Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Borrowing to Build


Click here to find the source of the Article : Borrowing to build

The use of debt to build or expand the outreach of a church is so common a practice today that even to challenge the idea can create an air of animosity. However, just because a practice is normal does not mean it is scriptural or best.

It should be noted that most churches repay their indebtedness according to contract. So the discussion is not whether a church can repay (they must) but whether churches should borrow even if they can repay.

Is borrowing prohibited?
Church borrowing is an emotional and controversial topic. When the time comes to fund building programs or expansions, too many ministry leaders immediately call a bond company or make an appointment with a commercial loan officer at the bank.

Why do churches so frequently borrow to fund expansion? In many cases, they feel they have no other alternative. Church leaders too often feel trapped and resort to borrowing out of a sense of desperation.

Borrowing is not prohibited in Scripture. It is discouraged. There are no positive references to borrowing, but there are explicit warnings to avoid it. “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender's slave” (Proverbs 22:7).

Thus God's Word indicates that an unnecessary authority is created by borrowing, plus borrowing denies God's people the opportunity to experience His blessings (see 2 Corinthians 9:10).

Scripture points out four precedents concerning borrowing:
  • Borrowing is always presented in the negative (see Proverbs 17:18).
  • God never made a promise to anyone and then fulfilled it through a loan or debt (see Luke 6:38).
  • God promised His people that if they would obey His commandments they wouldn't have to borrow (see Deuteronomy 28:12).
  • God had worship structures built at least three times in the Bible, and no credit was used.
How borrowing affects ministry
The philosophy of the day says to have it all now. This mind-set causes serious problems in the local church.

Members who are accustomed to making large purchases using personal credit carry that same belief system and practice into their churches. This has caused many local congregations to assume staggering amounts of debt that has resulted in high debt-service payments.

Many of these debts cut deeply into ministry resources to the extent that staffing needs and other opportunities have to be set aside in order to pay the mortgage.

A debt within the church restricts the ability of the members to serve God. Quite often, ministry decisions are based on the need to meet the debt payments rather than to fund current ministry needs.

Without a doubt, overly ambitious building programs have caused more stress in churches than any other financial endeavor. Many building programs have pursued what has been termed “architectural evangelism.” It is felt that a large, ornate sanctuary will draw people to the church. But at what cost?

Almost everyone agrees that the local church consists of more than simply bricks and mortar. But, then again, almost every church spends a great deal of time, energy, and money on buildings.

Huge portions of church collections go to meet interest payments. This money could be used to further God's kingdom, rather than the world's. Some major denominations spend more on interest payments than on foreign missions.

The need to build
There are some essential questions that need to be answered before spending church resources on building or expansion programs.
  1. What is the true motive for building or expansion? Is it based on a real or a perceived need (a want)? Is money for building going to be spent to the detriment of missions or essential ministry programs? The Great Commission never said anything about highly leveraged building programs.
  2. What effect will borrowing have on the cash flow of the church? When a church has a mortgage, the mortgage holder must get his portion first—before pastor, utilities, or missions are paid. In essence, a mortgage reorders all of the church's priorities. The mortgage must be paid first; everything else comes next, regardless of how the church feels God has called them to minister.
  3. Is God backing the decision? If God is backing the program, He will bring the funds in without the church having to borrow.
     Raising money needs to be low-key and all funds need to be on hand before any construction begins. 
  4. Is God the designer? If God is backing the project and He brings in the amount of money that is needed for the construction effort, the size and the cost of the building effort will be determined by how much God brings in, not by what a building committee says is needed.
Alternative to borrowing
There is an alternative to borrowing: generous giving by God's people.

Christians need to give in a generous, joyous, God-first, servant-minded, self-sacrificial way, in proportion to their incomes.

Yet when challenged to give up personal desires in favor of contributing to the work and expansion of churches, too many American Christians say no.

This is not the giving attitude that is powerfully and consistently taught throughout the New Testament. If Christians would give as God clearly instructs them to, there never would be a need for churches to borrow.

Although it is not a sin for a church to borrow for building or expansion, it does circumvent the need to trust God.

If God is convicting the people to expand or renovate, there is enough money in each church to fund the project.

There are countless churches across America that are both large and thriving and have chosen to avoid debt. They have decided to build debt free and have delayed expanding until they could afford to do so. To these, the church is in their hearts, not in a building.

If emotion is driving a program, it probably will fail. If the desire to reach more people and show them God's love is the motivation, God will honor that attitude.

Buildings should not be built "to the glory of God," because God does not need buildings. So, if there is truly a need for expansion, the church leadership and congregation need to set aside some time to seek what God wants for the church and ask Him how the money will be provided.

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