The Richest Church in Town Wouldn't Donate a Camera for a Missionary!

Yes, this really is a true story.

The following is anonymous but here at UK Apologetics we know who the writer is and he is a formerly very active preacher, now mostly retired. The large congregation is in a large British city and is - just as he writes - almost certainly the biggest and wealthiest church in that city. We give this account here not on the level of carrying 'tittle-tattle' or gossip but to encourage our readers to understand that large and successful churches (that is, "successful" at one level), are not necessarily places which are the most loving or where the Holy Spirit is most active. The church which is referred to was once the UK Apologetics recommended congregation of attendance in a major Welsh city, but we have now removed them from that position due to this and several other factors. Indeed, we have learned (very lamentably) to no longer recommend any particular congregations.

"For a while my wife and I attended the biggest and wealthiest church in our city. Five hundred attended some Sundays and about three hundred of them were members. We attended for three years, we knew that some things there were not right but you will never find perfection in any church - right? The church were spending large sums of money on making a huge old church hall just right for a 21st century congregation. It seemed to us that no expense was being spared.

But the church was certainly not perfect - we knew for a fact that new attenders would not be invited back anywhere for a meal with other members or attenders for at least two years. How did we know? Because that is what happened with us! So apart from a few friendly 'nods of the head' on a Sunday morning, this was not a friendly church. Still, the preaching was certainly good and it was always nice to say hello and shake hands with the preacher as we left (why do so many churches now drop this very nice custom?).

At that time we were in touch with a Christian missionary in Indonesia - now, that is a most dangerous place to be a missionary. Christians have been regularly murdered by Islamic groups in that country for the last ten years or more. The day came when this missionary contacted me and asked me if I could obtain a good camera for his son to use in order to make just a little money for the family. He explained that it could be a used camera, a brand new one was not needed. Well, foolish me, I thought this would be a nice request to put before the large church we were attending. After all, surely they would be only too keen to help a missionary in such a country where it is dangerous to even admit being a Christian? From my point of view, by asking our large church to donate a good but not new camera, I felt that we were giving somebody in that church the opportunity to bring a blessing upon themselves! But - in my naievity - I thought that when our senior pastor knew of the request, he would immediately donate a camera on behalf of the church - least they could do; I did not think the church would let it go through the process of asking somebody to donate a camera during 'announcements.'

I went straight to the senior pastor with the request. He seemed surprised and almost a little annoyed that I had asked him. Wasn't that odd? No matter, I thought, perhaps he was just having a bad day - don't we all get them?

But the pastor did suggest that I formally put the request in to the church office. I did so but was soon given a 'dressing down' by the lady who mostly seemed to be in charge of the office. She made it plain to me that my request was most unusual and it was not the sort of thing which they would normally do. However, I was given the impression that they would allow my request to the congregation on just this one occasion. Was this disinterest not really odd? Yes, for a Christian congregation and a wealthy one at that, the response I was getting genuinely stunned both my wife and myself. Well, I wrote out the request which I thought would be given a few times during 'announcements' - although the pastor had already shown huge disinterest as far as he was concerned. In fact, the request only appeared once in the Sunday morning printed 'handout' which people were given as they entered the meeting hall; I knew from observation and experience that the large majority of attenders only checked who the speakers were and what the sermon topics were for that day and that this information was given at the front of the handout. Unfortunately, my request for somebody to donate a camera to a missionary's family appeared in the middle of this handout; when I noted that, I was not too optimistic. Still (I reasoned) surely this notice would appear in the Sunday morning handout for about 3-4 weeks and perhaps get mentioned during pulpit announcements at least once or twice??

Well, the notice only ever appeared once and was never given during oral announcements from the lectern! Moreover, absolutely nobody ever came to me and asked if the request was successful. Nobody seemed interested in the slightest!

So the camera which, in my naive innocence, I had initially thought that the pastor would insist on donating on behalf of the congregation never came by that route.

The experience taught my wife and I a lot about that large and wealthy church. An interesting point about this place of worship was that while it was a true evangelical, anti-charismatic and anti-liberal place of worship as regards preaching from the pulpit, liberal theology seemed to be usually assumed among its members and was evident in one of its Bible study groups which I attended for a while.

The absolute final straw occurred when a young lady who attended with us (she was fostered and we were trying to encourage her along a Christian path), was falsely accused and insulted by a long-standing member of that church; my wife and I were (understandably) furious but the pastor seemed disinterested and refused to become involved. We severed all links between us and this group and were very convinced that we had done the right thing."
DAB. 2006.