This post is a "team effort." It combines some points made by Larry Burkett in an article titled "Should Churches Borrow Money?" and my own thoughts and convictions. The article can be found in Using Your Money Wisely. (Link to purchase located at bottom of post. I would highly recommend the book).
The question of whether or not churches should borrow money is a difficult one because, as Burkett says, "it is primarily an attitude rather than an absolute". I have to agree. There is no black and white, concrete Biblical "proof" that prohibits a church from borrowing. That, combined with a cultural norm of over-leveraging, leads the overwhelming majority of American churches to borrow money. But, if churches are willing to dig deeper I believe there will be great rewards.
An in depth studying of Biblical borrowing should leave believers with mixed emotions. Borrowing is never forbidden in the scriptures, but according to Burkett- it is always presented in the negative. The most compelling argument, in my opinion, is that God never once used a loan to accomplish His work. There is not a single example of God leveraging His work anywhere in the Bible. Throughout the Bible God always used contributions not credit to fund His work. Why should we assume this model has changed?
In light of these things, Burkett comes up with 5 Reasons Why Churches Should Not Borrow (summarized)
1. Church leaders must study Scripture to see if borrowing is a compromise.
2. Borrowing denies God’s people the opportunity to see His blessings and generosity coming from His people as His provision.
3. Servicing debt restricts a church’s ability to serve.
4. The loan puts pressure on pastors to keep everyone happy and everyone giving.
5. Contributions go to interest payments not the work of the Gospel: “Many major denominations spend more on interest payments than on foreign missions.”
In conclusion, I (along with Larry Burkett) believe that a church that decides not to borrow has taken the higher road. I believe this for the following reasons.
A church committed to avoiding debt demonstrates…
- Patience as they wait for God to provide the resources.
- Trust in God to provide what is needed.
- Submission to the will of God in the event funding does not arrive.
- A powerful witness that God will provide for His work.
- The ability to bless others instead of servicing debt.
- Freedom to follow God’s instruction not terms of contracts.