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Methodists/big mortgage to cover church expansion


My local UMC wants to expand and get a huge mortgage to cover the expansion.  Everyone who supports the idea overwhelms the few dissenters brave enough to speak up about the wisdom of taking on such a big mortgage in a lousy economy.  The supporters believe that the dissenters just "don't have enough faith in God" to help pay off the mortgage.  When is it appropriate to just have faith in God and when is it appropriate to be cautious so that the next pastors are not forced to preach about the lamentable church finances every Sunday?  Sincerely, Doubting Thomas

Dear "Doubting Thomas,"

You articulate a all-too-common dilemma ... one with which I am familiar in several ways.  Allow me to respond in several points:

1.  Is the expansion warranted by growth of the congregation?  If it is, and if not expanding will kill or hamper the growth, than expanding really is the proper course to take.  This is true without regard to the "hugeness" of the mortgage.  

2.  Debt is not always a bad thing.  On the one hand, It is good if it is (1) serviceable, and (2) acquired for visible, tangible, unquestionable gains.  While some might reject any acquisition of debt in this economy (or any economy), this attitude is the way that leads to the eventual decline and death of a congregation.  On the other hand, debt can be a bad thing if is is (1) NOT serviceable, and/or (2) unwarranted by the visible, immediate needs of the congregation.

3.  If the need to expand is real, the congregation will find a way to pay the note.  If it isn't real, no amount of positive argument can justify it.

With these points in mind, consider the need for expansion, the downfalls if the congregation doesn't move forward and expand, and the challenges that the debt will bring to the congregation.

I hope this helps.


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Rev. Gregory S. Neal


I can answer questions dealing with all issues of United Methodist Doctrine and Wesleyan-Arminian Theology. In particular I can answer questions dealing with the Sacraments and other liturgical and worship-oriented questions. I can also answer questions dealing with the form, structure, and organization of the United Methodist Church and our relationship with other denominations.


I am an ordained United Methodist Elder with more than 20 years of ministerial service experience in the local Church.

I am a Clergy Member in Full Connection and have been a member of the North Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church since 1991. I am a member of the Society of Biblical Literature and the American Academy of Religion. I am also a member of the Emmaus Community, and am currently serving as Senior Spiritual Director for the Dallas Emmaus Community. I am a member of the Order of Saint Luke in the United Methodist Church.

I have my own website:   I have written two books, "Grace Upon Grace" and "Seeking the Shepherd's Arms," both available at and in bookstores.

I have a BA in Religious Studies, History and Russian. I have an M.Div in Systematic Theology and Biblical Studies and a Ph.D in Sacramental Theology and New Testament.

Awards and Honors
Ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church
Fellow of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist

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