Presenting affluence and preaching sacrifice.

In early 1976, Eastminster Presbyterian Church in suburban Wichita, Kansas, had an ambitious—and expensive—church construction program in the works. Their architect had prepared a $525,000 church building program. Then a devastating earthquake struck in Guatemala on February 4, destroying thousands of homes and buildings. Many evangelical congregations lost their churches.

When Eastminster’s board of elders met shortly after the Guatemalan tragedy, a layman posed a simple question: “How can we set out to buy an ecclesiastical Cadillac when our brothers and sisters in Guatemala have just lost their little Volkswagen?”

The elders courageously opted for a dramatic change of plans. They slashed their building program by nearly two-thirds and settled instead for church construction costing $180,000. Then they sent their pastor and two elders to Guatemala to see how they could help. When the three returned and reported tremendous need, the church borrowed $120,000 from a local bank and rebuilt 26 Guatemalan churches and 28 Guatemalan pastors’ houses.

I talked recently with Eastminster’s pastor, Dr. Frank Kirk. Eastminster stays in close touch with the church in Central America and has recently pledged $40,000 to an evangelical seminary there. The last few years have seen tremendous growth—in spiritual vitality, concern for missions, and even in attendance and budget. Dr. Kirk believes that cutting their building program to share with needy sisters and brothers in Guatemala “meant far more to Eastminster Presbyterian than to Guatemala.”

The Eastminster Presbyterian congregation asked the right questions. They asked whether their building program was justified at this moment in history given ...

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