You might hear that question discussed at the Finance Committee or Board level of any church? How would you go about answering such a question? Let me use the church I’m currently serving as a case study. You might begin by asking the business manager about the facility’s insurance evaluation. You could have the Building & Grounds Committee do an inventory of the furnishings, equipment and vehicles. To those figures you could add the eighteen acres of prime real-estate multiplied by the current market value. I’m guessing you’d get a number in excess of $30 million!
If that’s how you’re valuing the church … you’ll never get anywhere close to the right number. Your estimate will be further from the truth than the earth from Pleiades. Your best estimates will not be warm or lukewarm … they’ll be dark-side-of-the-moon frigidly cold.
When the Apostle Paul was headed for Jerusalem, he stopped briefly in Miletus and asked for the elders of the Ephesian church to meet him there. Paul was convinced that he’d never see these men again. His few words of instruction and encouragement were carefully chosen. Every word mattered. Look carefully at what he said about the value of the church:
Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. Acts 20:28
Every church … that is really a church … is of infinite, incalculable, inestimable, immeasurable, fathomless value. Churches cannot be valued in any of the world’s currencies … they were all purchased with one grand payment. The denomination was not dollars or even silver and gold … the purchase price was the blood of God. Did you see that? Acts 20 says … “the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, purchased the church with his blood.
Most of us know that the church is not bricks, mortar or land. If we’re thinking clearly, scripturally, we confess that the church is a living organism made up out of its people. And what does God’s word say about the value of these people?
You know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed … but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 1Peter 1:18-19
Peter continues in the next chapter to say … “you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house.” Every church … that is really a church … is costly beyond imagination because every living stone was purchased at the cost of Christ’s lifeblood.
So … how much would a church be worth in Panama City, Panama? This may go counter to trying to raise my missionary support, but there’s not enough money in all creation to start one real church in Panama. The English-speaking church or churches that will be launched in Panama have already been purchased by the blood of Christ. All the raw materials to build those churches are already bought and paid for. Each individual living stone to be laid together into a spiritual house for God has been purchased by the blood of Christ.
Paul’s list of building material included Christ the Cornerstone, the Scriptures (Ephesians 2:19-20) and these blood-bought living stones. Still, he knew that God had tasked him with finding and assembling those living stones into churches. That’s why Paul could say, “By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder” (1 Corinthians 3:10). Building a church has never been about just gathering stones scattered about and readily at hand. Paul cultivated the stones through the preaching the Gospel. Some of those precious stones have yet to be found by the Gospel. Some have yet to hear.
Sue and I believe God has called us to gather stones and help lay a foundation for at least one church in Panama City, Panama. We are eager to go and confident in the power of the Gospel, “for, ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” That only leaves one question …
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? Romans 10:14-15
We believe it’s worth sending us … not because of our worth … but because of how much the church is worth to God!