How a group of white church planters learned to listen to African Americans and build a better Christian community. Claim your free 50GB now Mega church memberships generally explode within a two- to five-year period, becoming overnight successes. Mike Vaughn doesn’t think churches should accept money from the government, normally. “I saw everything crumbling, and then it was a question of like, ‘What now?’” she said. “What’s it going to look like in terms of the optics in the long term, that this is where the church went for a rescue?”. Sign Up For Our Newsletter University of Pennsylvania sociologist Ram Cnaan describes it as a “halo effect.” Churches provide social services, from counseling to child care, and also spend money locally. Her business is more than that, though; it also fulfills a promise that she made to her 4-year-old daughter Isabella. Megachurches, where pastors are sometimes worth millions of dollars, were also able to qualify for PPP. The average net income of megachurches was estimated at $4.8 million by that same survey. The church has 236 people on staff and used the “overwhelming majority” of the PPP money for payroll. Can Megachurches Deal With Mega Money in a Christian Way? Who gets a helping hand from PPP loan program? Sandals Church, in Riverside, California, received a loan between $1 million and $2 million, according to executive director Brian Chelette. The mega church is located in Lagos. The church’s 52-year-old senior pastor was hired in 2005, it employs 25 staff members, and attendance has been recently growing 7 percent per year. President Michael Lindsay among 26 CCCU presidents urging an exemption clause in pending executive order. Providing money to churches was unprecedented and controversial—even among evangelicals. Many megachurches preach a prosperity gospel, the idea that God wants us to be rich, and if you aren't, it's through some fault of your own. He also understands why those outside the church might be skeptical of religious organizations getting money from the federal government. The church has also given 170 computer tablets to seniors, to help them better communicate with loved ones while isolated by the pandemic. Now, Black is one of many other business owners back in line to apply for loans and demand change from the PPP program in order to save their businesses. Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church is probably the biggest church in the United States, with 50,000 or so members. "What makes our PPP different [from] past funding programs is the direct financing of religious operations and religious institutions,” said Schwartzman. Law professor Micah Schwartzman of the University of Virginia. It’s manna from Caesar, that’s for sure,” he said. This can serve as a powerful attraction to one who is contemplating which local church to attend. Get the most recent headlines and stories from Christianity Today delivered to your inbox daily. “However, there were, from the outset, structural flaws with this program, structural barriers.”. The SBA also extended the PPP loans to nonprofit groups, which normally wouldn’t qualify through the agency. After a painstaking application process, Black said she was approved for only $2,000. “The loan really helped us to be able to make other decisions that allowed us to be that much more of a blessing to the community.”, Subscribe to CT and MEGA provides free cloud storage with convenient and powerful always-on privacy. “I was furious,” said Black. The average salary for a lead pastor in a megachurch is $147,000, according to a recent survey. Browse 60+ years of magazine archives and web exclusives. These churches of darkness are flourishing by discrediting the Scriptures. Yet Nigerian churches do often invest large amounts of their congregations’ money in shares and property, at home and abroad, he and another banking source said. The church behind one mega-preacher, Joseph Prince, was forced to deny that he earned an annual salary of $550,000, after his wealth was reported online. Black said she applied for grants and applied for a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program in April, which aims to help small business owners like her stay afloat. Vaughn said he would normally be skeptical himself. Willow Creek … In a study of 90 churches in three urban areas, Cnaan found each house of worship contributed $1.2 million to $2.5 million to the local economy every year. The PPP rules say loans will be converted to grants if 75 percent of the funds are used for payroll and the rest for specified needs, including rent and utilities. ABC News’ Faith Abubey reports on the struggle for minority-owned small businesses to secure PPP loans, and megachurches facing scrutiny after securing funds. Duping those who wanted to be duped. But in some cases they do … He has told his congregation that the home is a gift from God. “Here’s why: You just let the federal government into the management of your organization.”. According to Vaughn’s accounting, the church spent 93 percent of the money on payroll. In a press release, the agency said that it is "calling upon its lending partners to redouble their efforts to assist eligible borrowers in underserved and disadvantaged communities.". Joel Osteen, another Texas megachurch pastor, received $350,000 to $1 million in loans for his Houston-based Lakewood Church, or about one-fifth what First Baptist of Dallas received. Funding churches is one way to do that. mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:3. When the coronavirus pandemic hit last year, the possibility of losing what she had worked hard so hard became all the more apparent. First Baptist did not return a request for comment from ABC News. With their full staff, the church could also better engage the national conversation about racism and policing after the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. “They didn’t need this money, which was really designated for small businesses that were hurting,” he said. Joel Osteen, the pastor of Lakewood Church, stands with his wife, Victoria Osteen, as he conducts a service at his church as the city starts the process of rebuilding after severe flooding during Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey, Sep. 3, 2017, in Houston. Perhaps the next Mega-Church will have well padded reclining seats and offer popcorn & drinks for their Sunday entertainment. The CARES Act gave $521 billion in PPP funds to small businesses, nonprofits, and churches between the beginning of April and the end of June. Black opened the gelato store in Arlington, Virginia, in December 2019 -- soon after returning home from a 13-month deployment in the Navy reserves. Lakewood Church and Joyce Meyers Ministries told ABC News that the money from the loans was used to save hundreds of jobs and that the pastors did not receive any of the money themselves. It would have been a much heavier lift.”. Palm Valley staff called every member of the church to check in every two weeks, praying for them, encouraging them, and listening to their needs. Mega churches across the United States are becoming increasingly popular which is not only bringing thousands of worshippers together, but also billions of dollars in profit. “I think most people understand that these are special circumstances during the pandemic, and so there wasn’t any major public outcry about this,” he said. The CARES Act was trying to pump money into the economy. It’s not likely that churches will have to return their loan money at this point, but there’s still time to determine if the government privileged certain religious applicants or used taxpayer money in inappropriate ways, said Alison Gill, the vice president of policy for American Atheists, an organization fighting for more separation between church and state. “It’s a triple don’t do it for churches,” Ramsey said. The 13,000-member Southern Baptist megachurch received between $2 million and $5 million in April, according to OpenTheBooks.com. Data from the SBA showed churches led by Evangelical TV stars received anywhere from $250,000 to $5 million in loans. And at least one pastor seized on … Vaughn is sympathetic to that point of view. “If we had been short-staffed once that aspect of things came to the surface and we recognized we needed to lean into those things, it would have been really hard. MORE: Coronavirus live updates: Biden admin won't lift COVID travel restrictions after Trump announces changes for UK, Europe, MORE: JPMorgan Chase investigating misuse of pandemic aid funds, MORE: Luxury hotels benefited from PPP loans. Megachurches were integrated by blacks seeking to end ‘the most segregated hour in America.’ But now those churches are getting Trumpy, and blacks are leaving. The mega-church model which was the flavor of the week in church leadership circles for decades is now beginning to crumble. Thereasa Black opened her gelato shop to fulfill a promise to her daughter Isabella in Arlington, Virginia, in December 2019. Palm Valley, like about 40 percent of Protestant churches in the United States according to a LifeWay Research survey, decided to apply for the forgivable loan. 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