Friends and members of Christ Our Redeemer Church have the rare luxury this month of doing something seldom seen or heard these days with most anyone anywhere, having avoided the great flood of sub-prime lending schemes that wreaked havoc on so many others.
While millions are up against foreclosures in the continuing crisis, Pastor Mark Whitlock is grateful for the opportunity to burn what is considered the heaviest weight of the American monthly budget – the mortgage.
His church is finally paid for.
To celebrate, the Pastor is hosting a burn party – but in a good way.
“We have to give all of the credit to God, what God was able to do with our church,” he said. “Every member of Christ Our Redeemer made it possible to pay off the debt in five years, when it should have taken 25 years.”
In recent years, foreclosures have forced doors shut on over 200 churches under unfair mortgage loans. Official data is limited, and thought to be much higher. Harder yet, Blacks and Latinos make up a disproportionate share of sub-prime loans, and it’s not a stretch to think that COR church is the exception to the rule.
This is the last big bill they owe, and they are “100% out of debt” on the building, Pastor Whitlock said. At the October 23rd ceremony, he’s also honoring his eldest member, “Mama Oden,” who has been with the church from the inception. She’ll gladly light the match.
No doubt, Pastor Whitlock used a few other God-given tools to move the church structure over to the fiscally sound side of the ledger. Before he became a pastor, he was a banker.
But the real secret, he said, is staying close to some tried and true principles.
“That means we cannot spend money that we don’t have, and we must not over-promise money that we have not budgeted,” he said.
It also helps that some members have made large contributions. Volunteerism is strong with about half of their 2,600 members very active with about 20 new members showing up weekly.
In recent years, they’ve had a consistent increase in giving despite the crippling economy.
The pastor has a theory.
“I think the reason why is because we’ve had an increase in programs over the last four years,” he said. “As long as we can meet needs of the community, [socially, spiritually and psychologically]. If a person is hurting,we must find a way to be of service immediately.”
Given the level of diminished tithing to churches nationwide as so many members have lost jobs, pensions or wiped out vital savings, COR has grown 40 programs and paying off the mortgage is akin to a miracle.
Even so, he probably has as much going out now as he has coming in. It’s all good.
Now with one less monthly payment, he’s already thinking about food for the holidays, which come quickly. He wants to feed 1,000 for Christmas.
“The church must be responsible because we have to set the tone for our community. If the church can be fiscally smart, so can the community,” he said.
For more information, see http://www.corchurch.org/