Living Beyond Your Lifetime

The Call to Invest in a Legacy

by Carter Skeel April 2, 2019

I have always appreciated how Dr. Goligher consistently returns us to our most fundamental reality and its principal truths. Before we think about ministry, we must first think about God. If we do not understand who the God we serve is, how can we serve God rightly and well? This attention to first truths also clarifies the proper ends to which we should be oriented. In our finite, fallen natures, we tend to conflate means with ends. Dr. Goligher consistently points us to our true end—union with God—as an antidote to this flawed thinking: thinking to which we so often succumb.

The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle established the ultimate end of human beings as eudaimonia, a word that, because of our inescapably human tendency to infuse words with unwelcome connotations, defies simple translation, but can be approximated by “happiness” or “flourishing.” From the most mundane trip to the grocery store to the biggest life decisions, think through the causal process involved and eventually, according to Aristotle, you will get to eudaimonia. (Without attributing too much to Aristotle where it not warranted, we might also conclude that sinful endeavors are motivated by a corrupted form of eudaimonia, most often self-serving pleasure-seeking.)

The idea of eudaimonia has intuitive appeal, but it is still fundamentally self-oriented. Under a Christian understanding, a purely human pursuit of happiness is bound to fail. The beauty of the gospel is that true happiness is attained as an “accident,” or byproduct, of the achievement of our true end, which is union with God. In other words, God, by virtue of his character, necessitates that our ultimate end be union with him, which requires worshipping and glorifying him, but he, in his great mercy and love, has established that a byproduct of achieving this end is our eternal happiness. Put more simply, the only way to achieve our natural, desired end (our own happiness) is to consciously not pursue it and pursue God instead. This truth unlocks the wonderful paradoxes of the gospel (e.g., the first shall be last, for whoever wants to save his life must lose it, etc.).

It also puts into perspective the responsibilities of the church. Because our ultimate end is union with God and not happiness or something else, everything else we do is necessarily some kind of means toward that end. Bible studies are means, prison ministries are means, even global outreach is a means. So are capital campaigns.

I have heard murmurs that Tenth should not be in the “real estate business.” This is obviously in reference to Tenth’s growing list of buildings and what we should do with them. One might imagine a similar charge leveled against fundraising: “A church should not be in the fundraising business.” In the context of our ultimate end, however, these objections fall short of their intended target. For as long as churches need money and churches need buildings—read: until Christ comes again—we will be in the “business” of fundraising and the “business” of real estate. These pursuits serve the church, which was instituted by Christ as the primary means toward our ultimate end. 

Just because these things are means does not entail that there are no moral principles to govern our pursuit of them. The church must uphold certain standards in its work—higher standards, in many cases, than the law, or even similar organizations, uphold. It also goes without saying that the church has a biblical call, as do all of God’s people, to be faithful stewards of the resources we have been given. But these are principles that govern the church’s means; they do not preclude the use of these means in the first place. Likewise, the church should not be buying up buildings in the name of a quick profit. Nor should it engage in any other means that run afoul of any principles that derive from our ultimate end. But to claim that the church should not be in the “real estate business” is to throw the baby out with the bathwater. 

Just because these things are means does not entail that there are no moral principles to govern our pursuit of them.

So where does all of this leave us? Well, buildings are not our end. Neither is missions, nor even is Sunday worship. Each is a means toward our glorious end. Some means are more effective at striving toward our end, and other means are not worth pursuing at all. The relevant question, then, is whether the current capital campaign is effective means toward our pursuit of our ultimate end. I would submit that it is. 

For decades, God’s people at Tenth have prayed over the buildings at issue here. They earnestly believed that these buildings would help Tenth church better pursue the ultimate end of his people. They believed this, because they had an abiding confidence in God’s providence and a great hope that he had wonderful plans for the future of our church. They also believed this because they had the wisdom to recognize that the church needed resources—practical, tangible resources—in this pursuit. 

This is not to diminish the costs associated with our pursuit. Monetary costs, yes, but also of our time—time that could be invested in any number of Tenth’s fruitful ministries. Those faithful congregants of Tenth who prayed over our neighboring buildings were laying a foundation. They laid a foundation with their monies, with their time, and most importantly, with their prayer. We have been given an opportunity to expand this foundation for the next generation of God’s faithful servants at Tenth. It is up to us to meet this call. 

It also goes without saying that the church has a biblical call, as do all of God’s people, to be faithful stewards of the resources we have been given.

I ask that you would pray for wisdom for those who will decide how Tenth stewards these buildings that we have been given, for the monies to sustain these buildings, and that these buildings—these “means”—will bring us closer to the achievement of God’s glorious end. What great love God shows in welcoming us to participate in his grand work in our world!

Finally, I also ask that, if you do feel the call, you will consider supporting our capital campaign with your money as well as your prayer. If you would like to learn more about the campaign’s vision, our buildings, and anything else, please pull one of us committee members aside; we’d love to hear from you. Thank you for your support of Tenth Presbyterian Church.