Since 2010, 270 churches have been sold after defaulting on their loans, with 90 percent of those sales coming after a lender-triggered foreclosure, according to the real estate information company CoStar Group.
In 2011, 138 churches were sold by banks, an annual record, with no sign that these religious foreclosures are abating, according to CoStar. That compares to just 24 sales in 2008 and only a handful in the decade before.
I take this as a generally good sign for Christianity, because I believe that the Church of Christ has become too materialistic, and one way this is revealed is the emphasis on having church buildings. Everything is centered on the church building. Christians meet there three or four times a week and lots of activities are scheduled there (out of convenience, of course). This does not mean church buildings are inherently sinful, but it does often seem to be the case that the many congregations make the church building the focus of their worship, their fellowship, and all other religious activities.
Incidentally, it is interesting to note the evolution of this process. It used to be that Christians met once a week (Sunday mornings) in a meetinghouse for worship. The building was generally low-frills: One room with lots of pews, possibly a stage with a lectern or podium, and a fireplace with which to keep warm in the winter. Now congregations go to church buildings that have offices, kitchens, classrooms, resource rooms, etc. No wonder the church has become so building-centric: The building has transformed from a utilitarian place of weekly worship to a corporate headquarters.
In closing, let me simply theorize that most congregations could go sell their buildings and still meet their obligations to worship God and serve him in his kingdom. While potlucks, bible classes (a wholly unnecessary and literally unbiblical subject that merits its own post), and lock-ins would be eliminated from the lists of official church activities, the congregation would still be able to take care of the basic things, like corporate worship. And everything else could be replaced with something that didn’t require a massive mortgage and several hundred dollars in monthly maintenance costs. Better yet, the money that would be recouped or saved from selling off the church building could be used to fund evangelism and mission work. It’s a win-win.