ess than 30 minutes from Disney World, Celebration of Praise Church of God has 1,200 members and a 47-acre campus. The Clermont, Florida, church boasts an Olympic-size swimming pool, a spa, a gym, and the county’s largest auditorium. It also has a $7 million “balloon” payment due on its mortgage. All the church lacks is the funds to pay it.
It looks like Celebration’s story will have a happy ending of sorts—it’s currently selling its property to the city for $6.3 million, and will be able to rent the property for Sunday and Wednesday meetings.
But things haven’t been so good for nearby Lakeland’s Without Walls International, once the fastest-growing church (and among the 10 largest churches) in the country. The Evangelical Christian Credit Union (ECCU) foreclosed on the church in 2008 over a $13.9 million loan default. That case has been in the courts ever since, with claims, counterclaims, and the church founded by Randy and Paula White sitting dormant.
The 5-year-long dispute and the empty 9,600-seat sanctuary symbolize the state of church-building finances during that time period.
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