Churches Out Of Debt" book, by Rev. Sylvanus Stall. Amazon: How To Pay Church Debts And How To Keep Churches Out Of Debt.
The policy of another class of over-prudent officers is to assume the unprovided-for debts, without submitting them to the congregation for payment. This course, although slower, accomplishes the disastrous result nevertheless surety. The congregation grows into an indifference concerning the affairs of the church, caring little or nothing whether the amounts paid annually by the officers be much or little. Gradually the benevolence of the individual members becomes so dwarfed by the injudicious liberality of the officers, that when death, removal, or loss of property throws the church upon the resources of its members, it at once becomes evident that the congregation has lost the grace of giving. Officers should give to the support of the church, but should not be allowed to do all the giving, any more than all the praying, singing, or other worship.
IV. Another class of church debts find their origin in the undue and unnecessary extravagance displayed in the erection of some churches.
What we mean by extravagance is that expenditure, which, whether necessary or unnecessary, creates obligations beyond the possibility of the congregation to pay. What is extravagance to one congregation may be parsimony and meanness for another; and likewise that undue withholding from the Lord which renders some congregations parsimonious and mean, would entitle others to respect for their economy and prudence. We are not in sympathy with those who are unwilling to render to God the richest treasures of architecture and beauty; the treasures of the nation were made tributary to the building of a temple where should dwell the radient presence of Jehovah. Forty-eight thousand tons of gold and silver, with sparkling gems and jeweled stones, wrought and polished by men of greatest skill, were required in the construction of the building of which God was the architect.
A cheap church in a rich community is an open and public proof of the poverty of religious sentiment and Christian life. In beauty, cost, and comfort, God's house should be superior in each community to the dwellings of men. God demanded that the offerings made to him should be without spot and without blemish - they were to be the best. The richest and most costly church that any congregation can build, without incurring debt, will tend to beget charity and foster piety, rather than to stimulate vanity and pride. There are those always deprecating any considerable expenditure in church building, who plead the necessities of the poor and the requirements of missions; and it is only to be regretted that while these persons contribute but little for churches, they give less for either home or foreign missions. The feeling which they feign is a mere pretext - an excuse for not giving.
But while all churches should be models of beauty and richness in the communities in which they are located, they should vet not be so far in advance, as to render the cost beyond the ability of the congregation to pay. A church edifice is simply a means to an end, and that end is the salvation of souls, and the saving of men. Where this object is lost sight of, the church edifice may be, and often is, made a great impediment to spiritual growth and religious life. When the minds of the pastor and the church officials are perplexed and burdened with financial embarrassments, and their best energies exhausted to meet accruing obligations, but little strength is left for the performance of other duties which are the heart and spirit of the Christian church. Many a minister becomes a mere financial agent, being despoiled of usefulness because of perplexing church debts, entailed upon him and his successors by some visionary enthusiasts.
V. Some church debts find their origin in the fact that often those whose occupation and experience qualify them to act on the building committee, plead the pressure of business, and are unwilling to assume the responsibilities of the position. As a result, the work is committed into the hands of those less competent, and not infrequently is the minister, already overburdened with the labors of his pulpit and the duties of his pastorate, compelled to accept the burden, or consent to see the project fail. He is compelled to serve until the work is complete, and then almost universally to be pressed into service as a scape-goat for the sins of the committee, or the congregation, while another is called to stand in the temple he has erected.
Now, we would not say one word against those whom, as a class, we regard as among the most schol-arly, self-sacrificing and devout in our land. Nor do we speak but to their praise, when we say, that the very character of their calling and study tends to make them less proficient as business men. True, the ministry can produce some men as competent to supervise vast enterprises, and control large interests, as are to be found in any other of the walks of life. These, however, are of those who possess a natural business turn, or have received a thorough business education before entering the ministry. To their abilities as preachers, they unite the desirable qualifications of good financiers and excellent managers. There are some such in the ministry, but they are not in the majority. Most ministers arc altogether without any considerable experience in commercial life, and for want of that knowledge which conies from practice and experience, would be but poorly qualified to engage in any financial or commercial enterprise for themselves, and, as a matter of course, are but poorly qualified to superintend similar interests for a congregation, composed of men skilled in the various departments of trade and commerce.
However desirable it might be to make a committeeman of the minister, because of his knowledge of the requirements of a church building, its acoustic pro-protions, architecture, etc. - of his fund of learning, and knowledge of other church edifices, and of his interested, and perhaps more unbiased judgment than any other man in the congregation, yet he can only occasionally be selected on account of his business tact, or financial ability. Most ministers will render more useful and efficient service as a balance wheel to the committee, rather than as a driving wheel for the congregation.
The men entrusted with the superintendence of a new enterprise should be of those who, of all the congregation, are best qualified by knowledge and experience, and for no personal considerations, either of business or pleasure, should they regard it possible for them to escape the reasonable and moral obligations they are under to accept the responsibilities of the position. If they have talents fitting them for the work, God will demand why these talents have not been exercised, as well in the church as in the world. Ordinarily a church will last for more than a genera-tion, and but few men are ever upon a building committee a second time. Each committee enters upon a work with which they are entirely unacquainted. While judicious, and perhaps men well chosen, they may never before have erected a building of any kind, and concerning the character and cost of material needed in constructing a church, know almost absolutely nothing, because their attention has never been called to that subject. If they were called upon to build a second church, after the experience they have had in building the first, they would be able to do it both better and cheaper.