Throughout its history, Puritan Missionary Baptist Church has been a congregation of loving people who have worked together to succeed against the odds.
The current membership of the church continues to have that same spirit of faithful determination, and has succeeded in achieving something rare among congregations: Financial freedom and elimination of debt.
This past Sunday, the Puritan family held a special mortgage-burning gathering to celebrate full ownership of its elegant church building at 872 W. 27th St.
Purtian took out a 30-year mortgage on the facility, but paid it off in seven years. Such a feat is amazing, given that many congregations do not pay off mortgages for decades, especially if they build a larger, new structure.
“The bank wasn’t happy about ending the mortgage, but it has saved us a lot of money,” said Bishop Larry Grinstead, pastor of Puritan. “Through God’s grace and the dedication of our congregation, we were able to do this in a bad economy.”
Those who are familiar with the history of Puritan realize that the relatively quick elimination of debt is only the latest example of the church’s historic focus as one that “trains spiritual warriors” today, while building a stable future with long term planning.
In other words, the congregation was not going to allow multiple generations of members to be burdened with debt.
Puritan was established in a house with 15 members in 1944, and moved into its old sanctuary (once located on the current site) in 1950. The church dedicated a new facility in 2002, and with over 2,000 members has become one of the city’s fastest growing congregations.
Grinstead gives credit for success to both divine guidance and the cooperation of church members.
“This could not have happened had the congregation not submitted to the will of God and the vision that I believe He has given for this church,” Grinstead said.
The congregation was asked to participate in a schedule of donations to the church to pay off the mortgage. Over 90 percent of members, regardless of age or income, participated enthusiastically in the effort. Children contributed spare change, and those with low incomes gave what they could afford.
Grinstead said members were committed not only to the biblical principle of tithing, but also wanted to contribute because they actually feel supported and loved by the church, which has well-received outreach initiatives for seniors, youth and the sick and shut-in.
“We look out for our members, as well as this community,” Grinstead said.
The experience of paying off the mortgage, according to Grinstead, also opened the door for blessings, or opportunities for several members.
“We had some people who didn’t know how they were going to pay their rent, but still gave,” he said. “God shared with me a message for them: ‘If you help pay off my house, I will help pay yours.’ And that’s what happened.”
“Many of them have come forward recently to share testimonies of how, with God’s help, they were able to defy the odds and make ends meet,” he continued. “People looking at this can now say, ‘Hey, if God can help get rid of the debt for the church, then he can surely help me get my little house paid for.’”
Puritan member Lori Davis is proud of the church not only for its sound money management, but for the fellowship and true camaraderie among members
“We all want what’s best for us and best for each other,” Davis said. “To have a worship facility that is debt free and in ownership of the congress is an absolute blessing.”