By Cody Stauffer
Take a look at these numbers:
3.4 million. 3.7 million. 11 million. 1.7 million. 6.4 million. 2.3 million. 5.6 million. 11.8 million. 4.6 million. 700,000. 5 million. 6.1 million. 5 million.
What are these numbers?
Every year I have been an ordained minister (which is one year) I have received a calendar that displays 12 pictures of church buildings that a certain company helped finance to be built. They are beautiful buildings- one has a prominently featured outdoor fireplace attached to it. One was even built to exactly replicate the movie theatre that the congregation originally met in. Nice buildings.
And listed at the bottom of the calendar page for each one is the price tag for that particular building, proudly displayed there. And those are the numbers I began this article with.
Here’s an experiment- add those numbers up real quick. Use a calculator if you would like. Take your time; this article will still be here…
Did you get about 67.3 million dollars? What do you suppose the universal church could do with 67 million dollars? I mean, besides build buildings…
Do we really need these elaborate structures? How necessary is an outdoor fireplace that I would estimate cost in the tens of thousands of dollars? Does it make sense to replicate the exact same building you were already meeting in for 6.4 million dollars?
Is it really necessary to spend a few extra thousand dollars to ensure the pumps on your baptismal operate without sound? Does a congregation really need all of those 20 acres? All of that 50,000 square foot building?
And if they do, does it really all have to be brand new, or would that old high school or shopping center just a few blocks away have sufficed for a third of the price? Or maybe that other church building that the Baptists had to move out of last year?
What could Christians have done with 67.3 million dollars instead? Well, here are just a few ideas:
World Vision could have fed 184,384 children for an entire year.
At an average micro-loan of 200 dollars a piece, that money could have helped 336,500 people start a small business in their villages so they could feed and care for their families.
At around 10 dollars a piece, 6.73 million mosquito nets could have been distributed in Africa, where 3,000 children a day die from malaria.
And if you aren’t convinced about that, and you think some money should go into church development, should go back into “us,” well, for you then, 67.3 million dollars could have planted, for 500,000 a piece (a lot more than most church plants need) 135 churches, all over the world.
135 new church bodies, instead of 13 new buildings.
184,384 lives saved from starvation, instead of 13 new buildings.
336,500 new businesses started to feed 336,500 families, instead of 13 new buildings
6.73 million children not contracting malaria, instead of 13 new buildings.
Yeah, I know, God deserves nice places to be worshiped at. I know that people will say that a place should reflect the Glory of God, and that we should build buildings that bring honor to God.
But if I remember right, didn’t God already make something that is supposed to carry God’s image, and thus God’s Glory? When those things that he created are over looked and neglected, abused and oppressed, I wonder what brings him more glory and honor- making sure that what he created isn’t being stepped on and abused, or pouring resources into things like a man made waterfall at the entrance to a church building?
When a congregation sees fit to spend that kind of money on ornate structures and, to put it truthfully, unnecessary details like million dollar stage lighting, I can’t help but wonder- whose kingdom are they really building?
Cody is married to Lisa, and they are having fun getting to know their 2 month old daughter, Jessalyn. Cody is the pastor of a small church in Idaho. He will begin his Masters of Divinity program this fall.