Churches in debt are in the news as of late. Crystal Cathedral declared bankruptcy and a local church here in the Boston area is suing a bank because it should have known better than lend money to the church. No kidding.
Two great enemies of ministry are debt and endowments. Debts drive ministry decisions. The bottom line is what decision about ministry will help a church most be able to pay its bills. This is often very different from what would in and of itself be the best decision. Endowments protect churches from having to face the reality that the congregation is unwilling or unable to give at a level that sustains the ministry of the church. In both cases, no money and easy money sap the church of its vitality.
How many church leadership teams are beholding to interest groups in the church whose giving is necessary to pay back loans? If those loans were not there, there would be fewer opportunities for the leadership to be leveraged. Pay as you go doesn’t completely alleviate the problems, but it does ratchet down the stress. And it keeps the church on the road to live within its means as a lifestyle.
Is it realistic to build buildings without debt? It has been done. It is still being done. My home church will not borrow money to build buildings. Over 60 years of time and innumerable building projects, it has kept its commitment to not leverage ministry to the bank. The savings has indeed been in the millions.
Let the words resound in your head again and again – debt is not good. Debt is not good. Debt is not good. Debt is not good.