When Grandview Baptist Church members began to pack up and move out of the church building, they were uncertain what was next.
Pastor John Whisnant Jr. was at the church packing up boxes with a looming deadline the next day to vacate the premises on the foreclosed property. A man in a pickup truck stopped and offered to pay off the bank note for the church, a sum totaling $345,000.
In 2003 the church received a loan of $545,000 to build a 15,000-sq.-foot family life center.
Then Catawba River Baptist Association’s Phil Oakley said the economy started taking hits.
Furniture and textile companies closed local factories and stores. “People lost their jobs and just couldn’t contribute as much,” said Whisnant to WBTV. The church tried to file bankruptcy but could not meet all the requirements. One of the church’s members tried to put up some land as collateral but the bank would not accept it.
They even tried to lease the gymnasium area but there were zoning and planning issues. Because of this anonymous donor, the church was able to start meeting together again and now holds the deed to its facility as well.
Oakley, who is the director of missions for Catawba River, said Grandview is not alone in hurting financially.
He estimates that a third of the association’s churches have held up fairly well, but the rest have a variety of financial burdens, from offerings being low to struggling to pay even basic bills.
“We have churches with various issues … some have debts that they are feeling the burden of,” Oakley said.
Even the association has experienced a “downturn in giving” these last few months, he said.
Oakley said Burke County’s economy has been taking hits for several years.
“Everybody is calling [what happened at Grandview] a miracle,” Oakley said, joking that several other ministers in the area wish that kind of miracle would happen to them.
For churches or associations looking to build, Oakley advises that they have “a good, strong support base,” as well as have “a significant amount of the money already on hand.”
With the uncertain economy, Oakley advises trying to handle meeting needs in other ways, possibly adding services to adjust to larger crowds and rethinking your current space.
Right now the association has a small number of churches who need more space and are considering building. One small church is planning to build a sanctuary.
“They have been wise in getting the majority of their funds before they begin construction,” Oakley said.
A second church has begun a building program for a fellowship hall “walking by faith believing God will provide,” he said.