Published April 16, 2019
VERSAILLES—Versailles Baptist Church put together a seven-year campaign to erase $1.6 million in debt.
Generous church members needed only 24 months to get the job done.
On Sunday, they reached the finish line well ahead of schedule and, a day later, Dr. Michael Cabell, the church's senior pastor, had the pleasure of taking the last monthly payment of $12,000 to the bank.
"I walked it over to the bank," he said. "On tax day, we paid it off."
The campaign was named "Imagine: Freedom to Do More" and it involved giving from 250 different families in the church, Cabell said. "That's a huge percentage of our church," he said of Versailles Baptist, which averages about 570 on Sunday mornings.
In 2003, the church took on $3.5 million of debt and had been chipping away at it for the past 15 years, he said. But it was like an anchor around the church's neck, so Cabell and church members decided to do something about it two years ago with a goal of being debt-free by 2024.
"Paying on this debt was keeping us from doing all this other stuff for the Kingdom," Cabell said. "We needed to pay it off fast and be finished with it."
A three-year plan was put in place to pay off half the debt but, instead, the church took care of the entire deficit in two years. Cabell said the campaign will continue for another year since that's what was pledged when they started. He made the first payment toward that third year in front of the congregation Sunday.
"I held two checks up," he said. "The check in my left hand is the last check toward paying on the debt of this building. The other check is my personal check toward year three."
He said the church members paid off about $800,000 each year.
Also, Cabell said, the church did it without eliminating any ongoing ministries or what they give annually to the Cooperative Program – 11 percent of their budget or around $130,000.
"We didn't allow our missions giving to suffer," said Cabell. "We would not allow that to be compromised."
"Versailles Baptist has been a top 25 church in the state for CP giving for the past several years. "We believe in the Cooperative Program."
With the debt paid off, Cabell said the church is looking at "unleashing possibilities" with the new-found money - $12,000 a month. Near the top of the list is improving the facilities for the children's area at the church and also investing more in a growing Spanish service. Cabell said they have about a 10 percent Hispanic population and have Spanish and English services every Sunday.
"We hope this is an encouragement to pastors and churches and even individuals that we can get over these mountains of burden," he said. "We pursued it aggressively and the people were generous."
Cabell noted the church gave consistently, chipping away at the deficit week to week. "There wasn't like a $500,000 check dropped in our lap," he said. "I think what this did was allow us to have a unified goal, a unified vision that everybody could rally behind. It allowed us to get excited about something. Now, hearing all the things we can do, it's unreal."
The pastor said the idea of retiring the debt came from an article in the Western Recorder about how a church had retired $800,000 in debut in three years. "We said, 'That would be awesome' and that's how we started. It was an encouragement to us to see what they had done. We doubled that in less time, so maybe we can be an encouragement to other churches."
Imagine that. Versailles Baptist did and look at them now. (KT)
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