Free by Faith: Florida Church Completes Journey to Mortgage Payoff

 In All Church of God, CHOG, Southeast

By Carl Stagner

What’s a church to do when debt threatens their very existence? For most parishioners, closing the doors is out of the question, but borrowing more money has little to no appeal. One Florida church found themselves in the throes of debt reduction over the past couple years. They know the struggle is real, but they also recognized their God is real, opting to heed the promptings of the Spirit throughout. On September 20, 2020, the faithful obedience of the congregation of Spirit Lake Community Church of God in Winter Haven yielded fruit. And this fruit was very sweet to taste.

Two years ago, the leadership of Spirit Lake Community Church of God felt they’d heard from the Lord to make additional payments on the church mortgage, which they’d observed acted as a financial hurdle to fund ministry. At the time, the church’s finances were stable and the first step toward obeying that still small voice wasn’t hard to take. The congregation rallied around the leadership in obedience to the Lord and looked forward to the day they could eliminate their debt. Little did they know, obedience, especially over the long hall, would not be easy.

Spirit Lake Community Church exterior

About a year into implementing the plan, Spirit Lake stepped into severe financial constraints. Initial response required budgetary flexibility and spending adjustments, but their big problem persisted. Perplexed, the church leadership came together and asked the hard questions: Should we have attacked the debt the way we did? Should we refinance? How did we go from paying above and beyond our expenses to wondering if we can even get by on the basics?

In honest transparency, the church leadership disclosed their dilemma to the congregation. But, refreshed by the Lord, they reasserted the original directive they knew they received from the Lord to pay off the debt early. For two months, the leadership put their heads together to try to determine what to do. The day came when they had to choose among their options. Spirit Lake Community Church of God chose to “stay the course,” believing God had told them lenders weren’t the answer; God was the answer, and that he would provide.

Upon the announcement to the church, the congregation began to show renewed signs of faithful obedience. Sacrificial giving became the norm, and within one month they started to receive a third above average in tithes and offerings. The moment the church realized a miracle had begun would ultimately prove a turning point for the church and their faith.

The church also baptized two on Sept. 20!

This summer, the church’s lead pastor Joshua Zarzana learned he’d been selected for active duty in becoming a military ministry family. In God’s perfect timing, he blessed Joshua with the chance to preside over the mortgage cancellation celebration on September 20. That day, when their twenty-year mortgage was a thing of the past, and when Joshua would preach out of Acts 20 where the Apostle Paul was preparing to leave where he’d been, Joshua noted the significance of the number twenty. Those familiar with biblical numerology will recognize connection between the number twenty and seasons of struggle, but not without divine purpose.

“Twenty means exiting out of what God had been doing so his people can enter into something new,” Joshua notes. “All kinds of things happened that Sunday—God certainly had his hand on it. It’s a huge celebration for the Spirit Lake church. As they will be looking for a new pastor, the church was so encouraged to hear all this.”

Through the pain of the church’s season of struggle, they adopted several stewardship strategies they might not otherwise have considered; these elements of good stewardship continue today, even after the chains of a mortgage have been broken. Pastor Joshua says God used the church’s recent trail to inspire dependence on the Lord and bring the family of God closer. Just imagine how God will bless the ongoing ministry of Spirit Lake Community Church of God, unburdened and totally free from their mortgage. To God be the glory!

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