What are our priorities as the body of Christ?
The following article shows what could be done with just the interest on the value of all church real estate in the US. The numbers are 23 years old but the point remains the same.
Here’s the article:
I must say that I was stunned when I saw the statistics with respect to Christian real estate in the United States. Christian Smith, in his excellent book Going to the Root, outlined what we could do with the money if all the church real estate were liquidated.
Although it is wishful thinking to imagine that we could sell all the edifices, it probably will never happen.
If history tells us anything, church buildings are usually confiscated or destroyed by hostile, anti-Christian groups. Perhaps some Christians with buildings can beat the next group to the punch and turn the real estate into cash that can forward the cause of the gospel throughout the earth, while there is still time.
We’ll see who hears the wake up call.
According to Christian Smith, the value of real estate owned by churches in the United States is over two hundred and thirty two billion dollars. In addition to the actual value of the real estate sold, there is another $2.1 billion spent on utilities and maintenance that would be saved. Brother Smith proposes that if we took the money from the sale of the above and just spent the interest earned, we could do the following every year, until the banks fail or Jesus comes back!
“Suppose Christians spent only the interest earned on the invested money (not taking into account money not spent on debt service and maintenance, which could also go into service projects). We could comfortably do the following every year, year after year:
- Support translators to translate the Bible into the three thousand languages and dialects presently without a Bible translation ($135 million)
- Feed five million starving or malnourished people every day ($1.82 billion)
- Start and fund seventy-five Christian colleges and theology schools in eastern Europe and Russia ($375 million)
- Support three hundred Christian candidates running for office in the Senate and House of Representatives who would work for consistent pro-life ethic policies ($150 million)
- Send one hundred thousand “tent-maker” missionaries to China to teach English and spread the gospel to their Communist students ($250 million)
- Send six hundred thousand underprivileged children to Christian summer camp ($180 million)
- Finance new water and sewer systems in one hundred thousand Third World villages, eliminating the cause of many deadly diseases ($100 million)
- Finance fifteen hundred counseling centers to provide low-cost Christian counseling for families and individuals in trouble ($600 million)
- Print and ship to Hong Kong one small library of basic Christian books for each of the forty thousand underground house churches in China, to be smuggled in by “tent-making” missionaries over time ($15 million)
- Fund a Christian environmentalist political lobby to work for the proper care of God’s natural creation in government policy ($80 million)
- Supplement the incomes of five thousand needy retired ministers ($50 million)
- Build, staff, and supply fifty thousand Christian elementary schools in Africa, Asia, and Latin America ($700 million)
- Supplement the incomes of one quarter of the 5.2 million handicapped and elderly Americans who live below the poverty line to raise them out of poverty ($4 billion)
- Support seventy thousand church-planting missionaries to unreached peoples to plant and nourish indigenous churches, almost doubling the number of missionaries on the field today ($1.5 billion)
- Offer $10,000 a year of child support assistance to every teenager who is considering having an abortion because of lack of financial support, assuming 25 percent accept it ($1.0875 billion)
- Supplement basic medical supplies to eighty thousand Third World hospitals and clinics ($350 million)
- Give financial aid to cut the tuition of eight thousand Christian college students in half ($56 million)
- Finance ten thousand Christian leadership training centers in the Third World ($400 million)
- Set up an interest-free, revolving loan fund to help one hundred thousand Christians every five years finance solar heating, insulation and/or weatherization for their homes ($800 million)
- Support twenty thousand orphanages in Brazil, providing shelter and food for over one million children ($450 million)
- Send ten thousand Third World Christian leaders to Bible college or seminary ($210 million)
- Finance a Christian peace academy to research realistic ways to reduce international military conflicts and the threat of nuclear and chemical war ($800 million)
- Support ten thousand inner city evangelistic and social action ministries ($290 million)
- Finance theological and pastoral training for eight hundred thousand nonprofessional church leaders ($1.3 billion)
- Provide food, clothing, and basic housing for two-thirds of all homeless Americans today ($5 billion)
- Financially help churches in transition from meeting in church buildings to homes and public halls ($267 million)
Perhaps you would not agree with some of the ways he suggests to spend the money. Even so, do you get the point?
Another figure to consider is the savings in interest on all of the outstanding mortgages of church property.
This is one reason I’m not too enamored with the institutional church. I’ve seen way too many church mortgages get in the way of doing God’s work. Ditto for church salaries.