Occasionally while on the road, I get to watch television. One of the shows that has caught my eye is ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Helping to build homes is one of the sidelines of my ministry. Since 1993, I have helped build sixty-three homes with Habitat for Humanity around the country. Habitat for Humanity builds simple-decent homes for low income families with mostly volunteer workers and provides an interest free 20-year mortgage. A 3-bedroom Habitat house in Canada and the United States usually has no more than 1,050 square feet of living space.

The ABC show has a tendency to do things in an "extreme" mode as the title shows. Nothing is done down to the "basics". Some of the things done rival what happens on PBS's This Old House. Top of the line products from Sears are used. In one episode, a family of six who had taken in five siblings of the father's family was given a 4,800 square foot home. A special room was built and decorated to showcase the family's Hispanic heritage. The room could have been in an museum since it had show-case exhibits that included a bench and a canoe along with a full-length wall mural. There was a large flat-panel monitor that was used to randomly display images of Mexican culture.

In the episode before this one, a family that had six teenage children was given a hot tub that could fit eight that had a pop-up dvd player and a plasma flat panel tv and a two-story gym that was equipped with the latest exercise equipment and free-weights. There was a bathroom designed for the boys that could have been in the best athletic club because it had several sinks, toilets, a urinal, and lockers, etc.

Let me make it a point here and that is that I am not knocking the fact that each family on the show gets a new home. They all deserve it. All the stories of the families are quite heart-wrenching. My problem is that these homes are not basic homes. There is no thought about the families' future. How could each family replace the new house or contents if for some reason the house was damaged or destroyed? Is there something put in place for the families to take care of the extra expenses such as increased home insurance, maintenance costs, property values, or utilities? Is there some thought about the fact that the families in the surrounding area might have increased property values also so that the property taxes in the area increase?

As mentioned before, each bedroom is themed to the occupants hobbies or likes. What happens when a child outgrows the bed or bedroom theme. Would a teen of sixteen want to sleep in a dinosaur or flying saucer bed that he or she was given when they were seven or eight? With one family, a new bedroom was shared with a brother and sister who were about six years old. There was no thought in the fact that in a couple of years it would be better for the siblings to be in their separate bedrooms but there wasn't an extra room in the new house that could be converted into a bedroom. Would the two siblings have to stay together until one of the older siblings gets old enough to move out?

Churches are getting to the point where everything is to the extreme. Even though a church building is maybe used at best four hours each week (this doesn't count the churches that have day-care or pre-schools in them), everything has to be top of the line. Sanctuaries have to have the latest and newest comfort features and the size of some of the newest sanctuaries rival the biggest concert halls or movie theaters in the areas. Some new sanctuaries can seat up to a thousand people at one time. There are mega-churches that can seat five thousand people at one time.

All the latest audio-visual equipment have to be used. The best sound system with wireless capabilities have to be installed. Instead of overhead projectors or song books, the latest projection units are bought or huge flat panel tv screens are placed on the sanctuary walls and Power-Point is used. Because of all this expensive equipment, the latest alarm systems have to be installed.

Church budgets are getting bigger and bigger. Some churches need to take in tens of thousands of dollars each time when offering plates are passed around to pay off all of the bills that are due that week. Budgets for salaries are on the increase due to the increase in staff. Even though the church might have a membership of 170 with about 100 people showing up for church on a given Sunday, there seems to be a need for a full-time pastor; an associate pastor; a music minister who's job is to lead the choir, congregation, and possibly musicians for the first ten to twenty minutes of the service; a minister of education in charge of the Sunday school classes; an office minister (administrator); office-staff; and janitorial staff.

Services have to be choreographed like the latest Broadway shows and some are timed down to the second. At one Methodist church that I worshipped at in Florida several years ago, there was a puppet show, mime show, and a audio-visual presentation along with all of the music and the preaching. In Texas, one pastor of a church on the radio boasted that his church had a hundred member choir, a twenty piece orchestra, and each sermon had a humorous side to them. Sunday school classes have themes to them. At one small Methodist church in Georgia, the youth Sunday school program was called the "Way-Cool Sunday School". Each room was painted and decorated to promote one topic such as crafts, surfing the Bible (computer Bible games), etc. There had to be a classroom teacher and several assistants for each class.

The way people practice their faiths is going to the extreme also. There has to be the correct style of dress, the right mode of prayer, the right way to sing along with the right and modern songs to sing, the proper choice in Bibles or study material, being in the right crowd for the proper associations. There are thoughts expressed that if you weren't a member of that particular church or denomination you were not going to Heaven. Simple faith has gone out the door.

True Faith and True Religion can be bottled down to two simple principles. " To Love your G-D with all your heart, mind, and soul ." and " Treat others as you would like to be treated ." Everything else is extra. They are just fluff. Let's just get back to the basics. Amen.



Bicyclist in Sunset


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