“I have used Josh's new interactive video as a substitute teacher in two of my young adult classes. It's great to have around for those times when someone becomes ill or is unable to teach on a given Sunday. Just pop in the video and you're ready for class.”
— Terry Jeffries


How NOT to buy a new church building


NOTE: in a follow up email, the pastor later discovered this to be a BUST, stating that the company had been sued by several churches, and they had not, at that time, gotten their money back. I leave this article on here so you know to be warned about such plans. I am sorry for anyone I helped lead astray.

Someone made an off-hand comment to me at a conference in Tennessee once, "Every church I know of that has relocated has done well afterwards and were glad they did.”

This struck me as odd at first because my first book is about the fact that most of the time when churches build buildings, the process of building the building will kill the growth they are trying to create. How could an even larger project of a total relocation cause a church to grow?

Well, that has been several years now, and I have been watching. Nearly every church I know of-and I have been to quite a number of them-that has relocated has done well afterward and were glad they did.

Not that it didn't come without a price. I have had pastors (and their wives) barely able to hold back the tears as they told stories of the bitter wars of relocating. “My grandfather was baptized in this baptistry and I don't care how many people it helps us reach if we move, I shall not be moved.” Even with this bitter struggle, the results made it all worth it.

As I think about it, it all makes sense. I think those of us who are in the church tend to under-emphasize the physical issues of atmosphere. We have our minds on spiritual things and how good the sermon is and hot the band. As C.S. Lewis says, we are amphibious beings—one foot in the spiritual realm while one foot is in the physical realm. We have to pay attention to both. Atmosphere matters.

And there is the law of the mop bucket. Try this experiment. Put a dirty mop bucket in plain sight in your church. Just leave it sitting on the side of your auditorium for 6 weeks. The first week, everyone will notice and you will get lots of complaints. By the third week, not so much. By the sixth week you can bring up a motion in business meeting to have the mop bucket removed and someone will say, “What mop bucket?” The law of the mop bucket teaches us that after six weeks we don't notice the dirty carpet, the broken fixtures, or the little stack of old literature in the corner of nearly every class room. We don't smell that smell in the preschool, but our visitors do.

Think about this: nearly every church I go to has an older building than my bank, the school my kids attend, the grocery store where I shop and the restaurants where I eat. What about you, is it true of you?

A basic missionary principle says that the buildings we use for church need to be about as nice as the grocery stores, schools, homes and banks of the people we are trying to reach. In most cases they are not.

One little problem, and some very, good news

Relocations may be needed and nice and maybe even necessary, but they are also terribly expensive. Well, I have some very good news.

Lee Poe, pastor of First Baptist Church Livingston, Texas told me about an ingenious and creative plan they are using to finance their relocation. Put yourthinking caps on.  He had to explain this to me twice.

Olympic Outreach is loaning their church $4 million to finance the relocation. They are taking out $110,000 life insurance policies on 400 of their members. Olympic-outreach is the beneficiary of $100,000 of this, while the individual can name a beneficiary for the remaining $10,000. This anticipated income will go to pay off the principle, as well as being the real profit in the long run for Olympic-outreach. (If I have done the math right, they will stand to receive $40 million when they collect the premiums on all this life insurance.)

FBC Livingston will pay an interest-only payment of $8,000 a month, which works out to 2.4% interest per year. This $8,000 is only abut 15% of their current budget.

When 10% of the people that had the life insurance policies taken out of them pass away, the church will no longer have to pay the interest payment, since the note will have been paid off. Again, the real money for Olympic outreach comes as the remaining 90% pass away. It is a heavy investment for them, in the payout of the $4 million of the building and purchasing 400 prepaid life insurance policies.

Bottom line for FBC Livingston: they get a nice new building at a price they can afford.

One little wrinkle: this plan is so popular that Olympic outreach is not taking on any more churches at this time. If you know of other, similar companies, please let me know as I would like to pass that information along. josh@joshhunt.com This may be the plan that allows us to build churches in the burgeoning suburbs all across America.

Who will reach the burgeoning suburbs? Will new churches, like Saddleback? Many such churches have had good success, but many others do not have the strength to really become a full-service church. Will people drive downtown or inside the beltway to go to church? Maybe, maybe not.

The most promising model for reaching the suburbs that are exploding in many cities is for strong churches to move out to where the people are. This creative method provides an opportunity to do that in a way that makes it possible to do so.