Muse said his congregation, which called itself Faith Community Christian Church at the Choctaw location, had moved into the 15,000-square-foot building there in 2001. He said the congregation had paid about $1.2 million for the building and property and had paid about half of that amount in mortgage payments.
“We had designed the building from scratch, and there was a lot of ownership there. You don't want to give up your dream house,” he said.
Facing reality, opportunity
But McMillan said the congregation's membership decreased. Jennifer Crowel, another lay leader at the church, said the smaller congregation had trouble paying the big mortgage that came with the Choctaw property. As she looked at the church's smaller facility in Nicoma Park, Crowel said the swap made perfect sense.
“We got out from under a huge mortgage, and we can use that money for church activities rather than pay the bank,” she said.
At Grace Church, leaders said they saved time and money by moving forward with the swap.
Grace Church's pastor Eden said his congregation had raised money to buy land on NE 23 because they were quickly outgrowing their church building and an adjacent family life center totaling about 7,000 square feet. Eden said the Nicoma Park sanctuary seats about 160, and the church's two services and a Wednesday night youth service were becoming overcrowded.
The new Grace Church sanctuary in Choctaw seats about 260, which Eden said will allow the church to continue its growth trajectory. He said Grace Church attendance at the Choctaw location had been about 300 but that attendance since the move had inched toward 400.
Gretchen Cannon, Grace Church's finance administrator, said the larger church could not have done the swap two years ago. She said once Grace Church paid off the land debt, it was free to take over payments for the larger facility in Choctaw.
“We couldn't have done it financially two and a half years ago. There was just no way — but God,” Cannon said.
Eden explained further.
He said the Lord told him that the land on NE 23 would be “provision” for his growing church. He said just two days after the church paid off the property on NE 23, the Nicoma Park church reopened the discussion about the property exchange, expressing keen interest in the NE 23 property, which would allow them the possibility to build at a later date.
“This is really allowing us to do what we did over there in a bigger area. It saved us time, money and effort,” Eden said.
“The good feelings that existed through all of this when we did the final walk through was amazing. Two churches were blessed.”
McMillan added, “God was in charge of all of that because it wouldn't have happened otherwise.”