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“Not So Fast, WSJ”

Charis Group President Mark Brooks Gives Perspective on Church Foreclosures

As posted to TheCharisGroup.org January 25

“Not so fast, my friend,” is a line Lee Corso of ESPN has made famous.  Every Saturday when his fellow co-hosts attempt to predict the outcome of a game in favor of one team over another Lee will point out what he feels is an overlooked item that could change the game in other ways.

I was reminded of that quote when I read the Wall Street Journal’s January 25th article entitled, “Churches Find End Is Nigh.”  The line under the head line states, “The number of religious facilities unable to pay their mortgage is surging.”  Surging?  The article written by Shelly Banjo, states in the second sentence, “The past few years have seen a rapid acceleration in the number of churches losing their sanctuaries because they can’t pay the mortgage.”  Really?  A rapid acceleration?  Ok, let me roll out a Lee Corso quote, “Not so fast my WSJ friend!”

Like so many articles about the impact of this past recession this article leads to fears that left unchecked or unchallenged could cause irreparable damage.  It is my opinion that this article buys into assumptions not entirely based upon facts.  It takes the problems of a very very few churches in America and makes it look like a surge and acceleration of trouble is ahead when the facts do not support it.  It disappoints me that my favorite newspaper published such a one sided and inaccurate view of what is happening in American church life.  As one who works with churches to meet their mortgage payments let me give you my not so fast facts.

0.000597 is the percentage number of US churches that were foreclosed since 2008! As a minister I hate to see any Christian church close that is working for Christ’s Kingdom.  For each of the nearly 200 churches that were foreclosed as listed by the WSJ that for them is a crisis and sad.  There are roughly 335,000 religious congregations in America.  Over 300,000 of these are Protestant churches.  To make a case that foreclosures are surging or rapidly accelerating is an inaccurate conclusion and poor journalism.  It creates the potential for panic where none should exist.

As I have tracked this story over the last few years I have seen headlines that read, “Church Foreclosures Triple In Recession.”  What the articles fail to tell you is that triple means it went from eight in previous years to twenty four.  Again, that is out of well over 300,000 churches.  Furthermore these articles never set this in historical context.  How has church foreclosures during this last recession compared to past recessions?  There is little historical data on this.  The assumption of the current WSJ article and every other fear mongering story I have read about church foreclosures is that the economy is to blame.  Again, not so fast!

Blaming the economy as the sole reason for any church foreclosure is a mistake. It is easy to blame the economy and leave it at that.  The problem is that it is too easy.  While I grant you that the economy has and will continue to play into the few churches that are in trouble in many of these churches that is only half the story.  Perhaps the most celebrated of all churches struggling to pay their debts is the Crystal Cathedral in California.  However one has to wonder how much the split between father and son caused stress on the finances of this church?  It would be a mistake to blame all their financial woes on the hard pressed economy of California.

Read the remainder of this article at http://thecharisgroup.org/2011/01/25/not-so-fast-wall-street-journal-another-perspective-on-church-foreclosures/


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