By Patrick Scriven, Director of Communications & Young People’s Ministries

News of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection’s $90 million plan to overhaul their Leawood, Kansas campus was met with a significant amount of cynicism on social media. While the downward trend lines for church attendance in the United States arguably justifies some skepticism, the volume and vehemence of the commentary suggested something more; a blend of envy with an element I couldn’t put my finger on right away.

Eschatology is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as a branch of theology concerned with the final events in the history of the world or of humankind. While Christian eschatology is often associated with attempts to define a biblical understanding of the end times, this is too narrow of a definition for those who honor the diverse voices found in Scripture. Eschatology is better understood then as the prophetic task of finding and proclaiming hope in the midst of despair-laden situations.

[quote_box_right]COR showed once again that people…can and will respond to a vision.[/quote_box_right]This week brought news that can only be understood as a vindication for The Church of the Resurrection’s (COR) leadership team. Where they set out to secure $60 million in pledges for this ambitious project, they exceeded their goal with $63.2 million. Despite the naysayers, and more open-minded skeptics such as myself, COR showed once again that people, at least 3,800 households in this case, can and will respond to a vision.

The Bible does not contain one eschatological tradition, it contains several. It has been noted, by more than one biblical scholar, that Jesus himself was an eschatological preacher who taught that the current age would soon come to an end (the bulk of Mark 13 for example) to make room for what God would do next.

[quote_box_left]”Wouldn’t this money be better spent on the poor?”[/quote_box_left]While we can disagree about how literally we interpret Jesus’ eschatological teachings, it would be hard to argue that they haven’t caused their share of confusion. It’s also difficult to ignore how our understanding of them, particularly in relationship to Jesus teachings on possessions and wealth, might impact how we perceive any grand building endeavor a church might consider. As many noted on social media, “Wouldn’t this money be better spent on the poor?”

I believe that it is a legitimate and good thing to critique how we spend our money as a church. Care for the poor coupled with the Wesleyan desire to do the most good we can, are incredibly important tools to balance our natural inclinations towards the things that sparkle and shine. After all, how we spend the resources we have is a very public witness to our understanding of Gospel values.

[quote_box_right]I wonder whether we’ve adopted an eschatology of despair; a belief that no matter what we do, the church’s best days are behind us.[/quote_box_right]But I also wonder, in the severest critiques of COR’s plan, whether we’ve adopted an eschatology of despair; a belief that no matter what we do, the church’s best days are behind us. Living in these self-imposed end times, the most logical thing we can do is slowly ride out the clock, divesting ourselves of property and mission so we can keep the pension fully funded and the discontent of the remaining souls in our pews manageable.

Such an eschatology of despair doesn’t allow us to see another’s success as anything but a capitulation to a consumer culture or some other unseemly tendency. Our own attempts to try something new are undercut but the deep reservoirs of cynicism it breeds. A paralyzing doubt of our mission stunts growth and derails our natural connectional impulses.

As I read it, the Bible contains several different eschatological expressions which aren’t in perfect alignment but that isn’t to say that they disagree. There is one common theme that runs through them all, to my simple understanding anyway. And that one thing? Hope.

[quote_box_left]Hope demands that we invest more than our prayers and goodwill toward the future.[/quote_box_left]Eschatology is only Christian in as much as it seeks to embody hope. And hope demands that we invest more than our prayers and goodwill toward the future.

I still have questions about any church construction plan that is pitched as a 100 year strategy, and I think there is always some healthy validity to concerns about modesty so long as they aren’t overly-laden with austerity. But I am genuinely thankful that The Church of the Resurrection is offering its people, and perhaps the larger connection, a vision that is grounded in an eschatology of hope.

In these dark days of connectional malaise, we could all use a little hope.

Now it’s your turn.

  1. Does this new plan cast by The Church of the Resurrection offer a hopeful vision or is it optimistic to a fault?
  2. How do we faithfully live into an eschatology of hope while balancing such work with our call toward acts of mercy and justice?
  3. Are we trapped in our planning by a narrative of decline and an eschatology of despair?

What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below.

Image credit: Screen capture of Sanctuary Flythrough video from the 10,000 Reasons campaign.


  1. I think you are right when you say that we should move forward with hope. I believe the best days of the church are ahead of us. I think COR will have no problem filling the pews, as long as they have a compelling leader. My issue with it is not the faith, vision, or hope. I just don’t think it’s the best use of kingdom resources. I think the mega church is a model of church that has not been proven past a generation of leaders. I think the future of the church has always rested on small to medium-sized church plants. I would have been more excited to see people give that much toward church plants. The problem is that we are more likely to give to something we will benefit from, then we are to give to something we don’t.

    • I think you are right in naming our tendency to give toward something which we benefit. I also believe it would be accurate to add that people are more generous when they can understand what it is that they are giving to. Buildings are very concrete.

      That said, I do think we need to invest in experimental models of church but I’m not sure it is an either/or. If I were forced to make the decision between COR and the average church plant, despite serious concerns about the mega church model, I’m not sure the safe money is on the plants. COR has a pretty good track record, at least from what I’ve heard of innovating and spinning off ministries. I wonder if that isn’t another avenue to get to move toward the future as well.

      Thank you for reading and for the comment.

  2. “Let all preaching houses be built plain and decent; but not more expensive than is absolutely unavoidable: otherwise the necessity of raising money will make rich men necessary to us. But if so, we must be dependent upon them, yea, and governed by them.” ~ John Wesley, from “The Minutes of Several Conversations between the Rev. Mr. John Wesley and Others; From the Year 1744 to 1789.”

    My point here is not that John Wesley’s words should be the end to every debate in United Methodism (or any Wesleyan church), if that were the case we would have a hard time moving into the future, and frankly John would become a little closer to a divine being than I’m comfortable with. However, I thought the reminder of where we started would be good – even if we have frequently strayed from that principle.

    Given that 3,800 households pledged over $63 million (for an average per-household pledge of over $16,500) I think we should ask ourselves, how reliant upon the wealthy has this church become? Does their giving reflect good stewardship towards a project that will enhance mission and work with the poor for decades to come (given that having a good physical space may be a way to bring more people into a congregation engaged in ministry)? After all, these households could have put that money towards all sorts of other things.

    • Nico, those are great questions and I do think they are well worth discerning (and hope that they were wrestled with).

      I would only hope we could learn to separate questions of modesty from austerity.

  3. Patrick, I like your simple defining of eschatology, and think good questions about churches building programs are raised. It has always been interesting to me to see a church define/assess community needs they want to meet, get in conversation with the peoples who have those needs …. then plan together where resources should go. Do you build buildings, hire special persons to meet the needs, raise up leadership from within the groups you want to minister to …. ? Can take some time, and special-talented persons to stay with the assessment process that would be required to appropriately meet the needs of people you have not known well, or deeply, for your assessment process.
    I might add one simple dimension to your excellent definition of eschatology. I have come, later in life, to believe that Christians are called to live with as much excellence as God can ‘train up/grow up’ in them …in the Now. And after we have learned that of God, thru Jesus Christ and other disciples we have been blessed to have known and watched model “excellence”-that-serves …. then we lean in to the future that we steadfastly hope God wants to bring into existence.

    • Marty, thanks for reading and reflecting on the post. I pray we all getting better at leaning into the future God calls us toward for the sake of the world.

  4. I love the idea that COR will build this grand worship space. Years ago I would have said what a waste of money. In Ohio I serve as a the Riverdale congregation that was a small church of 35 that risked everything to relocate and start over. We built very utilitarian buildings as the church grew to over 700. We launched campuses in the YMCA, and reclaimed closed UMC churches. I served in a city (Dayton) with many old empty UMC buildings ans saw the pain of congregations that worked hard to maintain not the mission but the building. I never want to do that to another generation again. 

    It’s so hard when a neighborhood or city changes for the congregation or the denomination to lead us to do transformational ministry in news ways with our our previously glorious worship spaces. 

    So why do I support this… God’s humor perhaps… I now serve in the ” cathedral of the Rockies” who knew the UMC had cathedrals. 

    This building was build over 60 years ago when Boise was a small city of 30,000. The congregation had about 300 in worship and they built a 2 million dollar building really on the backs of 3 families. They built a space that would seat 1000 in worship. 

    2 million in 1959? What could it have done for the poor?

    Yet here we are 60 pulse years latter, we worship over 1300 in this same building. Can one predict a 100 year usage? No.

    Can we create a people who live the mission, and when the building no longer serves the mission we let it go? 

    Think of the former Chrystal cathedral….no longer Americans television church now a Catholic Church. Still used for the worship of Godand the former congregation has moved on. 

    My conversion is that perhaps there are times and places for ” cathedral spaces” but there are also times and places to celebrate what once was, what has been, and move on. 

    We also need churches in YMCA’s. I loved that site, no building cost! 

    My thoughts, grace and peace, Duane

    • Duane, thanks for bringing your experience and context to bear on this particular question. We all tend to approach these questions from the place of what we know (and presume to know) and I wrote this past because it seemed strange how certain people were that this (building campaign) was such a terrible thing.

  5. Like your observations on your experiences, Duane! And discerning the “times and places” is the crucial piece, isn’t it. Who knows what spirit, or Spirit, lurked in the hearts of those 3 families who did such large giving in 1959? Just like, who knows what joy many of the 1300 now feel to worship in such a magnificent place? The “deal” is to invite persons to be in relationship with our God, and each other, in a journey that builds up community …. and different strokes work for different folks. Proof’s in tha puddin ……

  6. Jusr a brief thought. I think that the sceptics and the nay-sayers ignore the many missions to help those less served that COR has carried out. It isn’t about building a magnificient church, it’s about serving and I think few churches have done more. I have always agued that while our mission as a church is to reach out and serve beyond our walls, there must be a base of operation from which to serve. If you can fill the pews, as COR seems to do, then you have the resources to do even more. We need a balance between the views.

    Wey Simpson

  7. Thanks, Patrick, for putting your thoughts out for us all to contemplate! I like the challenge to claim our HOPE, and move beyond the eschatology of despair. Church of the Resurrection folks have been modeling this hopeful stance, not only in the building they propose, but in the many ministries of service and outreach which they initiate and sustain. Their campus is not an end in itself, but it becomes the focus for much ministry that is intentional about reaching folks who are drawn to the Resurrection vision and who engage in its ministries.

Leave a Reply