Ohio Church Burns Mortgage Papers, Celebrates Freedom
By Cassie Reed
On May 16, 2021, First Church of God in Alliance, Ohio, held a wonderful celebration of paying off their mortgage. To commemorate such a momentous occasion, the church held a ceremony for the burning of their mortgage papers.
Pastor Dale Gruver observes, “It was the first time we had eaten a meal as a church family since Thanksgiving (We are used to eating a soup and sandwich lunch once a month…this had to be suspended during the pandemic). We [also] celebrated three baptisms and [becoming] debt-free by burning a $550,000 mortgage on our Family Life Center.”
In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” —Acts 20:25 ESV
When asked about how the idea of the burning of the mortgage came to fruition, Pastor Dale Gruver says, “I have always heard [the] older saints in churches talk about burning mortgages…. The actual burning itself occurred as we sang ‘Great Is Thy Faithfulness’. We wanted to celebrate in a way that would inspire all generations that were in attendance. Fire has a way of inspiring; the glow of the flame, the change of that which is being burnt, etc. We thought it was a great way to celebrate.”
As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple.” —2 Chronicles 7:1 ESV
For those that have overcome debt, they know how important and freeing it is. “Not paying a mortgage every month is wonderful, however, our facility is in great need of maintenance and upgrades,” Gruver says. “It is difficult to balance keeping a facility up-to-date and pay a large mortgage.”
As for the funds being used in the church, they are still being designated to the current building and being used as seed money for upgrades and large maintenance tasks that are needed to be done. “Our purpose is ‘making disciples, locally and globally,’” Gruver says. “While the building is a concern, our greatest concern is making disciples. We are doing so through relationships, ministries, and doing life together as a congregation. We will celebrate 100 years in 2024 as a local body. We plan on staying in the residential neighborhood where we have been a hub since 1924.”
They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’” —Matthew 25:44–45 ESV
The service was held at Beechwood Park in Washington Township that Sunday morning with around 130 people in attendance, and was the first service the church had since the pandemic began without face masks. Gruver describes the atmosphere as electric and celebratory.
Being debt-free is an admirable goal for churches and its people. For those wanting to take that step, Gruver encourages people to follow in the footsteps of the Holy Spirit, “The church is not owned by the pastor or the board. Many times, the Spirit directs leadership to borrow; when he does, borrow. Other times, the Spirit directs to get free from debt; in the same way, pay off the debt. I think debt is part of life on earth. While being debt-free all the time would be nice, this congregation, in particular, would not be making [an] impact in this city if they would not have borrowed the dollars needed to expand their building.”
God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” —Hebrews 6:10 ESV
Cassie Reed is an avid blogger and recent graduate of Anderson University, having pursued studies in English and journalism.
Learn more about the Church of God movement at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.