The Church Isn’t Spared From The Credit Crisis

hat tip to regular reader CiCi for bringing this story to my attention…

church-under-construction

For the better part of a year, I have railed against dishonest preachers who have espoused the wicked prosperity gospel in order to whip their followers into a giving frenzy. This same prosperity lie contends that God is eagerly seeking to bless those who “activate their faith” and “claim prosperity over their lives”. As a result, these folks generally over extend themselves by buying cars, homes, and other material things because they feel “favored” to be able to acquire them in the first place (completely ignoring high interest rates they agreed to in order to qualify in the first place).

Like most overindulgent participants in the “American dream”, these folks are starting to reap what they’ve sown – but what about those who were simply taking advantage of the euphoric lending atmosphere that strangled the economy over the past few years? The church actively participated – using low interest/interest only loans and the generous donations to their “building campaigns” to upgrade their church buildings as well.

Was it pure greed (the desire to want grander and more impressive worship facilities) or are churches simply responding to the need to accommodate their growth that fueled the problems that many of them experience today?

Now, they’re hurting just like everyone else:

Boom-years borrowing hits churches hard

[…] Add houses of worship to the list of casualties of the mortgage crisis.

Foreclosures and delinquencies for congregations are rising, according to companies that specialize in church mortgages. With credit scarce, church construction sites have gone quiet, holding shells of sanctuaries that were meant to be completed months ago.

Congregants have less money to give, and pastors who stretched to buy property in the boom are struggling to hold onto their churches.

[…] Even in bad economic times, people still go to church, which helps shield congregations from downturns, lenders say. Churches also have more flexibility than some other borrowers in cutting expenses. They can end charitable programs or trim staff and still stay open for business.

“You can certainly make a bad church loan if you try hard enough,” said Dan Mikes, who leads the church banking group of Bank of the West, a major lender. “But if you’re careful and you don’t overlend, and you’re cautious in the way you underwrite, you’re fine.”

So churches, who were generally more fiscally sound in the past, began to “outgrow” their properties and decided to dot the landscape with their towering edifices. But were they opportunists or victims of ambitious lenders with eager profits?:

But foreclosure and bankruptcy records paint a more complex picture of some of the company’s failed clients — and raise questions about whether the pressure for profit altered the industry’s normally ultra-cautious approach.

Throw in a few vipers like Juanita Bynum and Randy White (both clients of Evangelical Credit Union), and you’ve got a perfect storm: prosperity pimps who teach greed + sheep who desire blessings and returns on their investments + lenders who want to take advantage of easier access to credit = the hot mess that we see today.

As I try to reconcile both sides of the story, I have to ask publicly: is this dilemma the latest domino to fall as a result of the “gospel of greed”, or are they just more innocent victims caught in limbo?

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24 Responses to “The Church Isn’t Spared From The Credit Crisis”


  1. 1 Michael Pharr March 16, 2009 at 12:17 am

    Hey IST,

    This entry reminds me of this portion of scripture:

    “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? (Luke 14:28)

    “Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, (Luke 14:29)

    saying, `This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ (Luke 14:30)

    I wonder how many churches were keeping up w/the church down the block in trying to build a nicer tower. Even though on some level I don’t mind if a church builds a bigger church to try to meet the needs of the community and I honestly think this is the mindset of some churches.

    – Michael

    • 2 speaking truth March 16, 2009 at 4:51 pm

      That’s really the bottom line Michael – whether it was a prosperity gab and grab or simple ambitous planning, many pastors didn’t account for the “what if’s” of relying on pledges to build new multi-million dollar buildings.

      A hard lesson to learn, but a lesson nonetheless.

  2. 3 N'Catina March 16, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    IST, I saw this article earlier in the day, and found not to be surprised by the information listed. To answer one of your questions: “Was it pure greed (the desire to want grander and more impressive worship facilities) or are churches simply responding to the need to accommodate their growth that fueled the problems that many of them experience today?”, I would say it is definitely the former. Many articles, scriptures and discussions have been made here and elsewhere concerning the origin of the “growth,” the warnings of such and the probable consequences of continuing in it have been proven time and again.

    There are many parallels that have been observed concerning the housing and church “crisis.” In many cases greed, not taking into account ALL of the long-term financial implications of pursuing these interests and, most of all, the motive for even doing such a thing in the first place is at the apex of the mess we are witnessing now.

    My former church just completed a closing on a second facility in Cherry Hill, NJ (suburban PHL) (while retaining the first one–PHL itself) as membership and contribution numbers continue to drop–www.iywcc.org. Mind you that unemployment in the city is around 10% with the municipality scrambling to close a $150B debt, and earning power for the majority of people in this area is quite weak. Despite that, this man is STILL pushing the “gospel” of growth, expansion, prosperity and overall just showing off for the public–all in the name of increasing the “ministry’s” “presence in the tri-state.” This is NOT including the pursuit of an empty, multi-acreage plot of land in town to build a “state-of-the-art-campus” in another part of the city. It is just a matter of time (sooner versus later) before this entire operation collapses. This was never done for the explicit purpose of helping the congregants!! It is done specifically to increase the self-exaltation of the head pimp.

    Pimps that run these spiritual whorehouses explicitly loathe anyone that is poor (either through their own volition or beyond one’s own circumstances). In turn, people looking to gain “favor” and validation from the supposed “Man of God,” will over-extend themselves to the point of insolvency; imperiling their own homes and the edifices alike.

    Essentially, these pimps have given Jesus the middle finger concerning specific mandates (among many) to care for the impoverished, not blaspheme His Word for wordly gain and not take advantage of His people. I truly believe that God’s judgment has begun concerning the overall financial upheavel, and if it means eradicating these worthless “christian” organizations only looking to turn a dollar for their own pocket, so be it.

    • 4 speaking truth March 16, 2009 at 4:56 pm

      Wow N’Catina – you sound as harsh as I usually am. “Spiritual whorehouses…pimps have given Jesus the middle finger”…you’ve been reading too many of my articles 🙂

      In all seriousness, I agree that we are seeing God’s judgement being meted out before our eyes. While many “pastors” see these new buildings as the opportunity to build monuments to themselves, lots of pastors just honestly wanted to expand their houses of worship. Sadly, many of them were trying to keep up with/compete with the church around the corner (you gotta fill the seats, right?) so they end up building these enormous facilities full of poor people who can barely keep the lights on.

      I wonder how big these building would be if the pastor had to finance it on his own – using his own signature to secure the note vs. building based on pledges from the sheep. Maybe they’d be more responsible then…

      • 5 N'Catina March 16, 2009 at 5:28 pm

        Gee, I thought I was being rather gentle, IST. 🙂 I have a friend right now that is currently acquiring a small, unassuming store-front church, for which he is financing it himself. At the moment, he does not have a set “congregation,” but some people in the area have expressed interest in being a part of that ministry, including providing contracting services towards needed physical upkeep and upgrades. He has such a heart after God and for people, and will do and give towards the betterment of another person before considering himself. To that extent, I do support reasonable “expansion.”

        What I do NOT support is this competetive “my house is bigger than yourn” (childish emphasis added) mentality, and then expecting someone else to pay for it–OPM (other people’s money). Again, I believe God is judging these actions accordingly; however painful it is.

        There is no reconciling “financing” these large monstrosities with congregants becoming increasingly too poor to keep their own modest homes, and doing so providing no tangible good or to the adherents. There is no way the “pastors” would be able to bankroll any of this themselves. The economic shakedown will make that more apparent as time moves forward.

  3. 6 gcmwatch March 16, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    IST, take a look at the article below which also looks at this current situation affecting some churches.

    Personally, I dont think that the gotta have a bigger church, cause we are busting at the seams logic is of God. I think they are monuments to men. Maybe that philosophy is catching up with them now and showing how foolish it is to store up treasures on earth.

    Here’s the article.

    • 7 speaking truth March 16, 2009 at 5:01 pm

      Your Yahoo article is the same MSNBC article referenced above, gcmwatch – but I agree with your point: I have a hard time reconciling these grandiose desires for austere worship facilities with the core message of the Gospel. One of the first articles I ever wrote was on the mega-church phenomenon (and it’s defenders). It’s almost like many of these folks are so proud of their “ministries” that they want to build their own towers in this life as opposed to trying to reasonably accomodate their congregation and focusing on hitting the streets with the Gospel message.

  4. 9 Ocean Breeze March 16, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    ST,

    I have always thought there was little sense in churches spending huge sums to put up these buildings. In most cases the main building is only being used two to three times a week. Does it really make financial sense to spend millions of dollars to build an auditorium that sits dark and empty most days of the week?

    It really makes me question the modern American church paradigm. Surely there has to be a more efficient way for believers to come together and worship each week and make better use of their funds. Even when these buildings are paid of they still carry huge maintenance costs and in some cases property taxes. It seems there is a better way.

    • 10 speaking truth March 16, 2009 at 10:09 pm

      Ocean Breeze – you hit the nail square on the head. For most of these buildings, a few offices may operate throughout the week, but the sanctuary (generally the most ornate showpiece in the museum of idolatry) sit’s empty except for 2 days a week.

      Is that worth millions of dollars down the drain? And like most folks who find themselves “house poor” (able to get in the house but killing themselves to stay in the house), many of these ministry don’t account for the increase in their utlities (sometimes 3 or 4 times more expensive than the previous building) – and they are seriously struggling.

      And when the “church” struggles – that means that the sheep get an extra whipping so that they can spin more wool.

  5. 11 Lady D March 17, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    It’s so sad to see this happening. My former pastor had an addition put on the church building and has no more than 200 members. His mantra was, “if I build it they will come.” And now the members are pressured to give more. He was trying to keep up with his spiritual covering in a neighboring city-but the members are bearing the expense of his vanity. His sand castle will collaspe with all the others.
    On another note, Alpha Pimp Leroy Thompson is coming to my small city to clean the pockets of the needy.
    I can hear it now, “money goeth to him”!
    Keep pressing the battle to the gate brother~

    • 12 Vaughn March 17, 2009 at 1:46 pm

      “clean the pockets of the needy”

      Can I borrow this?

      “money goeth to him”!

      Been saying this myself for quite awhile, he didn’t lie with that statement.

    • 13 speaking truth March 17, 2009 at 2:39 pm

      He was trying to keep up with his spiritual covering in a neighboring city-but the members are bearing the expense of his vanity.

      Don’t get me started on the “spiritual covering” abuse, Lady D

      And Leroy is sticking picking meat from the bones of the carcasses that other pimps left behind? 🙄

      Absolutely disgusting…

  6. 15 Lady D March 18, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    Response to Vaughn: Feel free~

  7. 16 N'Catina March 18, 2009 at 10:38 pm

    IST, I happen to tune into my former “church’s” internet broadcast via Streaming Faith this evening. It’s the same basic wordly money-grabbing, “you-can-have-success-in-this-life” type message. The striking feature with that is the “pastor’s” striking story of having found a note on his car during a recent trip to the gym. He mentioned to the congregation that what was written on it was 1 Timothy 6:6-8–which he NEVER actually read to the congregation. Instead of using that moment as a warning shot (among many) to repent from the heretical teachings of the WOF, he was offended, saying that he now needs to find a new gym, so as to be away from the “negative influence.” He went to castigate the person as “ignorant” and “cowardly” for not making an appointment for a discussion, and likely the person was “jealous” of his wealth, status and his brand of “knowledge” and “anointing.”

    For those not familiar with 1 Timothy 6:6-8, NLT, I will list it here (with emphasis): 6 Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. 7 After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. 8 So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. This was a great start, but I believe it could have went further: 1 Timothy 6:4 & 5: 4 Anyone who teaches something different is arrogant and lacks understanding. Such a person has an unhealthy desire to quibble over the meaning of words. This stirs up arguments ending in jealousy, division, slander, and evil suspicions. 5 These people always cause trouble. Their minds are corrupt, and they have turned their backs on the truth. To them, a show of godliness is just a way to become wealthy. Lastly, 9 But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. Essentially, anyone following these WOF types can be identified by any additonal heretical teaching among them, and are indeed hurting in many ways, including losing these castles.

    Again, I thank God for not just getting me away from this destruction, but increasing my level of discernment towards such things.

    • 17 djenk23 March 19, 2009 at 11:38 am

      It seems to me that your former pastor leaving the poor people in Philly for the upper middle class folks of Cherry Hill..

      http://www.courierpostonline.com/article/20090319/NEWS01/903190353

      • 18 djenk23 March 19, 2009 at 11:44 am

        i should have said “gradually leaving”

      • 19 N'Catina March 19, 2009 at 4:05 pm

        Thanks for the article. Barnard makes it very clear that he cares nothing for those of little means (or the true Gospel), and that contempt is made quite clear in his direct quotes. The general demeanor is that he wouldn’t be seen or caught dead with poor people.

        Beyond that, I sent an e-mail to a few people last night for them to read 1 Timothy 6 (w/o referencing Barnard) given the overall economic climate and how the church at-large plays into it. One particular respondent wrote back this afternoon saying that she awoke at 3 this morning and “randomly” read scripture and came across 1 Timothy 6. She then saw my e-mail around noon today, and responded saying that she happened upon that same scriptural passage during the overnight. She is also a former member of this “church,” though there was never discussion of our shared experiences there.

        What I am gratified with is that there have been people that saw the show for what it was and departed. Full satisfaction won’t come for me until the entire sordid operation ceases to exist.

    • 20 speaking truth March 19, 2009 at 1:05 pm

      Frankly, N’Catina, I don’t know how you can stomach even tuning in to your former pimp’s broadcasts. Every time I see the Pimp of Hampton lying and begging for money on Streamingfaith (which has become the net’s version of The Word Network, TBN, and Daystar) I get angry and have to repent for wanting to lash out in my flesh.

      While I do cruise the pimp’s usual haunts – just to get an update on their latest heresy, I try to stay away…it makes life easier.

      Oh, and of course your former pimp would rather beef up his “Armorbearer” detail and find another gym instead of having the intestinal fortitude to stand in fron of the congregation and defend his money grab. How would you like to bet that “passa” would be suddenly “unavailable” when concerned members start making appointments to discuss his spending…

      • 21 N'Catina March 19, 2009 at 3:42 pm

        Actually, IST, I tune into the “broadcast” as a means of spiritual exercise; seeing with different eyes (having studied scripture, and reading this and other similiar blogs for over a year) what this man is teaching now versus when I was first caught up in the delusion. I find there is a distinct difference for me in being able to hear heresy pass my former pestor’s lips versus those more well-known pimps of that stripe.

        How I can “stomach it,” I can’t answer–not saying the experience is pleasant, mind you. Yet, it does help me have a greater understanding of the scriptures personified when I see my former “pastor” run roughshod over scriptures where I once thought he was “skillful” in his delivery and activity. Within that, see the pews are a bit more sparse these days, which leads me to conclude the funds are drying up, thus increasing the likelihood of foreclosure.

        Atop that, I still have contact with a few people still there. For those that have ears to hear, I will share with them what I have expressed here. Beyond that, I don’t make it a point to even be in the area, other than to see my mother who happens to reside in that part of the city.

        • 22 speaking truth March 19, 2009 at 4:05 pm

          Point well taken, N’Catina. I guess I can watch every other viper slithering across the pulpit, but I have a personal gag-reflex specifically reserved for the Pimp of Hampton alone.

          My wife often wonders why I stop by The Word of God has nothing to do with this Network when I see the hirelings preening and lying, and I say almost the exact thing that you said: now that I can “see”, I’m able to discern just how far off base these folks are – and it causes me to pray even harder for those who sit under the pimps.

          I certainly agree, sister.

  8. 23 Ministry Focused March 20, 2009 at 5:23 am

    i think church lending should all be about how to change more lives for Christ, if people are going to be impacted with the love of Christ through the expansion – bring it on…

  9. 24 Susan May 6, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    Pen Itent in his article The Ponzi Prosperity Gospel of May 4, 2009

    http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/religionandtheology/1374/ writes:

    The Prosperity Gospel, also known as a facet of the Word of Faith movement (a louder voice in Pentecostalism), has been writing checks with its lips that’s its theology can’t cash. Last year’s Pew Foundation mega-poll, which surveyed nearly 35,000 people (one of the largest religion polls ever accomplished), revealed a few interesting facts about Christians in the Pentecostal tradition, among them:

    • Pentecostals have the lowest incomes of any other Christian denomination.
    • Pentecostals have the least education of any other Christian denomination.

    The results show that Pentecostals have the most high school dropouts, the fewest college graduates, and the fewest post-graduates. But the most interesting thing is that they earn the least annual income of any other Christian tradition polled. This is shocking, considering that a main feature in popular Pentecostalism is the Prosperity Gospel, where church members are promised that God will make them rich beyond their wildest dreams if they tithe generously and believe that they will receive the money.


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