In 2011 there was a devastating series of earthquakes that destroyed a lot of Christchurch New Zealand. Many buildings, including church buildings, have now gone, and insurance companies have paid (or are in the process of paying) large sums of money to building owners to repair or replace what was lost.
Last week I heard that between the churches in Christchurch there was a total of $400 million in insurance payouts. I wondered what you could buy for $400 million, and it turns out an Airbus A380.
I love planes and travel. During the week I’ve been floating the idea with different people to see how much traction could be gained to buy an A380, below I list the various responses:
Some people think it’s a stupid idea
They laugh. They can’t see how useful it would be for missionaries to have at their disposal the largest passenger plane in the world. We could plan trips all over the place and then run it as a business, selling tickets to people who aren’t churchgoers slightly less than the bigger airlines are charging to go to the same places (we would probably have the plane sectioned off into Christian and non-Christian areas).
Why an A380?
One person suggested that rather than an A380 we could probably solve all of the issues around child poverty in New Zealand (structurally, socially, educationally, etc). I’m not actually sure you could do that for $400 million – and that’s not as cool as an A380.
To another person I asked them this: imagine it was the year 95AD, you’re a follower of Jesus, you know people who knew people who knew Jesus. Together in your Christian-faith-community you actually think Jesus is coming back soon. All of the Christians in your town together get the historical-day-equavalient of $400 million. What do you do?
I doubt we’ll get an A380.
I expect that in 10 years or so most of that $400 million will have been spent on new church buildings.
I know there are some innovative ideas around how these new church buildings could function, perhaps being more usable and flexible than in the past, generating useful and needed income for the church, great places of worship… I don’t doubt the church I work in will end up with better buildings than we had in 2009 (I do believe that Chris!)
Paradigms aren’t easily shifted
What if the last 150 years of churches creating property in Christchurch, to then be released as a load of cash after the 2011 earthquakes, was seen as a great freeing opportunity from a Christendom bind to property and buildings.
In 21st century New Zealand, is it any sillier an idea for the churches in a city to spend $400 million on buildings, than it is for them to buy an A380? Or to work together to eradicate child poverty in an entire country?
Another friend, admittedly a plane enthusiast, said at least in ten years time the A380 would still let us see the world, enabling our perspectives to be challenged.
The eradicate child poverty suggestion came from a friend who also made this astute point: whether we got an A380 or eradicated child poverty from New Zealand, once the money was gone, we’d still have our beliefs – if we found we still wanted buildings we could always start from scratch.
I’ve never tried to write a satirical blog post heading before and I’m not against buildings – I actually very much like that the church provides one for me to live in. My points are these:
- Christchurch churches find themselves in a very unique predicament.
- $400 million is a lot of money.
- Replacing old buildings with new buildings provides little challenge to the existing paradigm.
- A380s are a spectacular example of humans being made in the image of God.
What Would You Do?
Image: Airbus A380 – Santiago de Chile 2014, by alobos Life on flickr.com, Creative Commons (image cropped).