HOW TO STEAL A CHURCH AND TURN A PROFIT
For most churches, missions consume human and financial resources; but First Baptist Church of Frisco is demonstrating that with shrewd management, a mission church can be worth a few million in profits.
The basic story is simple. First Baptist Church sponsored a small Hispanic Church for 25 years. Over these years, the Hispanic church (Primera Iglesia Bautista De Frisco) bought and paid for their building, paid their utilities, expanded, remodeled, improved, landscaped, and furnished their church. The church prospered, contributed to the Frisco community and sponsored local and foreign missions. The partnership between the two Baptist congregations was mutually beneficial.
Then in 2010-2012, three events converged. First, the value of property near downtown Frisco began to escalate dramatically as Exide Industries closed. The property purchased by Primera Iglesia for $45,000 was anticipated to increase in value into the millions. Second, Primera Iglesia Bautista completed the process of becoming incorporated and independent under Texas law. And finally, First Baptist Church of Frisco experienced financial difficulties related to their ambitious building program, and the economic slow down.
Declaring that they had decided that the long-time minister of Primera Iglesia Bautista was not worthy to be a Baptist pastor, First Baptist Church locked the doors of the Hispanic Church, took possession of all the belongings and furnishings, and gave a short-term lease on the furnished building to a Korean congregation.
When Primera Iglesia Bautista engaged a law firm to seek justice, FBC engaged in delaying tactics, pretending to be willing to return the church if PIB would fire their pastor and agree to external supervision. PIB agreed to the terms, but after several months it became apparent that FBC can afford to pay legal fees until the financial resources of the poor Hispanic congregation are depleted. FBC will take the PIB property by legal default. The injustice is even more apparent when the details of the case are revealed.
THE REST OF THIS STORY OF INJUSTICE:
This Story of two churches begins 27 years ago in 1986, when the Rev. Phillip Salomon and four Hispanic families formed Primera Inglesia Bautista De Frisco, known widely as PIB of Frisco. First Baptist Church of Frisco (FBC) opened their doors to their brothers in Christ, and a partnership was formed, which lasted over a quarter of a century. For almost two years, the PIB congregation met at First Baptist Church.
Then, in 1988, an elderly couple (the Montgomery’s) wanted to sell their home near downtown Frisco. For $45,000 in payments of $500 per month, PIB could buy the frame home. Since PIB was not incorporated, Rev. Steve Fowler, Mr. Jim Newman, and the Missions Committee of FBC contracted to sponsor the purchase by PIB. Agreements were signed on Oct. 31, 1988. From Jan. 4, 1989 through Oct. 4, 2000, Primera Iglesia Bautista made 144 monthly payments totaling $72,000 to the Montgomery’s, completing the terms of the sale. This was a major accomplishment for a congregation of 10 families with a median income of less than $10,000.
Having purchased their property, PIB devoted their resources to improvements. Between 1990 and 1991, they constructed a 20’ by 40’ Sanctuary. A gift from the Roeschley Family purchased most of the materials, and men from PIB and FBC
worked together. Over the next four years, the little congregation remodeled the 70 year-old frame house, bought furnishings and equipment and lovingly decorated their sacred space.
By their 25th Anniversary, in 2011, PIB was a prospering Church with a beautiful brick building, paved parking and landscaping. Their ministries included a street ministry in Frisco, and foreign missions in Bolivia, Nicaragua, Honduras, Cuba, and the Bahamas. They were completing the process of incorporating and establishing full independence. The Congregation celebrated a Victory In Christ.
On March 20, 2012, PIB notified First Baptist Church that they had completed the incorporation process. Five days later on Sunday, March 25, the PIB congregation could not enter their Church. The doors had been locked by First Baptist Church. In shock, the Hispanic Congregation held services in the parking Lot.
When the chairman of the Missions Committee of First Baptist objected to FBC’s actions, he was replaced. The leadership of First Baptist stated publicly that they objected to the Pastor at PIB, and that their quarrel was not with the church, but with Rev. Ruiz. While the PIB congregation continued to meet in homes, FBC entered the church building, and began removing PIB property. Keeping what they felt was useful; the FBC pastors removed the other contents and dumped everything else in a storage building.
Then FBC leased the PIB Church Building to a Korean Congregation, including the PIB equipment and furnishings in their lease. Then FBC notified PIB that they could collect the discarded belongings from the storage building. The disrespect and contempt for the feelings of PIB members was apparent in everything FBC did. The PIB congregation had sacrificed to make their church beautiful. To the FBC pastors, many of the PIB belongings may have been junk; but to the members of the congregation these simple things were their gifts to a beloved church.
The congregation of PIB is neither rich, nor sophisticated. At first they could not believe that their brothers in Christ in First Baptist Church would steal their church and appropriate their furnishings. When the Korean lease was made public, the members of PIB finally sought legal assistance. At first their hopes were high. First Baptist Church seemed willing to negotiate and settle out of court, if PIB was willing to fire Rev. Ruiz. However, as time passed and their money ran low, PIB realized that FBC was not negotiating in good faith. The congregation of PIB can’t afford to fund an extended legal battle. It is clear that FBC has the financial resources necessary to bury the PIB legal defense. FBC continues to invest in legal services that will pay rich dividends when PIB is destroyed. Since PIB cannot afford to contest the “theft” of their church, FBC will eventually make a nice profit on valuable real estate.