Fancy Johnson County Church Tries To Pray Self Out of Foreclosure

February 4th, 2011

Early last Spring, I attended a debate featuring Bart Ehrman author of Misquoting Jesus versus some other guy. This debate was held at an enormous church called First Family in Overland Park, Kansas. Set on 51 acres of land, the church ‘campus’ is located in Johnson County which ranks 46th among the wealthiest counties in the US.

A slew of financial problems have haunted this church for years. Unpaid county taxes, unpaid payroll taxes, and now an unpaid mortgage payment has led Regions Bank to call for the immediate payment of a 14 million dollar loan.

The ambitious pastor, Jerry Johnston is known for his anti-gay stance and for his attempts to politicize his congregation. However, the 14 million dollar tab has come due and it doesn’t look like First Family will be able to find the necessary funds to pay up.  The interest on the mortgage alone is over two thousand dollars a day.

I do have to credit First Family for hosting a very interesting debate featuring such a credible opponent as Ehrman. Now that I have read a bit more about Johnston, I understand why Ehrman was so adamant that religious doctrine built on shaky texts such as the bible which are clearly riddled with mistakes, textual variants and politicized additions over the years should not determine public policy. Ehrman stated several times during his portion of the debate that the bible should not determine the civil rights of people – especially gay people. I figured that Ehrman was using gay rights as an example of how the bible informs societal laws, but now I think he was also directly attacking the political and religious beliefs of Johnston himself.

So First Family is probably moving to smaller digs. I am sure they will claim that this is all part of their god’s plan, but I will never understand how any god would want a church to take a loan for 14 million dollars when there are people in the world dying from a simple lack of food. However, as an atheist, what do I know of god and his oh so mysterious ways?  I will say that enormous church debt is one of the critical issues that made me want to escape religion for good.  When I gave my former tithe, I wanted it to actually help someone in need and not pay down a loan on a fancy new building.  These days when I donate money – I give directly to the people in need or to well-researched relief organizations.  There is no enormous, fancy building keeping my funds from directly benefiting a fellow human in need.

Thanks to Kelley for sending the article.

A few photos of the luxurious ‘campus’ of First Family…

After the debate, Ehrman was isolated on stage for his misdeeds while the heroes of the faith held a Bible love-fest.

Johnston and son fail to disguise their contempt as Ehrman assails their holy text.

The interior of the sanctuary of the fancy church.


Children’s play place inside of the church.

Comments

  • Ha! I love how some of the commentors on the Star’s site feel the need to blame this on the Star’s reporter, Judy Thomas. Yes, it’s somehow Judy’s fault that the bank called in the loan on the church. Judy has ‘something personal’ against the church and has for years, I saw several times in the comments.

    The Kansas City Star did do an investigation of First Family back in 2007, questioning their accounting practices. Is that directly related to their foreclosure issue now, I don’t know. It brings me back to the discussion we had here a while back- why do these churches need to be ‘mega-churches’? Why do they need the McDonald’s type play land for the kids, and the book store and the coffee shop? A congregation of any size can pull together to do a lot of good, but do they really need all the bells and whistles to get people to come? Really, if you need a coffee shop or a baby sitting service at hand to get you to go to church, should you be there at all?

    • km:

      I’d love to see one of these megachurches. When we were in Indiana we New Englanders were tickled by the church signs for “prayer, coffee and wifi” .

      • Maybe God is their facebook friend and that wi-fi comes in handy!

        We went to a megachurch recently for my son to visit a prospective Boy Scout troop. ‘Mega’ didn’t do the place justice. It was like a college campus. There was a high school there, then there was the church, which housed an auditorium, Sunday school rooms, a book store and a coffee shop. It was like it’s own little city, in a way.

        Everything was beautifully and tastefully decorated, the Sunday school and study rooms were filled with new toys, books, band equipment, karoke machines, the works. It was slightly overwhelming, to be honest. This was in an area of Johnson County, Kansas that has a very high per capita income.

        It was a pretty swanky place!

        • Kay in KCMO:

          Was this Resurrection United Methodist, by chance?

          • I think it was, Kay. It was in Leawood around 140th & Nall, I believe.

  • I don’t know if this is in play with your post, but as much as the mega churches drive me mad it also makes me crazy when they meet in school gymnasiums. I seriously doubt the school would be in favor of hosting my family reunion or even an AA meeting, so why is it ok to host a Sunday service there?
    I think I’ll have to Google this.

    • What I’ve wondered is this- if a public school allows a church to use their gym, does the church pay for the use of that gym or is it donated? Because technically, if the time was donated, it seems to me that tax dollars are going towards paying for the utilities during the service, etc. And I think some people would be upset at the thought of tax dollars allocated for the maintenance of a public building being used for church services, as it may constitute a separation of church and state issue. I don’t know, it may be a non-issue all together, but I’ve always wondered.

    • Erin:

      You can rent most school space – churches don’t meet there for free. Most school districts have rental fee policies.

      Did you see their new worship leader is an American Idol contestant…interesting…

  • Shells:

    I prefer a church to rent school space than to spend millions on a building and land. I have been to churches that have sound systems like I have never seen before with stage productions that are immense. Seems to me that if they did away with all the smoke and mirrors and got down to the business of preaching then the “church” would be in a better position. I realize they do it to entice young people in, but if I wanted a disco/rock atmosphere I would to to a concert …. on the odd occassion that I do go to a church I want simple and unadorned.

  • Atheists are welcome at our Unitarian church in Tulsa. Part of the appeal: each Sunday they pass the collection basket around, and then give the money away. All of it. Sometimes to a local food pantry, sometimes to Planned Parenthood, sometimes to troubled youth outreach organizations.

    The minister, Rev. Marlin Lavanhar, is an outspoken gay rights advocate. In fact, The Huffington Post just published his article about the murder of Ugandan gay rights activist David Kato: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-marlin-lavanhar/a-journey-to-uganda_b_818101.html

    No $14M mortgages here.

  • Carolyn:

    This totally has nothing to do with you basic post, but comments about use of the school for church events brought back a memory. When my daughter was 15 years old, about 15 years ago, she brought home a flier (distributed at school) regarding a pizza party being held for young people at the school football stadium. Of course, she wanted to go and of course I let her, thinking this was a school sponsored event. (I should have known better in hindsight… but) Turns out, they were served free pizza….. then the gates were locked….. and a minister from a local church took over and began trying to save souls. At first, she just rolled with the flow, until her curfew time grew nearer. She and several other (maybe many other) kids CLIMBED THE FENCE to get out. I was furious and called the superintendent’s office the next day to register my disbelief and anger. My complaint was acknowledged, but nothing ever came of it. (By the way, I was told the gates were locked because otherwise the kids would just eat the pizzza and leave. Seriously.

    • Kait:

      That is scary. Reminds me of the church my sister took me to when I was about 6 or so. She had a new boyfriend, who I guess was going to save her or something. They went to a meeting upstairs and I was taken into the basement with the other young kids. I don’t remember it in great detail. Only that they told me that I was going to hell and my soul was black. Then they gave me candy and I left crying. My sister dropped that boyfriend like a brick and my Mom gave those people at the church a peace of her mind. I was upset for weeks. I must say that as a child I never had a single good experience in a church. Thankfully I had very few reasons for being in one.

      • Bridget:

        So much of that reminds me of my experience with Young LIfe. Every summer we would spend a week at these amazing camps. We got to do everything from water skiing, to parasailing, horse back riding, moped riding. The works. Even the food was amazing. Every night there would be a talk about the bible and Jesus and on the last night there would be the talk about Jesus’ death. Most everyone would end up in tears and then we would be guilted into committing our lives to Christ because he had sacrificed everything for us and here we were having fun time at his expense. I wish I could explain how horrible it was and how it was all about being brainwashed.

  • Kay in KCMO:

    The interest on the loan is $2,740 per day. PER DAY! I could live on that amount for four months. I DO live on that amount for four months.

    Deluded people are deluded.

  • Barry:

    Hey! I vote there! … and that’s all it’s ever done for me.

  • Ok, so I talked to my husband, and yes, churches do rent the space they use at schools, and they pay the same price that any other group would pay to use the space. And I think I agree with Shells- I’d rather they rent space once a week than have some huge building with a huge mortgage that they can’t pay.

    And JJ, your church gives me hope for Oklahoma!

  • Kathy:

    If I started to comment, I may never stop. So, I will simply say what a interesting post with some very thought-provoking comments. I am learning so much by reading here.Thank You Rechelle and Rechelle commentators.

  • jalf:

    Maybe I’ve just gone momentarily blind, but where in the post itself does it say anything about trying to “pray self out of foreclosure”, as the title mentions? Is this just a creative way of saying “they can’t pay their bills, and they’re screwed”, or have they actually said anything about hoping/expecting/trusting that God would find them some money if they prayed?

    • In the linked article from kansascity.com, they reference this statement from the church’s website- “Your church leadership, pastors, elders, deacons, and ministry leaders have been praying and in a spirit of unity…”

      I got one of those emails the other day that said if I send it to 10 people and say a prayer, I would be blessed with riches beyond my wildest dreams. Maybe I should forward it to Rev. Johnston.

      • jalf:

        Oh, gotcha. Thanks for clarifying. I didn’t follow any of the links, just assuemd Rechelle would bring us all the juicy details herself. ;)

        • Bridget:

          Hey. How about instead of prayer. These people start acting in responsible ways. Oh that’s right. People don’t have to change their bad behaviors. It will be okay. Just as long as you are praying about it. God will fix everything.

          It is disgusting how much money goes into these mega churches. It is oh so christian of these people to tithe to their church because it would be horrible if they were unable to build a second coffee shop or for the Pastor to be unable to afford a Mac-mansion. Aren’t there more important causes to donate your money towards? What is the point of building these outlandish churches? Are they to demonstrate that they are being blessed by god? Does a large church serve as proof that the church leaders know better than anyone else what god want us to do and what he wants us to believe? Because why else would god bless them with a huge church. These churches are in no way an attempt to earn big bucks for the people in control. It can’t be.

    • Mackenzie:

      You know, when I first read the title, I thought it said they were attempting to -pay- their way out of foreclosure. I was thinking, “Huh, yeah… that’s what I’d do, too”.
      Turns out, nothing this church is doing is anything like what I would do at all, haha.

  • Martha in Kansas:

    And not just in large wealthy urban areas. I attended a family funeral in SE Kansas at a rural church. No towns anywhere near, and basically in a field off a rock road. The lunch was held in the old-style church hall, with a sweet little country church sanctuary next to it. After lunch we were invited into the big sanctuary to wait for the funeral to start. Huge. Extensive sound and projection system, large stage. Huge! After what seemed a lifetime, we were ushered in the new sanctuary, about 3x the size of the “big” one. It had all the bells and whistles. I asked everyone I could corner, but never found out who attends this church or how they paid for it. It’s in the middle of nowhere. I am still curious. There aren’t that many people within reasonable driving distance to fill a church the size of a warehouse. (They did tell me the sanctuary we waited in was used for overflow when the hugest one was full. Really. Where are these people coming from?!)

    • Kay in KCMO:

      Martha, I’m from SEK originally. Do you remember which county you were in?

      • Martha in Kansas:

        Kay, I finally looked it up. Columbus Christian Church. It’s like 10 miles outside Columbus — way, way out there on rock roads. You can find it by searching Bing maps.

  • Lgirl:

    Would it be completely terrible If I read my book at the back while my child used the play place!? That’s nicer than any professional play place in my province.

  • Lisa:

    I really dislike mega-churches – I just don’t get the appeal. I could go to the mall or a pro football game and have just as much fellowship.

    What I REALLY hate, though? The pervasive practice of (seemingly) all churches, of all sizes and denominations, to have a time set aside early in the service to “greet your neighbor.” GAH!! I hate that so freakin’ much! If I want to talk to somebody, I’m fully capable of doing it before or after the service, not being forced into shaking hands and exchanging “God bless you’s!” with every damn body. I swear, if I ever find a church that doesn’t do this, I’ll join on the spot.

    • susan:

      Oh Lisa!!!! That greeting crap really bothers the crap out of me. IT IS SOOOO PHONY! That appeals to those who can feel oh so special that they are so good and go to chuch. Yes………………..I am jaded.

  • Skattebol:

    It is amazing to see the photos of this mega-church. And in reading this posting and looking through the photos, what I believe is that there is a bunch of bullshit occurring within these mega-churches that are infiltrating the US. There is not any suggestion of spirituality and kinship among humans within these cold sterile walls that uphold conservative, right-winged propaganda.
    When I was in training in the Peace Corps in South Africa, I lived in a township with a black South African family. I attended church every week during the 12 weeks I lived with my family to be respectful to them. The church we initially went to was a building made of corrugated metal and old wood. What was not in this church were an organ, beautiful paintings on the walls, statues at the front of the church, a sound system, a coffee shop, a bookstore, or a children’s play area. What was present was a group of individuals, many living in dire poverty, that came together every week to celebrate individual spirituality, community spirituality and Ubuntu – the African concept that a person is a person through other people. A person is a person through other people is embracing our humanness through other people. In these wealthy mega-churches, Ubuntu seems to be missing. And that is incredibly sad. A small congregation in South Africa provides so much more to its community than any of these mega-churches in the US will ever provide to their communities….

    • JimmyBoy:

      Hi Skattebol,

      I’ve had the opposite experience in E, W and Central Africa (Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Liberia specifically): in these countries I have found a new church on every corner, “planted” by Evangelicals from the US or the UK mostly. These concrete buildings cost about $30k to build and then further amounts to kit out with microphones, keyboards etc. These are unbelievably significant sums in those contexts.

      They operate on a carrot and stick basis. The carrot is that you might make it to being made an Elder – in which case you get given a bicycle. The stick is that you go to hell – and they guarantee it if you don’t conform. It’s disgusting actually.

      I knew a Sierra Leonean guy who had been baptised on Lumley beach 12 times. Every time there was a new church he’d go along and be ‘saved’. Good lad: there was always a chance he’d get a bike! I’ve lost touch but his story did amuse me, given that every church plays the numbers game so stridently (ie “Aren’t we fantastic: we’ve got 2000 members!”)

      In true capitalist style the intention is often to make these places ‘self funding’ within the first year, which means that the focus on extracting cash from the congregation is ferocious.

      The congregation is encouraged to come to the front regularly and pledge cash. These are genuinely some of the poorest people in the world – but they are told that the more they give, the more god will give back to them (a truly disgusting lie). And then I have seen pastors, dressed in very nice western suits, reading out lists of tithe defaulters – from the pulpit – and damning them to hell. This is religion in all its purity. Exploitation, fear, cash, control.

      And religious people have the bollox to lecture us on morality!

      • Bridget:

        Oh that bothers me. Spending that much money on a church. That money could have been better spent in so many way. It could have gone to building a new school, a new hospital, building a better well system, housing for the homeless, a library, water purification, mosquito
        netting, vaccinations, buying farm animals, helping a person to establish a business….the list could go on forever.

        Building a 30K church seems like the least Christ like thing to do. Building the church was all about ego. Look at us. We are so wonderful and great because we are bring god’s message to the pagans and heathens, so that they may be saved and have eternal salvation. If they wanted to be Christ like then they should have used the money into projects that offer aid and assistance to people. What a crock of shit

        That is what bothers me so much about missionary trips and most people- believers & non believers- think that it is such an admirable thing to do, but what I want to know is what is the mission of the trip. Is it to go into impoverished areas and build schools, dig wells, help people start their own businesses, giving gifts like sheep, chickens, etc or is the trip meant to bring the god’s word to these area and bring more people to christ.

        Often the missionaries will hand out much needed supplies and sometimes all they bring is adult and kid bibles, toy, processed food, etc, but does everyone get these or just the people that will come to church. So instead of bring down American goods, they brought with them needed items like tools, farm animals, water purification kits, mosquito nets. Instead of wasting time preaching the gossip.

        THIS IS SHOCKING TO ME:

        My father works for the Agency for International Development in Washington DC, it is a government run agency, and when Bush Junior was in office, his department was told that in order to continue to receive funding for their projects. They were no longer allowed to tell women (they work mostly in Africa) about abortions, give abortions, and they couldn’t hand out condoms. Instead they had to teach these women about abstinence as a form of birth control.

        Now this wouldn’t be that big of a deal if my dad was working in the private sector, but nope he was working for the US government and his department was not free from the influence of religion. Although, I am sure that they tried to provide facts and figures on the efficacy of teaching abstinence over teaching safe sex practice. Even though almost all studies show safe sex and harm reduction methods are the same, but lets not forget Bush was the first president to censor or edit official scientific research papers mainly the papers that studied global warming.

        Remember that Bush was the one who made it so in sex ed. the teachers could only teach abstinence and he did this because of his religious beliefs and due to pressure from the religious right.

        But imagine trying to teach abstinence in the parts of Africa were the incidents of AIDS is greater than anywhere else in the world and in many places families and women are completely incapable of taking care of another baby. Often there is barely enough resources for a family to take care of themselves and many women just can’t have another mouth to feed.

        Yes, practicing abstinence would be great in an area with a high rate of HIV/AIDs, but some girls aren’t given that choice and have to sleep with their husband or the traveling elder, and so men and women alike need to be taught about safe sex and what can happen if you don’t practice safe sex. Also they need to know the signs and symptoms associated with STDs and given condoms to protect themselves.

        Women were given female condoms, so if the guy wouldn’t wear one at least she could take matters into her own hands. In some terrible areas, women are under the constant threat of rape, and they are now being given rape condoms that end up maiming the guy’s penis.

        Also incest and rape is a common occurrence add that to the lack of resources needed to raise a healthy child. Not providing abortion services is criminal. All because some religious fuck nut decided to decode the bible and decided that the lord say there should be no sex before marriage, birth control is from the devil, god is in control of a woman’s uterus, and life beings at conception.

        The bible it is so great, isn’t it? It is just oozing with compassion, understanding and love and it is the perfect guide for how we all should live. Everyone of us. No matter what your situation is. Alright so the Bible isn’t scary and awful, but it becomes so when it is put into the hands of people who us it to control others and to legitimize their position and power.

        Not giving out condoms in a country plagued with AIDS is also criminal, but that goes without saying. Is it too late to bring Bush up on charges against humanity?

        My father said that he instructed all Peace Corp volunteers and AID workers to continue doing what they had done before and/or to work with other organizations to get a woman or a man any help that they needed.

        While they weren’t allowed to send condoms, sex ed. materials, etc there were organizations that did. He told me that a french organization stepped up to offer abortions in one area and they were scheduled to only be in that area for a couple of months, but instead were able to stay for a couple of years.

        I am more interested in supporting groups that have no interest in changing a person’s religion. I have found that these groups are the ones who actually are doing more “christian” charity than christian missionaries and/or regilious charities. The non religious groups are solely interested in providing aid and assistance in impoverished places and have no trouble extending assistance to anyone who needs it.

        Heifer International is one of my most favorite charity organizations of all time. Heifer is devolping ways to help farmers that don’t have access to electricity or gas and is making farmer equipment, irrigation systems, well and water systems that don’t require a motor or gas. It is amazing. The cor

  • Spiderjoh:

    In a small mid-western city, a local bar owner began construction on a new and larger building to increase his business. Across the street, the local Baptist church started a campaign to block the bar from opening with petitions and prayers. Work progressed right up till the week before opening when lightning struck the bar and burned it to the ground.

    The church folks were rather smug in their outlook after that, until the bar owner sued the church on the grounds that the church was ultimately responsible for the demise of his building, either through direct or indirect actions or means. The church vehemently denied all responsibility or any connection to the building’s demise in its reply to the court.

    As the case made its way into the court, the judge looked over the paperwork. At the hearing he commented, ‘ I don’t know how I’m going to decide this, but as it appears from the paperwork, we have a bar owner who believes in the power of prayer, and an entire church congregation that does not.’

    • Martha in Kansas:

      LOL! Good story!

      My grandfather used to own commercial buildings back in the 1930s. He had an opening and a tavern applied to rent the space. He and my grandmother attended the church across the street, and the church began to pressure him to not rent to a tavern because alcohol = sin. He told the church that he had to feed his family, and he had to rent to whoever was available. They told him he would be a sinner and not welcome in church. He replied that he had always wanted to learn golf. From then on, every Sunday my grandmother went to church and my grandfather played golf.

    • JudyB:

      What a great story!

  • Spiderjoh:

    That is Spiderjohn…

  • Bridget:

    Rechelle: have you read the Jesus Myth? It is very good. I am looking forward to reading Ehrman’s book. Also my friend sent me a link to a blog called Angie the Anti-Thesit. I haven’t had a chance to look at it yet, so I don’t have an opinion on it, but I thought that I would pass it along anyway. http://angietheantitheist.blogspot.com/

    When are people going to realize that the bible is not a moral code, nor does it provide instructions on how to be a godly, Christ like person, but rather it is a book about being obedient to authority. Doesn’t Paul instruct slaves to honor their masters?

    It has been altered and changed throughout history by those in charge in an effort to control people and force people into submission. Even now in modern times, the messages in the bible are being used to support certain political positions and used to support laws that rob people of their personal freedoms. Sorry, I am repeating much of what Rechelle has already said, but I just get excited to talk about this subject.

    Many fundamentalist churches and the men who run them are twisting and manipulating bibical text to provide evidence that supports a man’s complete authority over his house and to assert the belief that it is a woman’s godly duty to submit to her husband’s authority. What is scary is how they claim that women are desperately in need of a man who will take control and tell them what to do.

    Since the fall in the garden, women have become decitful, terrible sinners, this simply our nature, and so women are in need of strict guidance from their husbands, so that they will not infect others with their sinful ways. Also some of the reading claims that a woman will often fight against being submissive, but it is really what is best for her and what she truly wants. Yep. Way to set up a perfect situation for abuse.

    A sub-sect, called christian domestic discipline, of the fundamentalist movement is taking this a step further. In these people’s mind it is not enough for a woman to be submissive and obedient to her husband, but the husband must also use corporal punishment, like spanking, to teach his wife what it means to truly submit. Also this discipline is used to rid of her of any bad or annoying traits and it is the husband’s godly duty to instruction his wife in the ways of god, so that both of them can get into heaven. If he doesn’t then they are both headed to hell. I have read some of the website devoted to this domestic discipline and much of them read like a letter to Penthouse. I think that many of these people find the act of spanking kinky and erotic and are hiding behind the word of god to legitimize their lifestyle. While others are probably using it to excuse their spouses abusive tendencies.

    Anyway. I know that there are countless examples of how the bible is used to manipulate and control people. I don’t think that it matters anymore that the bible is basically a work of fiction and that most of the original words no longer remain. I so hope that in the next 10 -20 years people look back on this time in history and just laugh at how stupid and ridiculous it was that gays didn’t have the right be to married, that smoking pot was illegal and that we were still debating the theory of evolution.

    I am sick and tired of the bible getting in the way of intelligence and forward progress. Get over it. Evolution happens. The world is older than 6000 years and dinosaurs and humans did NOT exist at the same time. No matter what the bible tells you. Gays should have the same rights as everyone else. Stem cells should be used to prevent and cure disease, but the big pharamaticual companies have turned stem cells into a religious issue as a way to protect their money making machine.

  • Martha in Kansas:

    A good friend told me an amusing story about a mega-church in Overland Park. She and her husband were invited to attend. They didn’t want to, but went to be polite. The church was full to capacity for a special speaker who began to call out to parts of the audience to identify people with problems, and he’d “heal” them. She said they had sat as far toward the back as possible, but he drew the congregation’s attention to their section in the back an announced that someone there was suffering terribly with migraines, and to please identify themself. She had indeed had terrible migraines for some time, but she really didn’t want to volunteer herself and was finding it all cringe-worthy bad theater. The speaker increased the pressure. She said she kept shooting her husband looks to NOT say a word. The pressure kept increasing and she was doing her best to be invisible. The speaker pointed at the person — her! She played invisible, and suddenly the woman sitting directly behind her stood up and shouted IT’S ME! My friend said she was saved that day — but not quite in the way intended.

    They never attended that church again.

    • JimmyBoy:

      That’s a great story! I saw something not dissimilar once when we had an itinerant “healing minister” visit our little town (in the middle of England). I went along with a very straight talking mate.

      So the guy starts doing his “I’m getting someone’s got some pain, maybe in their head’ thing. He kept going and kept going until I was really surprised when my friend volunteered his dodgy hearing (he had a perforated ear drum which was eventually resolved in the normal way, in a hospital theatre) Which the preacher jumped on of course.

      So he came across and did his bit on my friend, all loud and shouty (why do they have to shout? Is god deaf?) and then asked my friend to stand in the far corner. Then he shouted across to him – and asked him: could my friend hear him? My friend said yes, so the preacher did a lot of praise the Lord – its a miracle stuff

      He’d got the wrong guy though. My friend waited for an opportune moment and then pointed out he’d have been able to hear before – ie no change.

      So then the preacher decided he was being difficult and must have a demon, so came and tried to ‘cast it out’. He prayed loudly that the spriti would ‘deliver and slay him’. One of his accomplices put a foot behind my friend’s feet, and then they pushed him on the forehead. Not surprisingly he fell over.

      Again: wrong guy though! He hopped right back up and asked the guy why he’d pushed him over. There was a quiet moment. And then we left!

      • Martha in Kansas:

        LOL! Baaaad theataaaaaah!

        My religious neighbor’s kid got to telling me once about how they speak in tongues in church. Being a language teacher, I find that interesting so I had many questions. She said she had done it. And she had known what she said (knew what it meant). I asked her if anyone else understood what she said, because language is communication and if no one else knows what you said, you’re not communicating. That stopped her. Finally she said god understood. I suggested she study linguistics.

        • When I was in high school, I went to church with my bff and her family. The attended a pentecostal church, and there were many instances of speaking in tongues. The first time I heard it, I was terrified. But in every instance of it that I witnessed, there was the person who spoke in tongues, and then another member of the congregation or the minister who interpreted it. It sounded like gibberish, how would they know what was being said?

          • JimmyBoy:

            God talks in their head directly to them to get the translation. Apparently. There’s a bit in Acts about it if I remember rightly. Obviously if one person hears god talking in their head, we lock them up. When it’s a whole church it gets a bit more difficult…

            When it’s whole nations, then basically we’re screwed!

  • susan:

    How about Lakewood Church run by Joel Osteen here in Houston? They bought the enormous arena that used to be known as the Comcast Center that the Houston Rockets played in for years and it is gigantic. I live within minutes of this place and the traffic can be horrible. They have numerous services both Saturday and Sunday and then something on Wednesday and Friday if I am not mistaken.

    • Bridget:

      When I was on fire for the Lord. I decided to visit a semi-mega church. I live in an area where land is scare and it is very costly to buy a piece of property, and I went to this church in during the go-go 90′s when the housing market was on the way up. This semi-mega church wanted to be a mega church went it grew up and after a couple of years their dream was fullfilled. It seems they paid somewhere between 50 to 100 thousand, million dollars for their new church site.

      You see they needed so much money because they wanted to build a six level parking garage for all their visitors. On holidays like Christmas and Easter it takes about 6 to 10 Fairfax County cops to wrangle all the traffic and even then the roads around the church are at a dead stop. Did I forget to mention that this road is already heavily traveled and used since it serves as a main artery for the Washington DC area.

      But that isn’t the point of my long story. My point was to tell you about my experience of going to the semi-mega church before it became mega and took on Godzilla. I wanted to look into the church because it was known for having a large group of young adults, I was currently at church that was filled with newlyweds and their babies, and for their young adult programs and bible study groups.

      I went to one of the fellowship meetings to see IF I might be interested in attending the church and I foolishly made the mistake of filling out an interest card, ticking off the book that said I would be interested in joining a bible study. That night, a girl called me inviting me to join her bible study. I didn’t really answer yes or no and told her I needed time to figure it out. From that point forward I got a call every couple of days from a couple of girls inviting me to join their bible study. When I went back to the church for an event. The pastor came up to me and asked me why I hadn’t joined a bible study, and asked me if we could pray together and if the church could pray for me. I wasn’t even a member yet and I was already being harassed.

      After the Pastor prayed with me. I thought what is the harm of joining a bible study. I want to have fellowship with other Christians and this is what I came here looking for, so why not. The first group that I joined was awful. All the girls were interested in was gossiping about the sinful nature of all the other people they knew at church and they liked to attack this one girl for being a big failure. Occassionally they would also attack me because I was sinful.

      I moved to another group that was so much more welcoming and kind and they truly seemed to care about me. I felt safe and protected there. They told me that the group that I was in liked to share any secret or shameful admission with the other kids in the church. My group told me I could only trust them and together we would grow closer to Christ. An older woman was our leader and she encouraged me to come to her with anything that might bother or upset me. She was a Christian. I was to trusted her and trust her more than my parents or anyone else because most of the people I knew were no believers.

      It turns out that the first group was told to act like that, so that when I went to my next group. I would feel safe around them and thus we would be strongly connected. It was so that I would trust them and listen to our leader. After awhile, our group was informed that we needed to start raising money for the building of the new church. See the church was trying to draw in all the teens and young adults in the area because most of them came from very wealthy family.

      The fundraising goals of each of the groups was huge. There was no way we could raise the money simply by washing cars or having bake sales. We were subtly encouraged to ask our parents for money or to have our parents write donation checks, and we were constantly reminded and instructed by our trusted group leaders that we should be tithing to the church.

      At the time I was saving money to finish my college education and I was told that I was a sinner, going to hell and that I should tell the church, so that they could pray for me. After that whenever the Pastor saw me, he would ask about college and ask when was I going to allow God into my heart, so that he could make me a servant to his word. The Pastor told me if I was god’s servant then I wouldn’t be keeping money from the church. I look back on this and laugh at my stupidity and my naivety, but at that time it hurt me to hear those words because I wanted nothing more than to be an instrument of God and to live a christ centered, godly life.

      Also us, young women. we constantly reminded told and taught that our place was in the home. We should look no futher than our own homes to find the happiness we needed. God wanted women to have lots of children and it was women’s godly duty to take care of her family, to raise kids that were full of the holy spirit and to teach them to have joyful hearts full of their love of god’s. We should teach our children to be obedient to the Lord and obedient to their fathers.

      Us, girls, were taught that we were suppose to be obedient to god first, our parents second and when we got married, our husbands would replace our parents and a husband wants a woman that joyfull and willingly submits to god and to her husband..

      We were told to pray for our future husband so that god would give him the eyes to see that we are worthy of being his bride and we were told to study and learn the scripture, so that when we met our husbands, he would see that we are godly woman. We were told that we should pray for an open heart for ourselves and our future husband, so that when we met. We would know it was the one. Also we had to stay pure for the one god intended us to me. I couldn’t believe that a church, located a very progressive and liberal area was getting us to believe this nonsense. Most of the girls I knew were liberated, over achievers and would have scoffed at a man who wanted her to submit that is what most of the girls were like living in the area, but some how the church was getting them to walk away from their firmly held beliefs and ideals and and to walk way from the beliefs of their parents.

      I didn’t want babies, so some how I escaped some of the maddness.
      At somepoint close to when I was about to leave the church. The church had a ski trip fundraiser and it turned out that the price of the tickets was inflated, so that more money could go towards builing a new church. It was all so shady. It was around this time that I started to wake up and realize that this christian shit was not for me. I felt there were many paths to God and not just one.

      I had been with the money grubbing church for over two years and had been in my bible study for close to two & half years. When I told my group that I couldn’t meet with them anymore because I was moving to go and finish school. They had nothing to say to me. We were sitting in my friend’s basement and one by one they turned their backs on me and walked out of the room. These were some of my closests friends, some of the girls my best friends and they weren’t happy for me, they didn’t want to say good bye. I was heart broken. I had shared every emotion with them, every shameful secret, every shameful and embrassing sin. And that just turned their backs on me.

      Soon after I left the group. I got a card from the leader of the group, saying that if I didn’t come back she was going to tell everyone all my secrets and she would spread vicious gossip about me. That made me laugh. Who cares, I wasn’t going back.

      I later learned from another girl who left the same group. That the church tells you that is how you should react when someone says that they are leaving the church or leaving bible study, so the person feels like god is turning his back on them and maybe that will cause the person to change their mind. It was all so cultish.

      I also found out that my picture was placed in a prominate location in the church with the pictures of others who had left the church. Our pictures were surrounded by flames and at the top, over all of our heads, was the entetrance to hell. Someone had made a large construction paper sign, the sign was bent to mark the entertance to hell. The sign had lots of gothic touches and lots of curlicues and scroll work, holding up the sign were two darkly painted ornate wrough iron fence post. The sign read: Hell the place for sinners and the unrightous.

      Another sign read:
      If only they had learned to pray, learned to give with a christ like heart, did not run away in fear from god then they wouldn’t have to in hell. Pray for the lost ones. Pray everyday that god will bring them back, but be wary of them and do not try to talk to them, so that they do infect you with their sinnful natures.

      I have never seen this with my own two eyes, but I have seen pictures and it remindes me of the cemetries in Lousaiana. Many of have large wrought iron signs marking the enterance of the cemetry and the style astics reminds me of the gates of concentration camps. The designs just look similar. I guess pray could have set me free from hell, but there was no way it was going to set me free from the chruch. I had to do all my own.

      Even to this day. I am not welcomed at that Church. If I am spotted by someone that knows and usher will come up to me escort me out. I went once just to see the new church. I wonder if they have people that constantly study the books that hold the faces of the book that life, so that they will always be ready should one of them came back to the church.

      None of the girls from my group will talk to me. Some of their parents will, but the parents that were always members or the parents that just relented and joined the church. They wouldn’t talk to me. Twice a year on Easter and Christimas- no matter where I am living or how far I had move- I get a card from the Pastor letting me know I still headed to hell, the chruch is stilll praying for me, and I could make this all right by come back into the fold. So while they shun me and make an example out me and many others for leaving. I am still getting cards trying to bring me back into the fold. I thought that buy now the church wouldn’t need anymore money. Maybe they want to improve their converted score, so they can boost about how many people the church has save.

      I am sorry. I lost sight of what I wanted to say and to whom I wanted to reply to. I wanted to share a brief story of my huckster run mega church and all of a sudden this just started pouring out. This story just took over my body and I had to let it out. I am almost relucatant post this because it doesn’t seem like this is the proper place for this story. I haven’t ever talked about it and I am sure that there is more, only hidden very deeply. When it comes to cults, my story is a bit of a light weight and really not all that serious in the long run. I have a feeling many people have been in my shoes.

      • Stacia:

        Wow. The mormons are similar to that. My neighbor is going though the same thing. If you don’t tithe 10% of you yearly earnings you aren’t allowed in the temple. Sorry you had to go through that.

      • joy:

        @Bridget:

        Just read your story. Wow. I admire the strength you had at such a young age. I have a friend who went through something similar as a teenager, and he was ostracized from his own family!

        @Stacia

        Yes, I think I have read almost everything about the Mormons so it does sound similar. Scary bunch at the top, for the most part.

  • RB:

    I disagree with your viewpoints regarding God, but I certainly agree with some of the things you said about money being wasted. One of the many themes throughout the scripture that seems to be ignored these days is that about not being a slave to the debtor.

    The main reason I wanted to comment is that the children’s playplace looks awesome! Here in my little New England state, we’ve got only one tiny McD’s playplace for any indoor play in the winter for the little ones.

    Perhaps I should build one of those in my back yard?

  • Debi:

    Wow. I’ve spent some time looking through your site – it came up after a google search. You have GOT to be the nastiest, most inarticulate blogger on the internet. It just defies description.

    • Jaime:

      Debi, Debi, Debi…. scedaddle back to your PW support group and leave the grownup bloggers alone.

  • Shells:

    I am a Christian …. I love Rechelles writing. So she calls out a mega-church for wasting money. Personally I have a huge disregard for the mega churches. I don’t think they are in the business of selling God, I think they are in the business of selling themselves. I have heard enough stories of millionaire pastors and ministers who steal away the church funds, who build huge churches to themselves, who are frauds …. enough to make me leave the physical church altogether. I am still a Christian, just one who tends to be simple and modest in my practice and beliefs and who will not put a dime towards a playroom for a church or a fancy altar.

  • Lori:

    You have to visit this site see if you can figure out what this crazy woman is doing besides stealing money this is so insane and I have feeling you can figure it all out
    http://www.mycharmingkids.net/

    • Lori that site has a site who pretty much points out all the lies MckMama spews on her website. If you interested have a look.

      http://mckmamawithoutpity.blogspot.com/

      I found it by accident. I used to be an avid reader before my deconvert and things were not adding up for me. I googled her and found the site.

      • Lori:

        Thank you so much “theagnosticswife” I knew I was not crazy that there was something really wrong with this web site OMG it is unreal what she is doing now. Thanks again for the link.

        • You’re welcome Lori. I spent hours one evening after my kids went to bed reading it.

    • Bridget:

      Okay I have only been reading the charming kids site for about ten minutes, but I am impatient and would like to get some information about her before I dive in.

      @lori: how did you find out about mycharmingkids? Is this woman known in certain circles? Also what makes her crazy and/or interesting? Is she religious? Does she seem to have mental problems? In a nutshell who is she?

      also @tgwife why did another blog need to start a blog about her? I am sure it is there in the blog, but I just like getting a little back story.

      Sorry to be bothering you with my pesky questions, but I am about to get my hip replaced and that means I am going to be in a holed up in bed with little to do and I have a few regular sites that I like to go to, but I am always interested in a few more. I think that it is fun getting to read slice of life stories which have kind been replaced with blogs. Well some blogs. Thanks for letting me be nosey and for any information that you would care to share.

      And links to other blogs too!! If that seems okay to you.

      • @Bridget She is a well known “mommy blogger” she has made LOTS of money from her blog. She has a son that was really sick with a heart issue not too long ago and I think that’s when people began to feel differently about her. She was giving marriage and financial advice on her blog but hiding the fact she was having two houses foreclosed on and her husband has been arrested twice for domestic violence.

        She deletes comments that question or disagree with her in anyway, shape or form. My own comments have been deleted and I was not rude or nasty, just stated that every time I visit there is some controversy on her blog. That comment was deleted and when I commented back to ask why that one was deleted as well.

        I accidentally stumbled onto the MWOP blog, but it has answered or addressed some of my own concerns and questions.