Not long ago a CMI staff member was sharing a prayer request with men from his home church regarding a CMI project in Latin America. The need involved the funds to purchase a strategically located piece of property for a new church. The price tag: $360,000.
Upon hearing this, an American pastor present in the room exclaimed with astonishment, “What kind of property costs $360,000?” He could not reconcile how a church in Latin America could justify spending that kind of money for a piece of property.
It was an expensive price tag to be sure, but not uncommon for a sizeable, well-located property in a major Latin American city. That said, it was still a downright bargain compared to the $6.8 million lot that the astonished pastor’s own church rested on.
The American pastor’s surprise reveals much about the common perception of the typical Latin American church. In fact, for most of the evangelical church’s history in Latin America, local congregations were primarily located far from the principal avenues.
“Before the Encounter program,” says Peruvian pastor Luis Palomino, “evangelical churches were located in little streets, not important streets, and people who were converted to the Lord many times had difficulty in finding the church where they even made a decision for the Lord. But having a church in an important artery of the city, I think that makes a difference.”
“As I visit with believers from Encounter churches,” remarks CMI’s Craig Murray, “it is remarkable to discover how many of them came and heard the gospel at that particular church simply because they saw it when they went about their day-to-day activities. In a sense, a strategically located church can remove one of the most difficult physical barriers to people coming to a church.”
Though such properties are usually more expensive, the costs of failing to secure a strategic location are immense. Dollars may be saved by selecting a less prominent property, but such a choice can result in tragic losses in terms of evangelistic effectiveness, church growth and overall gospel impact.
“The location and the facility of a church are important markers of credibility in Latin American society,” says former missionary and current CMI board member Mark Searing.
For this reason, Encounter with God churches are located on principal avenues, visible to the masses passing by every day. They are located near bus lines and major traffic routes of the city so that they are well known, easily found, and readily accessible.
Strategic locations may come with higher price tags, but when viewed in the light of their long-term gospel impact they are bargains!