Posted tagged ‘foreclosure’

The Crisis in My County

December 2, 2010

Lee County, Florida is the county of my residence.  It has also been dubbed the “foreclosure capital of the country.”  I came here in summer of 2008 never having heard or seen a foreclosure in my life to now seeing front yards either looking like a jungle or a yard sale put on the banks who now own a large percentage of the homes here.  Instead of tourists take cruises on the beach strip, banks had started their own tours for investors to see all the foreclosed homes in our county.  Our first attempt at buying a home was a short-sale, and after two months of waiting for banks to approve the loan, we gave up.  We eventually found a home by a builder who had 125 completely finished homes at that time with no buyer and provided us with a master key to pick a house in the area at a discount of $100,000 their builder price.

My family lives on a street where there are 17 homes.  14 of those homes have been foreclosed upon since we moved in July 2008.  Several of the homes that haven’t have more than one family unit living in them because of unemployment and inability to pay the high mortgage.  The home I purchase at $100,000 off in 2008 is now worth 33% of the value that it was built for in 2007.

Along with all the foreclosures, the high level of unemployment and the report of our county being the worst performing job market in the US makes for very though times to say the least–so tough that the fire chief and policeman have asked for prayer support from pastors because of their fellow servicemen encountered so many suicides by people who have simply given up on “the good life” in “paradise.”

Dreams For Sale has put together a documentary that explains much of what has happened here.  I realize that many of you folk may not be interested in these videos, but they give a good picture of what is going on not only here but across our country as a whole.  Lehigh Acres, the city of their focus, is the location of our recent church plant.  Shawn Bergen, who pastors in Lehigh, spent almost a year making 12 offers on houses above the asking price to finally purchase a home due to deep-pocket cash investors.

In spite of all this, God has done some amazing things here, and we believe even greater days of gospel advance lie ahead.  The only hope this world has in good times and bad is in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and in the midst of such loss, despair, and disillusionment, I pray that God will see fit to turn eyes and hearts away from worldly pursuits and find the eternal treasures in knowing Jesus Christ!  If you think of it, please join me in this prayer.

Here are the videos:

[1/3 Dreams for Sale]

[2/3 Dreams for Sale]

[3/3 Dreams for Sale]

Mercy in the Midst of Foreclosure: What Can Churches Do?

February 18, 2008

By now, if you are living in the United States, you have been made aware of the bust in the housing market and the incredibly high number of foreclosures, which is a process in which the estate becomes the absolute property of the lending institution. This is the result of the owner’s inability to make payments on the loan, thereby defaulting to the lender. There are numerous causes of foreclosure, including over-indulgent lifestyles, job-loss (financial slippage), divorce, sub-prime adjustable interest rates (mortgage lending fraud via teaser rates), compounding debt (and credit problems), medical problems, inability to sell property in a soft market, and simply irresponsible home ownership.

In any case, the problem of foreclosure is real, and it is growing. While doing some research last week, I stumbled upon a recent article by CNN Money where they list the top 100 zip codes worst hit by foreclosure last year (2007). For instance, the city of Cape Coral, Florida had four of their eight zip codes in the top 100 (25, 32, 41, and 88) with a neighboring city (Lehigh Acres) topping out at number 14. Together, these zip codes numbered a total of 1,671 foreclosures, and this stat does not account for the other half of Cape Coral! According to the 2000 census data, Cape Coral has 40,768 occupied housing units, so these numbers are quite significant.

After viewing the CNN Money article, you might be thinking, “Whew! I’m glad I don’t live and minister in Nevada, Florida, and California!” The reality is that, during 2007, foreclosure of all kinds in all places was up 75% according to RealtyTrac. So with that said, foreclosure is something that we all should be concerned about, acknowledging its effect in our communities and cities. So what then? What can we do? Are we to simply leave those affected by foreclosure to the mercy of the U.S. government? Their help found only in a government check deemed as an economic stimulus plan?

I think churches should consider the crisis of foreclosure as something which they can respond. As Christians, we live and minister between two worlds–the kingdom of God as citizens of heaven, and the world in which we live as citizens of our country, state, and city. While it is true that we are pilgrims and strangers in this life, like Abraham, looking to the city that has a foundation whose designer and builder is God (Heb. 11:10), we also are called to be ministers of mercy, seeking to engage culture with the kingdom ethic found in the mission and message of Christ. When we think about passages like Matthew 5:16 which say that, as lights of the world, we are to shine before men that they may see our good works, would not such a good work include ministering to those in the midst of foreclosure with the love, mercy, and benevolence found in Christ?

So then, we should determine whether or not such a ministry should be an outreach and extension of your church. If you agree that it should be, then one should determine what it looks like.

> Should benevolence and mercy be shown to members of the church alone? To the community at large? If so, does one have a priority over the other? Receive greater assistance?

> Should those ministered to be required to partake in a biblical stewardship class?

> Will those needing assistance be required to first hear the gospel before they qualify for help?

> Is temporary housing an option? What are other forms of merciful intervention during the crisis of foreclosure?

There are other questions and issues to address, and perhaps you can add to those mentioned here. I readily admit that I do not have all the answers, but I do know and believe that God has placed us here to tangibly show the love and compassion of Christ to the world around us, and I believe the crisis of foreclosure might just turn into an incredible opportunity to engage your community and city with hope for those in despair and mercy for those in need.

Ecclesiological Foreclosure and the SBC

October 2, 2007

Those of you in the business world are likely following the housing bust where the market is at its lowest in years. Americans who have purchased homes at “teaser rates” have expired only to find themselves unable to afford the higher rates forcing foreclosure. Last week while I was in Florida, it was a common site to find a house in almost every neighborhood with tall grass, overgrown shrubs, and a sign posted on the front yard. Americans more than ever are buying more than they can afford, hoping that in the end, the promised income would meet the financial demands they have created.

On the flight back to Atlanta, I sat next to a gentleman who works for Remax in Richmond, Virginia, and we talked in great detail about the housing market and foreclosure. For someone looking to buy a home in the next year or so, this upcoming season in the housing market is the perfect time to buy. You see, the bust of those who have bought high and forced to sell low afford others the opportunity to buy low and sometime hopefully sell high. Makes sense to me. But I am not as concerned about the state of the houses in America as much as I am the houses of worship in the Southern Baptist Convention. We have businessmen and reporters who are readily prepared to share about the failures of the housing market, but who is willing to speak to the massive reality of ecclesiological foreclosure in the SBC?

Just this past week a researcher state that close to 4,000 churches close their doors every year. In the SBC, it has long been reported that nine out of ten churches are not seeing any conversion growth, and this during the church growth movement. One in four SBC churches did not baptize a single person last year. In the past two years in the SBC where there has been a significant push to baptize a million people each year, in those same two years we have seen a decline in baptisms. What does all this mean for us today? I take it to mean that we are experiencing ecclesiological foreclosure – and nobody is talking about it.