Beyond Grateful: Kansas Church Thankful to Be Debt-Free
By Carl Stagner
Pastor Presephoni Fuller considers this their “Exodus moment.” After all, in the eyes of South Church of God in Liberal, Kansas, God has made a way through the “Red Sea of debt.” On Sunday, November 7, tears of joy and shouts of praise marked the special occasion when the southwest Kansas congregation celebrated the burning of their mortgage. As more and more churches across the United States and Canada commit to generosity and stretch their faith, God is responding by setting them free from the chains of debt. For these churches, including South Church of God, this Thanksgiving season takes on a whole new level of meaning.
Ministry leaders know the uneasy feeling of wondering where the money will come from when it’s needed most. The testimony of the treasurer of South Church of God says it all. “When I took over the treasurer’s job in September 2018, the church was having trouble paying the bills.” It’s in these moments that the elimination of mortgage debt seems eons away—keeping the lights on is the immediate goal. But when the Holy Spirit wants to elevate the faith of a congregation and capture the attention of the surrounding community for God’s glory, you might find yourself discarding reason for what doesn’t make sense. Thankfully, God sees the big picture.
$208,000. That’s the amount the church owed when Pastor Presephoni officially arrived in Liberal, Kansas, in June of 2018. She recounts, “At our first board meeting I began to ask about the balance on the church building. I listened for a while and concluded that God was going to pay this off. That Sunday morning, I was preaching on faith from Jeremiah 29:11. God has plans for this place! So, one Sunday I said this debt was like the account of Caleb and Joshua surveying the Promised Land—this debt was as grasshoppers to God! Yet, every time I brought up the possibility of paying off the debt, someone would pull out a calculator. My response was always the same. ‘You can’t calculate God!’”
Nobody could have calculated with complete accuracy what God would have in store as South Church of God pursued their mortgage payoff in faithful obedience. Bit by bit, month by month, donations of different sizes, from different sources, began coming in, as if to say, “This is God, and I’ve got this. Keep up the good work!” And the congregation kept giving and kept watching in amazement. By the second year, Presephoni notes she was already planning a mortgage burning ceremony.
One of the important turning points occurred on Easter Sunday when a Faith Promise offering was received. From a human perspective, the goal was outrageously high. $10,000 wasn’t doable, was it? Conventional wisdom says goals should be high, but still reasonably attainable. But Pastor Presephoni and South Church of God didn’t want to limit God. A goal too low would be humanly possible and wouldn’t require God to move. By faith, and after several exciting moments during their morning worship gathering, the church had raised $10,001.03! Sure, there were those who had their doubts, even those who expressed such doubts. But this pivotal event set the church on a new course, refilled on faith, and aligned more centrally toward their ultimate ambition—to finally eliminate their debt.
Anonymous donations, came in, too, including one near the end that helped the church cross the finish line. One 89-year old woman in the congregation noted, “I’ve never seen anything like this before. My faith has grown.”
Pastor Presephoni reflects further. “I just want to brag on my God. He has done it again. Our church building is paid in full. Nobody but God! We are beyond grateful. This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our sight.”
Now that the church is debt-free, they’re positioned to do even more Christ-centered ministry in their community. They’re also free to do some repairs and reinforcements on the structure of the building they’re determined to steward. Looking ahead, the church sees the opportunity to hire leaders God has called and equipped to direct children’s ministry and other areas, assemble volunteers for mission trips, and continue to enhance their already strong outreach to their neighbors. “With sincerity of heart, I humbly thank our sovereign God and his faithful people. This is just the beginning. There is still so much work to do. We are kingdom ready!”
According to the treasurer, the church paid off their debt three years and three months ahead of schedule. Now that’s something to celebrate. And celebrate they did. The worship gathering on November 7 included artistic demonstrations of worship in song and dance, testimonies, and, of course, the ceremonial burning of the mortgage papers.
To those churches longing for a similar mighty move of God concerning mortgage debt, Pastor Presephoni has a few recommendations. “I would encourage you to, of course, trust God. Find ways you can save, but also find ways to encourage the faith of the saints. Write out the vision and make it plain for everyone—let it be something they can look at every Sunday on the wall. Watching the progress happen as you chip away at the debt is very encouraging. Challenge their faith, work toward your goal, and always remember, as a leader, lead first!”
Learn more about the Church of God movement at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org