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Home » Articles by Pastors and Other Believers » Pastor Jason Cooley » Ye Cannot Serve God and Mammon/On Recent Bank Foreclosures of Church Properties

Ye Cannot Serve God and Mammon/On Recent Bank Foreclosures of Church Properties

Pastor Jason Cooley
Copyright © March 13, 2012
Left click the following links to go directly to the websites held
in trust by Jason Cooley, Pastor/Trustee of Old Paths Baptist church:
http://oldpathsbaptistchurch.org/
http://pastorcooley.sermon.net/sermonid/2660713
Pastor Cooley preaches the whole counsel of God, but the following will link
you to four great sermons he has preached relevant to church and state issues:
“Do We Believe in the All-sufficiency of Scripture?”
“Whose House Is It Anyway”
“Are You Heavenly Minded or Earthly”
“The Method Matters to God”

These and many other sermons are also on the Sermons by Pastor Jason Cooley Page of this website

I am a born-again Bible-believing pastor. I just read an article entitled, “Banks are foreclosing on America’s churches in record numbers as lenders increasingly lose patience with religious facilities that have defaulted on their mortgages, according to new data.” That article reveals anti-biblical practices of most American churches which are resulting in dire consequences, many of which are not pointed out in the article. The article is reproduced in its entirety in the endnote below. You can also read it online by left clicking any of the following three links: 1 Corinthians 6.14-18 (“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”); Romans 12.1-2 (“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”); Luke 16:11-13; (“If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?  And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”)

From the article, we see that this is a sad day in America. Incorporated 501c3 church owned properties are being foreclosed on all across America and corporate 501c3 churches are going bankrupt. Had they followed God’s plan for his churches which was to remain under his sovereignty they would not be in this position. As the article states: Since 2010, 270 churches have been sold after defaulting on their loans. Defaulting on their loans? They became legal entities with the ability to buy and sell property and now they reap the rewards of their unscriptural design. There are a few lessons we can learn from this article.

1. The lust to own property at any cost is the reason for their demise. Many pastors are not content to rent property or to have a simple meeting place for the assembly. They must match the world. Jack Schaap has stated that First Baptist of Hammond is the largest 501c3 corporation of its kind and we must be professional and 10 times better than the world. This is the mentality today—the church must keep up with the world . Financially it is not possible. These mega churches are feeling the economic down turn that has taken place in this country. American law is clear that a church who seeks help from the government through incorporation becomes a creature of the state.

In the above article the pastor said this: “We don’t have a million dollars to pay off the loan.” I don’t know what church does. The idea of auctioning off a church is senseless,” he said. Then why did you borrow the money in the first place?  Seems like putting the church into debt was senseless. We have lost sight of what is important in our churches today. The Church is the saved baptized believers who have made a covenant together to live for Jesus Christ.  A building is only to be a meeting place in which the church body is to assemble.  These churches have lost their focus on what is important to God. One reason churches have incorporated is to own property, to obtain a mortgage loan. What New Testament pattern have they followed? Could you, dear believer, show me one pastor in the New Testament that obtained a loan to buy property, made the Lord’s church a legal entity instead of a spiritual one, and put a church in bankruptcy?

2. The Bible says that the pastor is to be the example unto the flock.

1 Timothy 4:12:  “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.”

Paul tells young Timothy that he is to be the example in matters of holiness and morality but also in conversation; that is, in the whole manner of his life.

Tell me something, Pastor. When you incorporate your church then apply for loans and put the Lord’s church in debt beyond what they can pay and then file for bankruptcy, how can you teach your people to live within their means? It appears that the Lord’s churches in America have bought more than they can afford just like Americans did in the housing bubble. So now go to that church member struggling with finances and explain to him that he doesn’t need that big house and to sell it and buy a smaller one . You see, incorporation allows churches to buy big properties worth millions of dollars-I can find validity for this nowhere in scripture.

3. I see a complicated church model that forces the church into a big building. When you and I decide that we must have a building that will cater to 10 different SS class rooms and youth church services and recreation we must spend millions. But if we would look at the New Testament and Baptist history we would see that some of the greatest revivals came without needing extra space to separate the family members. The meek and humble Sandy Creek revival in North Carolina produced thousands of Bible believing Baptist churches. Those churches met in little one room church buildings. I have visited these same meeting houses and can testify to their validity. We need the power of God, not brick and mortar to impress people with.

If the pastor does not get into and study his Bible and teach his people that in order to have the power of God a church is about the assembly of the saved glorifying God, not about matching the world in material matters, we are doomed to continue the anti-biblical corporate business mentality and suffer the consequences for so doing.

4. Think of the testimony to the lost world left by a foreclosure on church property. Many people today will not darken the door of the church building because of the testimony of God’s people. Now take the pastor who is to be the example but who has enslaved the Lord’s church by debt that they cannot possibly repay. What will the lost say when they see that Christians cannot pay their bills?

This verse comes to mind:

2 Samuel 12:14:  “Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme.”

I believe that the lost will say “ So much for your God taking care of you and supplying your every need. You’re no different than the lost.”

God teaches us in the scriptures that we are to pay back the debt which we owe, not default on it.

5. We see that the mega church model is not the scriptural model. Church planting is what God has showed us is his model. Most American churches have the mentality that every church must build to become a kingdom.

The apostle told young Titus in Titus 1:5:  “For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:”

Pastors are to be planting churches in every city that the Lord allows. Instead, today we have churches that hold thousands of people which the pastor does not properly shepherd. If something happens to the church and they lose people they are so far into debt that they cannot pay. If we followed the biblical model of church planting we would see the Lord’s blessings and promises on our churches.

6. The answer to this problem is to organize your church according to biblical principles. I firmly believe the temptation to obtain millions of dollars worth of property occurs because the local church has organized as a corporation. In the Bible we see that the Pastor was entrusted or another was entrusted to provide the meeting place.

Mark 14:12:  “And the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the passover, his disciples said unto him, Where wilt thou that we go and prepare that thou mayest eat the passover?”

Mark 14:15:  :And he will shew you a large upper room furnished [and] prepared: there make ready for us.”

Colossians 4:15:  “Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house.”

Philemon 1:2:  “And to [our] beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house:”

Let me be clear: I am not advocating that meeting in homes is the only biblical way to have a meeting house. NO! Nothing could be further from the truth. The point I am trying to stress is that God used a man to provide the meeting place. It was not an organized corporation that took out a huge loan to provide a meeting house. God has entrusted the bishop or pastor of the church to find a meeting place for the church—that he would hold property for the church in both a biblical and legal manner. We see this all through the New Testament teachings on the church. If we went back to a simple New Testament model, would God not bless it and multiply our efforts?

If you would like more information on how to come out of the corporation or to organize and hold property in a way that is both biblical and legal please contact Baptist Attorney and Brother in Christ Jerald Finney.

Endnote

(Reuters) – Banks are foreclosing on America’s churches in record numbers as lenders increasingly lose patience with religious facilities that have defaulted on their mortgages, according to new data.

The surge in church foreclosures represents a new wave of distressed property seizures triggered by the 2008 financial crash, analysts say, with many banks no longer willing to grant struggling religious organizations forbearance.

Since 2010, 270 churches have been sold after defaulting on their loans, with 90 percent of those sales coming after a lender-triggered foreclosure, according to the real estate information company CoStar Group.

In 2011, 138 churches were sold by banks, an annual record, with no sign that these religious foreclosures are abating, according to CoStar. That compares to just 24 sales in 2008 and only a handful in the decade before.

The church foreclosures have hit all denominations across America, black and white, but with small to medium size houses of worship the worst. Most of these institutions have ended up being purchased by other churches.

The highest percentage have occurred in some of the states hardest hit by the home foreclosure crisis: California, Georgia, Florida and Michigan.

“Churches are among the final institutions to get foreclosed upon because banks have not wanted to look like they are being heavy handed with the churches,” said Scott Rolfs, managing director of Religious and Educationfinance at the investment bank Ziegler.

Church defaults differ from residential foreclosures. Most of the loans in question are not 30-year mortgages but rather commercial loans that typically mature after just five years when the full balance becomes due immediately.

Its common practice for banks to refinance such loans when they come due. But banks have become increasingly reluctant to do that because of pressure from regulators to clean up their balance sheets, said Rolfs.

“A lot of these loans were given when the properties were evaluated at a certain level in 2005 or 2006,” Rolfs said. “Banks have had to reappraise the value of these properties, whether it’s a church or a commercial office building. Values have gone down, so the loans cannot continue in the same form.”

The factors leading to the boom in church foreclosures will sound familiar to many private homeowners evicted from their properties in recent years.

During the property boom, many churches took out additional loans to refurbish or enlarge, often with major lenders or with the Evangelical Christian Credit Union, which was particularly aggressive in lending to religious institutions.

Then after the financial crash, many churchgoers lost their jobs, donations plunged, and often, so did the value of the church building.

CONGREGATIONS IN TROUBLE

Solid Rock Christian Church near Memphis, Tennessee, took out a $2.9 million loan with the Evangelical Christian Credit Union at the beginning of 2008, to construct a new, 2,000 seat, 34,000 square-foot building to house its growing congregation.

In the middle of construction, the economy crashed. The church raided its savings to finish the project, but ended up defaulting on the loan.

The ECCU foreclosed and put the church up for auction.

“We are still fighting this,” a church spokesman told Reuters. “We have filed for bankruptcy to stop this foreclosure and to restructure our debt.”

At the iconic Charles Street African American Episcopal Church in Boston, Massachusetts, churchgoers and clergy accuse the bank of being unwilling to negotiate.

The church is being threatened with foreclosure and a March 22 auction by its lender OneUnited bank, America’s largest black-owned bank.

The bank says the church, which was founded in 1818 and played a major role in the anti-slavery movement, has defaulted on a $1.1 million balloon loan that came due in December 2011.

A balloon loan is a long-term loan, often a mortgage, that has a large, or balloon, payment due upon maturity. They often have very low interest payments and require little capital outlay during the life of the loan due to the large end payment.

The church is also involved in separate litigation with OneUnited involving a 2006 loan of $3.6 million that financed the refurbishment of two buildings into a community center.

“We want to refinance and we want to pay. It’s doable, we have the means to do it but we can only do it if they actually sit down and talk to us,” said the Rev. Gregory G. Groover Snr, the church’s pastor.

Groover said the church did not default by missing monthly payments, but is in trouble because the loan ballooned.

“We don’t have a million dollars to pay off the loan. I don’t know what church does. The idea of auctioning off a church is senseless,” he said.

In a statement provided to Reuters, OneUntied said it was not its practice to discuss the details of “any discreet customer relationship”.

“It is not the practice of the Bank to exercise collection remedies including foreclosure in the absence of good cause. We trust the community will not rush to judgment without full knowledge of all the facts,” it said.

Axel Adams, an Atlanta, Georgia official with the Rainbow PUSH coalition, the civil rights and economic justice organization led by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, said he had seen a “tremendous increase” in churches facing foreclosure.

“And some pastors have not notified their congregants,” Adams said. “They are fearful that if they do, they will lose congregants prematurely.”

Flat Rock Church in Lithonia, Georgia, which dates back to 1860, took out an $850,000 balloon loan with Sun Trust Bank in 2005 to fund a new 300-seat church.

In May 2010 the loan became due. The bank foreclosed and the church is due to be auctioned off next month.

“The bank has refused to negotiate and to this day I just don’t know why,” said Binita Miles, the church pastor.

A spokesman for Sun Trust said: “We view foreclosure as an action of last resort. We have been working for several years to address the issue with the client in hopes of avoiding foreclosure.”

There are more than 300,000 churches in the United States.

“The church foreclosure market isn’t anything extraordinary,” said Rolfs. “It’s simply another byproduct of the credit bubble.”

(Reporting By Tim Reid; Editing By Jonathan Weber and Michael Perry)


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