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Orange County Church Sees Silver Lining in Rise of Church Foreclosures

Contact: Erika Castle, 719-481-2296

ORANGE COUNTY, Calif., April 30 /Christian Newswire/ -- Lenders specializing in church properties are reporting rising rates of delinquency and foreclosure, but at least one pastor thinks that may mean good news for the Kingdom.

In December 2008, the Wall Street Journal reported Evangelical Christian Credit Union of Brea, Calif. moved to foreclosure on seven of its 2,000 member churches in 2008 and expects to take similar action on two more this year. And, another church lender, Church Mortgage Loan Corp. of Maitland, Fla., filed for bankruptcy protection in 2008 after being unable to sell the 10 church properties it had foreclosed on in recent years.

While churches have long been considered good credit risks, borrowing for church construction jumped from $3.8 billion in 1997 to $6.2 billion in 2007. Now, as construction financing dries up and collections dwindle, many congregations find themselves without places to worship.

That isn't necessarily a bad thing, according to Ken Eastburn, pastor of The Well church in Orange County, California. The Well, once a conventional Southern Baptist church, left its building in 2005 to become a web of house churches that meet in homes to eat, worship, study and serve together. Eastburn calls The Well's decision to leave their building "the best thing ever to happen to our congregation."

"It's definitely scary for a church to be facing foreclosure," says Eastburn, "but we want to encourage churches in that situation with a message that sounds crazy, but is solidly biblical: Come on out--the water's fine."

Leaving its building was the beginning of The Well's journey to, as Eastburn says, "do church in a fundamentally different way - back to the basics of making disciples as Jesus commanded us to do. Every day we're learning more and more about what that means."

And, Eastburn and The Well are so eager to convince churches in foreclosure that there's abundant life beyond the four walls that they are sharing their story and discoveries on a weekly blog, leavethebuildingblog.com. Interested churches and individuals are invited to join the conversation.