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Old 04-28-2006, 06:11 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Ban on big Churches Again

Quote:
Palm Beach County commissioners will meet today to consider imposing limits on church size -- a move religious-rights organizations warn would violate the right to free religious exercise.

Pastors and congregants are leading a charge against the county, sending letters of protest to commissioners and contacting religious-rights groups to take up the fight on their behalf. The proposals, which were introduced in January, reflect a growing national controversy as communities face off with churches over their ever-expanding congregations in residential neighborhoods and the resulting traffic congestion.

''For us, it's like a First Amendment right, the right to assembly,'' said Chris Clifton, a worship minister at Community of Hope United Methodist Church, a growing church whose plans to build a 500-seat sanctuary on Okeechobee Boulevard could be affected. ``We would be really restricted in what we could do.''

As megachurches multiply across South Florida, congregations have moved into warehouses, movie theaters, high-school auditoriums and giant commercial spaces, including a converted Target store. Some churches have taken root in residential neighborhoods.

In West Kendall, the Ministerio Internacional El Rey Jesús (the International Ministry of King Jesus), a congregation with 8,000 members, plans to build a 98,000-square-foot sanctuary on Southwest 136th Street.

In Fort Lauderdale, Calvary Chapel, an 18,000-member congregation, recently launched satellite churches in Boca Raton and Plantation after it could no longer fit worshipers in its enormous sanctuary on West Cypress Creek Road.

And in Palm Beach, Christ Fellowship, a church with 20,000 members and three campuses, plans to move into a converted Target store.

A FLORIDA FIRST

Palm Beach is the first Florida county to propose caps on church size, said Mathew Staver, president of the Liberty Counsel, a religious-rights organization that threatened to file suit on churches' behalf if the proposals pass.

Palm Beach County commissioners will discuss today whether they will move forward with the proposals.

If passed, the proposals would limit churches in rural areas to 250 seats and 25,000 square feet, those in suburban areas to 500 seats and 50,000 square feet, and churches in urban neighborhoods areas to 750 seats and 75,000 square feet.

Mounting complaints from residents over traffic and churches in residential neighborhoods led to the proposed zoning changes, said Palm Beach County Zoning Director Jon MacGillis.

''We found that there were some large houses of worship attempting to locate in the middle of residential neighborhoods,'' said Barbara Alterman, director of planning, zoning and building for Palm Beach County. ``What we are trying to do is make a facility like that compatible with residential neighborhoods.''

`DON'T PENALIZE US'

At least 11 churches could be affected by the new zoning rules, Staver said.

Among them is the Church in the Farms, a Jupiter Baptist church with 700 active members. The church -- which had just 30 members when it was founded 11 years ago -- bought 10 acres along Indiantown Road and plans to build a 45,000-square-foot building with an auditorium for 1,000. The building plans could be rejected when they come up for review under the new proposals, which limit rural churches to 250 seats, said pastor Steve Stewart.

'Our argument as churches and pastors is, `Don't penalize us for being good at what we do,' '' Stewart said.

`NEEDS TO FIT'

Palm Beach residents who favor limits on church expansion say they've been alarmed by both megachurches' growth and smaller congregations that pop up unexpectedly in residential areas.

''Nobody wants to object to a church, but you do have to live with it and it needs to fit with a place,'' said Ken Lassiter, first vice president of the Coalition of West Boynton Beach Residents.

Other cities, including Scottsdale, Ariz., have considered similar measures to check church growth, said Jared Leland, spokesman for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a national religious-rights organization that has been monitoring the Palm Beach County proposals.

Houses of worship are protected from size restrictions by the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, a federal statute passed in 2000 that shields congregations from discrimination in land use.

But with the spread of ''big box'' religion, communities across the country have started cracking down on church growth, Leland said. A 5,000-member church in Montclair, N.J., filed a federal lawsuit charging religious discrimination after New Jersey officials opposed the church's plans to build a 2,500-seat sanctuary, a K-5 school and recreational buildings.

In Broward, a dispute erupted last year over Southwest Ranches closing three roads at its border with Pembroke Pines. Ranches residents held block parties, preventing those attending Abundant Living Ministries from having a direct route. The municipalities eventually arrived at a compromise.

The number of megachurches -- those with membership of 2,000 or more -- has doubled in the past five years to more than 1,200 nationwide, said Scott Thumma, professor of the sociology of religion at the Hartford Institute for Religion Research in Hartford. With 90 megachurches, Florida ranks third behind Texas and California among states with the highest concentration of such churches, Thumma said.

Palm Beach and Broward counties are home to some of Florida's largest megachurches. Bob Coy, pastor of Calvary Chapel in Fort Lauderdale, had to set up overflow halls in the school gym to house additional worshipers during weekend services, which typically draw 22,000. Coy said he worries the Palm Beach proposals could limit growth at his Boca Raton satellite church, which was launched last October and now draws 1,000.

''I'm very disappointed and find it borderline bizarre that anyone would try to cap anything that looks like growth and would be an asset to the community,'' he said
Got this article from the Miami Herald. Okay so here is my POV. It can't be legal. It would be like putting a cap on sporting events or fairs or anything else that people can attend as long as there is room and there is always room at church. I think that the County is going above the constitution on this one. It seems like the constitution can only protect those who are against any kind of organized religion. You can't prary in school. If your church gets too big sorry better downsize. We can't have too many christians in this neighborhood I might not get elected next election. Oh well I say. Yes, I am a christian, however I am also an American and any law that violates the constitution is wrong. Black and White. Well the Supreme court decides that I guess oh well I am babling now. What does everybody else think?
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Old 04-28-2006, 06:15 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Based on some Churchs I've seen, I can understand this.

You wouldn't allow a convention center in some of these locations, and the Churches are often as big, and can be very crowded.

By us there is the Calvary Church, and this thing is farking HUGE. I have no idea what kind of church it is, nor do I care, but when they get out on weekends they need police to direct traffic.
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Old 04-28-2006, 06:39 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Wow, this is a pretty interesting issue. I think that I've got to side with the city on it, though. I don't see how a church's First Amendment protection can trump the city's interest in public welfare, zoning and safety. 5,000 people going in and out of a parking lot every day would be a gigantic mess every Sunday regardless of how it was staggered. As Ustwo pointed out, there's a need for police presence to direct traffic, and the city certainly has the right and the duty to make sure that churches don't outgrow the city's ability to provide a safe and organized entrance and exit to the building. There's also the issue of whether or not the neighbors will allow the parking lots needed, the large structure that would be mostly unused 5 days a week, etc.
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Old 04-28-2006, 06:50 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ustwo
Based on some Churchs I've seen, I can understand this.
Ah...churches on steroids.

Once more...I find myself in agreement with Ustwo. There is a church in Omaha that purchased, converted, and occupies an old Seagate manufacturing plant. Ridiculously large.

I'm all for Freedom of Religion. But...I'm also for zoning laws. They're there for a reason, and that's to keep other people's rights from being infringed. It's all about a little give, and a little take. Flexability. All I see the mega-churches flexing is muscle.
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Old 04-28-2006, 07:28 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Sounds like a sensible zoning law to me, but it might be struck down on first amendment grounds if similarly sized stadiums and such are not also banned. It is generally not permissible to specifically target religious organizations without having a somewhat broader purpose in mind. (Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hileah)

Good idea, if you ask me...
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Old 04-28-2006, 07:51 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill O'Rights
Once more...I find myself in agreement with Ustwo.
Its only a matter of time now, I can already taste your soul.
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Old 04-28-2006, 08:58 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ustwo
Its only a matter of time now, I can already taste your soul.
Bitter...ain't it?
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Old 04-28-2006, 09:39 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Churches don't have the same zoning restrictions that Stadiums, Shopping malls and other commercial/industrial complexes with mass usage do. You can't put a huge Mall in the middle of a snug residential area, because it would completely bung up the traffic, and gobble up limited neighbourhood services.

Traditionally, church congregations were made up of locals, and were naturally built into their neighbourhoods, so there was no need to put the same restrictions. These mega-complexes are different animals entirely, and need tons of space, just like stadiums and big-box retailers.

It's true that zoning restrictions have often been exploited to keep out "them" in the past, and the current model has the good intention of preventing that, but this cap just makes good civic sense.
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Old 04-28-2006, 09:56 AM   #9 (permalink)
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I don't see this as a religious issue at all, it's just zoning and concern for the neighborhood. A huge store like Wal-Mart wouldn't be allowed to be in a residential area, so why should a church? They should have to abide by the same types of rules, even if it means changing some zoning things around to keep them in line. I don't understand how people could take offense to this.
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Old 04-28-2006, 09:58 AM   #10 (permalink)
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maybe instead of focusing on specific church size in neighberhood zones do a maximum building or lot size... need to get the job done without making it church specific
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Old 04-28-2006, 10:01 AM   #11 (permalink)
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To build any building in a city you've got to get several different departments to sign off, grant permits and licenses. I suppose churches aren't any different. If wal-mart is required to construct a parking lot with X amount of spaces and a minimum number of exits leading to different roads, there's no reason churches shouldn't have to. I've seen some rather large churces with only one or two ways into the parking lot. I don't know why they would get approved to build in such a way but a for-profit business can't. Sometimes zoning laws are a good thing. Sometimes the permitting process is a good thing. sometimes.
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Old 04-28-2006, 10:03 AM   #12 (permalink)
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I agree with everyone else above, I'm all for zoning them down to a reasonable size. Unless it's necessary to be this large (i.e., no other ones in reasonable distance for locals to go to), why do they need such gigantic structures. At times I feel like these mega churches just build huge because they can get all that land tax free, why not use it up? Most of the time I think these are unnecessary, because if it's full it's a menace to the locals traffic wise, and if they don't fill up, it's simply wasteful in it's unnecessary size. You can't tell me that each community doesn't have it's own church that those community members can practice in. Seems to me like the religious equivalent of a middle aged dude buying a corvette to show off.
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Old 04-28-2006, 02:29 PM   #13 (permalink)
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A large congregation about half a mile from me in a pretty well spaced out residential area wanted to expand into a church that could seat 2000, and a convention center the size of the Palms Casino in Vegas. They were ready to buy up some open space to cram this in there, but their plan was shot down, but only because it would disturb vernal pools. They just shouldn't build stuff that big across the street from nice houses. A smaller church is OK, but a huge eyesore and a huge convention center? It's just ridiculous. Some churches get out of hand with their huge expansion, especially non-denominational churches. Half of these look like huge cults to me, and they don't even hold the good parts of their religion true. What the hell are they doing unto their neighbors by building two huge buildings in their neighborhood? Certainly not good.

I feel sorry for the people who will need to live near these huge churches. 20,000 people every Sunday would absolutely terrible for the community. Madison Square Garden holds just over 18,000 for a sold-out Rangers game, and this doesn't even include parking.

Coming up next: Church tailgating!
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Old 04-28-2006, 02:34 PM   #14 (permalink)
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There's a church in Plano, TX with a 25,000 member congregation. The service area has stadium seating.

It's pretty insane.

We call it Fort God or the Baptodome and iy can be seen for miles.



Nothing really important to add, I just think some churches are pretty incredible in size.
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Old 04-28-2006, 03:40 PM   #15 (permalink)
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MAybe they should use the money they would have spent making the church massive to .. i dunno.. maybe help some poor people.. maybe feed a few children. I don't really think god needs any more marble and gold churches.
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Old 04-28-2006, 03:49 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Funny, in LA they allowed a huge synagogue to be built in a residential neighborhood in direct violation of the zoning laws pissing off a bunch of homeowners in the area. The courts allowed this because to not allow it was a violation of freedom of religion. Sounds like the above case is another example of the religious double standards in this country: Christians are fair game, others are not. Other examples include the ridiculously large Buddhist temples in the LA area, etc...
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Old 04-28-2006, 03:49 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ObieX
MAybe they should use the money they would have spent making the church massive to .. i dunno.. maybe help some poor people.. maybe feed a few children. I don't really think god needs any more marble and gold churches.
While I am an atheist I've always found such statements to be flawed.

Part of the reason for having a church is to inspire those who attend, to lift up their spirits, and to have a place they can join together to worship god. Even my cold heart has been impressed with some of the great chruches and I can see how they would inspire the faithful.

Remember it is the saving of souls that matters to a Christian church, not feeding children. If you feed every hungry child on the planet but save no souls you have failed utterly.
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Old 04-28-2006, 03:51 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ObieX
MAybe they should use the money they would have spent making the church massive to .. i dunno.. maybe help some poor people.. maybe feed a few children. I don't really think god needs any more marble and gold churches.
They can do whatever they want with their money and most likely they do give alot to the poor. at my old church that's all we did. Donate not just money, but our time and labot as well. Let's not presume what some churches do and don't. Would your opinion apply to buddhist temple, mosques and synagoues as well or just...churches....?

Some mosques, synangogues and buddhist temples are pretty outlandish too.
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Old 04-28-2006, 04:38 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jorgelito
They can do whatever they want with their money and most likely they do give alot to the poor. at my old church that's all we did. Donate not just money, but our time and labot as well. Let's not presume what some churches do and don't. Would your opinion apply to buddhist temple, mosques and synagoues as well or just...churches....?

Some mosques, synangogues and buddhist temples are pretty outlandish too.
Yea my feelings go for them too. I'm a roman catholic so don't think im hating on them specifically. But i do get a special kick out of watching the pope ask people to donate and help the poor while holding a solid gold staff and flanked by elaborate marble pillars on all sides.

I'm not sure how coating the walls of your church with gold leaf can save someone's soul. I find the feeding of the poor and lending that helping hand to be much more inspirational and soul-saving.. but i guess thats just me.
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Old 04-28-2006, 04:39 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jorgelito
They can do whatever they want with their money and most likely they do give alot to the poor. at my old church that's all we did. Donate not just money, but our time and labot as well. Let's not presume what some churches do and don't. Would your opinion apply to buddhist temple, mosques and synagoues as well or just...churches....?

Some mosques, synangogues and buddhist temples are pretty outlandish too.
The problem with huge churches is that there's less of a community feeling. People in a congregation of 500 people are likely to know the pastor and staff quite well, and also feel morally obligated to contribute more to the church, while some people who just go to church out of fear (whether or not they admit it) feel they won't be noticed if they don't contribute when each mass has 25,000 people there.
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Old 04-28-2006, 05:03 PM   #21 (permalink)
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Make em' pay property taxes and I could care less. Around here they don't pay a nickle and keep building bigger and bigger.
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Old 04-29-2006, 08:48 AM   #22 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by splck
Make em' pay property taxes and I could care less. Around here they don't pay a nickle and keep building bigger and bigger.
All legitimate churches are free from taxation. I'm not sure how you prove legitimacy, but I do know that neither the federal or state goverments can charge them any tax. They may also be immune from sales tax, but I'm not as sure about that.
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Old 04-29-2006, 09:19 AM   #23 (permalink)
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A few examples of the legitimacy of the church that wanted this huge convention center and megachurch near me:

They claim membership of around 3,000 for reference with some of the financial figures.

http://www.brcc.org/index.php?id=140
Donate Online! We have a program that automatically takes money from your bank account every week!

http://www.brcc.org/index.php?id=167
http://www.brcc.org/index.php?id=309
"From God’s perspective, GIVING my money Blesses my Life.(Malachi 3:10)
a) God blesses givers by “meeting all their needs” (Philippians 4:18)
b) God blesses givers by letting them see their part in eternal life-change (2 Corinthians 9:12)
c) God blesses givers by showering them with His love and grace (2 Corinthians 9:7)
d) God blesses givers with eternal rewards (Matthew 6:20, 19:29) "

http://www.brcc.org/index.php?id=8
Unfortunately, they have redone their employees titles. About six months ago, when they were attempting their massive expansion, I submitted their staff list to an organization of local citizens fighting their expansion, who sent it to its members. They had more than 15 full time employees under business/financial administrarion.

http://www.brcc.org/index.php?id=32
"Right now we have $841,000 toward the Faith Promise (We need to get to our goal of $980,000)"
This church always seems to have huge amounts of money to spend on things like building a convention center (same title as facilities that double as major league sports stadiums... hmm?)

http://www.brcc.org/index.php?id=31
Church for Young Adults = Christian Rock Concert

http://www.brcc.org/index.php?id=213
What is a Faith Promise pledge?
"...trusting God to provide the funds, and it is a promise to be faithful in giving the money..."

http://www.brcc.org/oscommerce/index.php
This church has an online store.
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Old 04-30-2006, 06:04 PM   #24 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The_Jazz
All legitimate churches are free from taxation. I'm not sure how you prove legitimacy, but I do know that neither the federal or state goverments can charge them any tax. They may also be immune from sales tax, but I'm not as sure about that.
Legitimacy can be proven two ways. one way, the traditional way, is to get on the good side of popular opinion and convince people that you're not in it for the money. The other way, the Scientologist way, is to bombard the IRS with hundreds of millions of dollars of lawsuits until they give up and call you tax-exempt.
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Old 04-30-2006, 07:30 PM   #25 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zodijackylite
The problem with huge churches is that there's less of a community feeling. People in a congregation of 500 people are likely to know the pastor and staff quite well, and also feel morally obligated to contribute more to the church, while some people who just go to church out of fear (whether or not they admit it) feel they won't be noticed if they don't contribute when each mass has 25,000 people there.
I agree. Actually, I think even 500 is a bit too high, if you're just talking regular attenders and not also the twice-a-year-holy-day people. In my experience, you can just about get to know everybody in a body of 200-300, whether it be a church or a company. More than that, there'll be a lot of people who don't know each other and so don't relate well together as a single community. And a church is first and foremost a community, albeit one centered around the worship and observance of a particular deity and its belief system.

When churches get too big they get impersonal. Of course, they can offer lots of programs, and that's what draws a lot of people in: women's groups with free child care, skateboard parks and rock services for the kiddies, on-site espresso bars, low-cost summer camps and retreats, youth groups where the kids really do cool things, state-of-the-art musical and theatrical productions, even fitness centers. And some of the biggest churches even try to maintain the fellowship feeling by fostering small-group ministries within the big organization, groups of 10-20 who meet weekly and get to know each other closely.

Still, thing is, these churches are largely run by paid staffs and a ruling class consisting of the ministry and some top lay people who are valuable in the church ministry, big givers, or both. The little guy _matters_ little in the running of such a giant organization, and is encouraged to be passive. He just has to pay his membership and take what's offered. Yeah, a lot of these megachurches run on the membership system; marketing surveys showed it bothered people a lot less than pledging, _if_ they liked what they were getting for their money.

I'm not condeming this, necessarily, but it's not for me. And I do look forward to seeing how the megachurches do if hard times come and the membership can no longer support the large paid staff that provides all the services. Will the churchgoers just pack it up when the church no longer offers so many perks and goodies? Will they be empowered enough to start volunteering to keep things moving? Or will they care enough to do so? We'll see.

Last edited by Rodney; 04-30-2006 at 07:32 PM..
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Old 05-01-2006, 07:12 AM   #26 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rodney
Will the churchgoers just pack it up when the church no longer offers so many perks and goodies? Will they be empowered enough to start volunteering to keep things moving? Or will they care enough to do so? We'll see.

I went to a church where all but one of the church staff were taken off payroll and worked at the church as volunteers. They all had to get other jobs and yet still continued to volunteer at the church. When hard times ended they came back as paid staff. I can't say this happens at all churches but in this case it worked out just fine. It is not my place to decide when a church ahs become too big or they are just in it for the money. You have to Just decide that you are giving to God and not some church. If they use God's money( if you tithe at all thats who you are giving your money to) for personal gain and not Spiritual gain then they will have to answer to God himself and that is not aplace I would want to be.

I tithe at my local church. A whole ten percent and considering my pay it really aint that much compared to how much they take in every week. Also a way you might know if your church is legitamite is churchs are required every year to post a financial breakdown and kind of explain where the money was spent. if your church cannot provide you with this you may want to determine if you are in a good church. A church concerned only with how much money gets dropped in the bucket is concerned very little about your spiritual growth and should be boycotted.
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