July 2021 Member Letter
July 5, 2021
I have some exciting news to share with all of you! Before I get to the news, let me begin with some context to help you understand why it is so exciting.
In December of 2010, the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, had its formal beginning. Our attorney put together the paperwork needed to incorporate in the state of Florida and, shortly thereafter, with the help of our accountants, to apply for tax-exempt status. We secured a post office box and a bank account in the name of the Church that same week. Even though we now reside in Texas and are registered in all 50 states, we have maintained the corporation in the state of Florida. We had no employees and no office in December 2010. In fact, it wasn’t until two months later that we had enough income to actually hire our first employees. Churches with pastors had already been established around the world, but without any income, we could not employ anyone. That changed in February of 2011 when we hired our first group of pastors.
More than a year would pass before we would be able to lease our first office in Allen, Texas. It proved difficult to find a landlord that would even rent to us. Most required five years of financials for review before they would agree to offer a lease. Having been in existence only a year, we had no such records. Finally, we found a landlord who, instead of just turning us down, chose to check us out. He went to our fledgling website and was very impressed with what we were doing and decided to waive the need for the financial documentation. We moved into our first office in Allen in March of 2012 with four employees in the office on that first day.
We outgrew the office after five years, but we signed an extension to our lease that kept us in the Allen office until March of 2019 (a total of seven years). During that two-year period we made the decision to purchase property and build our own office building. After looking for more than a year, we finally settled on 7 acres here in McKinney. After several months of negotiating with the owner of the property, we finally agreed on a price and purchased the property with cash in the spring of 2017.
At the same time we were purchasing the property, we began pursuing our next step—securing a loan from our bank and deciding on a builder. We engaged an architect to draw up plans and contracted with Highland Builders to construct our new office building.
Our original design was for a 20,000-square-foot, one-story building in a U-shape. After much discussion, we decided on an L-shape with 17,000 square feet. We left ourselves the option of adding on the additional space if it was ever needed.
On March 1, 2019, we moved into the new building. We held a formal dedication of the building with about 350 people present on Sunday, May 19, the day before the International Ministerial Conference.
That was two years ago. In order to pay for the building, in addition to cash, we entered into a seven-year loan agreement with Legacy Bank here in the Dallas area. From the beginning, our goal was to pay off the mortgage before the end of the seven-year period, since after that time period we would need to renegotiate the loan going forward.
Then came 2020 when the pandemic struck and everything shut down. We did not know what to expect. For 14 weeks we were unable to hold Sabbath services in the United States. Of course, our expenses dropped dramatically because of the international travel ban. Yet we still had normal expenses—payroll, hall rentals (after 14 weeks we began holding services in most congregations), utilities, Internet costs and mortgage payments. We were amazed that during the year 2020 our cash reserves rose to their highest level—reduced expenses and increased income produced this situation. Interest rates here in the United States also dropped to their lowest level in 50 years.
In January of this year we decided to refinance the building. Southside Bank in Tyler, Texas, offered us 2.94 percent, which was considerably better than the 5.1 percent we were paying to Legacy Bank. So, we refinanced the building with another loan at 2.94 percent for seven years (after which the rate on the balance would be renegotiated). Our goal remained the same—to pay this off during that time period.
The first quarter of this year turned out to be the best quarter for income in our short history. And that has continued through the second quarter. We also received some unusual donations—an estate and some property donations. This created our highest cash balance in our short history. It became obvious to us that we could actually pay off the mortgage and own the building outright. We discussed this option with a number of individuals in the finance industry. We also discussed this possibility with the Ministerial Board of Directors. Even though we had an extremely low interest rate for the mortgage, we were advised that it would be best to pay off the mortgage and be debt-free. We determined that we could do that without putting the Church’s finances in any sort of jeopardy.
Now the exciting news! On Tuesday, June 29, 2021, we wired the money from our Chase bank account here in the Dallas area to Southside Bank in Tyler to pay off the mortgage. Once the money was received on Wednesday, June 30, 2021, Southside Bank notified us that the loan had been paid. It was an exciting day for the Church! After only two years, we paid off the mortgage that initially we had hoped to pay off in seven. God has blessed us immensely, even during the pandemic. We give Him the credit for these blessings. We also want to sincerely thank all of you! The initial building fund received well over $100,000 in a very short period of time and with the increase in income and the lower than expected expenses, we had the cash to pay off the loan.
What does this mean for the Church going forward? Immediately, we will recognize substantial savings that will go into the work of the Church—preaching the gospel and caring for the people God may call. We will no longer be paying $240,000 per year in mortgage payments, and we will save $553,000 in interest payments that we would otherwise have paid over the course of the seven-year loan. Considering the effect of the pandemic in many countries around the world, we anticipate substantial needs internationally as things begin to open up in the months and years ahead.
From the beginning, we viewed the office building as a tool for accomplishing the mission of the Church. It has truly been a blessing to have such a quality environment from which to do our work. Our mission has not changed, but our ability to accomplish it has been enhanced. We are preaching the gospel to the world through our ever-expanding voice on the Internet. We now have 18 booklets that can be downloaded, and every day they are accessed—read and downloaded—dozens of times by people all over the world. Our most popular booklet is Change Your Life. Even though the booklet has been available for a few years, at least 10 copies are downloaded each day by non-Church members. Together, our three most popular booklets have passed the 100,000 mark in downloads. And our Discern magazine is doing well with both printed copies and downloaded copies. The total number of booklets downloaded from our Life, Hope & Truth website is now approaching 200,000.
To sum this up, let me quote the apostle Paul: “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16). Some things never change, and this is one of them. With paying off the loan on the building, we are in a much stronger position for preaching the gospel and caring for those our Father chooses to call. We give thanks to God for this great blessing, and we also want to thank you for your part in making it possible!
Sincerely, your brother in Christ,