Church VA

Should a Church have a Value Added (VA) measure?

Schools have been compared and judged using a Value Added (VA) measure. It’s all too easy to applaud schools and universities with high attainment outcomes that grab your attention. However, such outcomes may have little to do with the quality of an organisation, and more to do with the starting point of their students.

Low and high attaining students move about. Should schools be equally welcoming to both? VA is a measure of progress. The improvement a student makes from their starting point is perhaps the best indicator of the quality and value of an organisation.

What value does the church, building and people, add to the community of God? Can a church community miss the point and strive to present the wrong things? In Exodus 25: 1-9 some worldly treasures are listed to build a sanctuary for Gods presence. “Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.”  

I have to admit I found the request for, “gold, silver and bronze; blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen; goat hair; ram skins dyed red and hides of sea cows; acacia wood; olive oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; onyx stones and other gems…” difficult to understand.

Why did the Tabernacle need such glamour? One answer may be that as valuable as these things are, they are nothing in relation to the creator of all things and we can only do our best to use such grandeur in our churches and sanctuaries to help us to honour Him as God.

The beauty and expense should help us focus on God, not grandeur. Perhaps the giving requested also helped to establish God as priority. But if all this does indeed help us recognise God dwelling among us, we ought to make sure that we are in relationship with Him, or it seems to me we are missing the point.

God is present in far more than worldly wealth. In the new testament the presence of God was with us; walking and talking in Jesus. The Son of God, with the poverty of a stable as His starting point. He was very clear that God is for all.

Some people were not welcomed by religious leaders because they were perhaps at too low a starting point. Jesus however recognised the need for their improvement and change.

But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, This man welcomes sinners, and eats with them…” “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” (Luke 15) (+VA)

And now the Spirit of God quite literally dwells within us. “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” (Romans 8:9) The Holy Spirit dwells in his family here and now.

My hope is that an improved church building is a blessing resulting from obedience, to people who want to hear from God and do as he asks. The building can be a great tool for God when used for His will. My belief is that we should invite people, not to come and be like us and join our ways, but rather to join with God so that we can learn His way together.

We should not judge others and can’t expect everyone to behave as we happen to think Christians should behave. Our challenge is to allow God to shine through us and love them.

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way as you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2)

What good is a perfect place if folk inside don’t know His grace or seek His face.  Do we seek His presence and strive to express our awe and hear from Him? If so, great first step. A teacher or parent might proclaim the second step as, “Do as you are told!”

Our attitude and behaviour can inhibit people from their expected growth toward God. In this and other ways, I believe a church community can have a negative Value Added measure. (-VA)

To steal an analogy from Professor Steven Craver, when you buy a drill, it’s not the drill you want. It’s the hole! I’d like to add; when you build a place of worship, it’s not the building you want, it’s the Holy. It’s the amazing presence of God, that we might praise him, know his will, and do it!

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