Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Megachurch Troubles

Jerry Johnston's church, First Family Church, is being foreclosed on. Links for your reading pleasure: Good information and lots of snarky comments from atheists in the comment section.

and copied from their website, their reply to the situation (they declined to talk to the Kansas City Star.

As the Board of Elders informed FFC membership in March 2010, Regions Bank unexpectedly called the church's mortgage demanding full payment within 30 days; terms which were financially impossible for the Church to comply with. Regretfully, since that time despite our sincere and on-going efforts to work with Regions in finding a long term solution which insured our full repayment of all debt owed, on January 26, 2011, Regions filed a foreclosure notice against First Family Church in Johnson County, KS. Since its occurrence, your church leadership, pastors, elders, deacons, and ministry leaders have been praying and in a spirit of unity. We are confident to resolve this situation while all ministries and worship services continue as scheduled on our campus. This is happening to churches across the country according to the Wall Street Journal, 1/24/11 - another reality of our country's economic crisis.

  • FFC remains proactive with the lender in working out a successful financial debt restructuring that will bridge the challenges of the current situation.

  • The bank filing was something the Church was expecting, as it is standard Administrative Process required of lenders while working to restructure the debt.

  • FFC has demonstrated by internal financial management that it has the capacity to enter into a restructuring with Regions that will repay this debt in full. We are confident that a resolution will be accomplished.
  • This development toward First Family Church by Regions is consistent with the Bank's actions since they accelerated the mortgage maturity from 30 years to 5 years recently forcing this situation even whileFirst Family Church was current in its obligations. We recognize banks today are under immense pressure by federal regulators. These are uncertain economic times.

  • While FFC continues negotiations with Regions Bank, the mission, ministries, worship services, and Conquest Initiatives will continue without interruption on our campus. We will resolve this matter to the satisfaction of the bank and First Family Church.

  • Please continue to pray and rest assured your Elder Board is working diligently to resolve this matter. Church members are encouraged to contact the Elders and Chief Financial Officer of First Family Church at the church office with any questions.

  • We look forward to seeing you on Sundays @ 9:00 & 10:45a.m. for regular worship services as well as on Wednesdays @ 6:30p.m. at the new "Christian Thinkers Society" in our worship campus facility. Thank you so very much for your continued prayers.
Now, they've had troubles before with money. This is not the first time the local paper has gotten after them. There is a lot here that I don't understand and also a lot here that demonstrates that Christian churches have to be very transparent with the money. (Being smart with it is good too, but sometimes I think transparency and integrity are more important than saving or making money smartly.)

Christians are not perfect and they will make mistakes. However, you cannot set yourself up for a fall in this type of fashion. Two more things and I'm done.

The previous problems Jerry Johnston had with money accountability:

A fine couple of comments from the Star article.
It is unfortunate that some very good people that are on staff at First Family could possibly lose their jobs. I don't wish that on anyone in this economy. I am a member of this church and have from the beginning wished that finances weren't so secretive and that there was more oversight from the members. I think that Jerry Johnston is an excellent preacher when it comes to sermons and is well-versed in the Bible; though he is severely lacking in people skills and knowing how to keep the members the church does have. I have had much support from one minister (not Jerry) when I needed it most and I am grateful for his love, support, prayers, and concern. Jerry Johnston could take some lessons from some of his other ministers on how to be a pastor to the membership. The initiation of quarterly business meetings with an actual vote from the membership on expenditures would be a good start for this church. I have attended Baptist churches my entire life and all finances were published right down to how much the pastor made, including his housing allowance. Also, the Board of Deacons were the main control on finances for the church along with voting approval from the members. Projects seem to get announced in this church as the next "big" thing and then months go by and nothing happens. Then something new is given the hype and the previous "big" thing is never discussed. I hope the church can get it's finances in order because we need to worship and praise God, and now more than ever we need to rely on God in these terrible times. Praise the Lord, keep the faith, and God bless our Military!!!

and this in reply by another reader:

You described Jerry's slight of hand perfectly. He always has his congregation excited about something that is coming up. When he brings up the next exciting event, people forget that the last one didn't happen.

The lack of financial accountability at FFC was brought front and center in March 2007. It's too bad a lesson wasn't learned. I believe the doors would have stopped revolving and the church would be healthy spiritually and financially if Jerry was forthright and honest with the congregation. But, Jerry is not going to do that. Anyone thinking members of the congregation should have a say in financial matters will hear from Jerry that their vote is whether their feet walk in the doors of FFC or not

The message? A double edged one:
God's followers must be gentle, yet wise. They must be transparent. They must avoid being fake. They must accept accountability. They should err on the side of thinking small in the stuff of the world. (I've asked myself sometimes, even in the 125 member churches I've been a part of if the church building is such a good idea...)
The second thing: The only thing that is completely perfect in Christian faith is God Himself. His followers? Not so much. And those who are arguing with God and are running from Him will use God's followers imperfections as reasons to reject faith. It happens. Remember who actually convicts and saves. We are witnesses and ambassadors, not the ones who bring the power of God for forgiveness and love.

In the meantime, we--still!--need to live remembering that our witness may be the only "Bible" nonbelievers read!

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