How do you keep your worship production budget in line with kingdom work? This is a question that should constantly be in the mind of church leadership–especially today when audio gear, staging, lighting, etc. can quickly run up a huge expense for the local church. Excellence is important, but in these times, we can pour tremendous resources into achieving our dreams while mission causes need more funding. How much is too much to spend on worship production? Pastor J.D. Greear, pastor of Summit Church recently discussed this in an excellent blog post:

I hear it said a lot that because God deserves our best (which he does), everything we do on the weekend should have the highest quality—music, vidoes, lights, etc. Our performance should out-dazzle rock concerts and makes MTV producers drool.

I certainly can appreciate the sentiment, as God does deserve our best.  Jesus told us that everything we do we should do as unto the Lord.  But there are 3 counter-balancing realities to go along with that. The first is that we are people of limited resources, and for every dollar we spend on making something excellent on the weekend, that’s one less dollar we can give away to ministry for the sake of seeing the gospel spread through our city and the world. Jesus did not intend for us to spend the majority of our money on enhancing our production, He told us to give it away for the broken. We should spend our money cognizant of what Jesus really cares about. To spend all our money on production at the expense of the orphan, the poor and the lost would certainly offend him. In other words, our top-notch lighting system, while effective at drawing a crowd, might be (in some situations) deeply offensive to Jesus.

This is not to say we can’t ever spend a portion of our money on our production, or that in some cases it is a strategic and wise investment. It certainly can’t be. But we must do so in balance with the command to give ourselves away for the poor.

The second is that Jesus did not tell us that the power of our ministries would come from our soundboards. The real, life-changing “wow” factor of the church is not in its programs or performances, but in its members living together with the love and generosity of Christ. That’s what really opens the eyes of community to the gospel. You can impress people with your programming, but true lasting change comes only through the preached word and seeing the gospel lived out in a church. Building an audience and producing true, lasting disciples whose fruit remains are not the same.

In 1 Corinthians 1 Paul explained that he deliberately chose not to do his ministry with the “technological wow factor” of his day, which was Greek oratorical flourish.  He says, “I did not come to you in wisdom.” In those days, pre-technology, if you wanted to pack a stadium, get a Greek orator. It was their equivalent of our emotive worship experiences. And Paul is not against that, per se—Apollos, after all, was described as an eloquent man, meaning he had that ability. But Paul knew the real, lasting power to change lives was in the preached word, not in emotive oratory or savvy production.

It’s not that have to choose either the word/incarnational church or technology. We can seek both. Just don’t make the mistake of thinking the real power is in the technology.

The third reality goes along with the second–real, lasting fruit occurs through the development of leaders within the church. I think it is unwise to spend an inordinate amount of money getting the programming to top quality if its done at the expense of equipping and empowering people to lead in ministry in the community. The Apostles’ strategy was not building facilities or pulling off performances, but in making disciples. Again, that’s not to say we shouldn’t do top-quality performances or build facilities, just that they should not be at the expense of making disciple-leaders of our congregation. We should seek to pursue these objectives with the weight given to each in the Bible.

I invite your comments.