Friday, September 27, 2013

An Open Letter to "Celebration of Praise" Church (Clermont, Florida)



To: Pastor Chris Dutruch, Celebration of Praise Church, Clermont, Florida

From: James Patrick Holding, President, Tekton Apologetics Ministries, Orlando, Florida

Dear Pastor Dutruch,

While watching local news recently, I was surprised to hear of the upcoming difficulties your fellowship will have in making a mortgage payment, and of the plan to sell the property.

I remember very well the opening of the Celebration of Praise church when it was at a more northerly location on Highway 27, in Minneola. I remember it well because we frequently use the gas station next door. I picture it now, in fact: Not much more than three times larger than the gas station itself, as I recall. And I admit I was a bit puzzled when the location became the City Hall for Minneola. I had no idea what had happened to CoP and wondered about it.

It wasn’t until later that I found out that CoP had moved to its new location. And it was not until this past week that I was aware of the following, which was reported in a news article:

Buying a church may not be the typical way for a city to expand its services, but for Clermont, it could be the answer to a prayer.

The growing city in south Lake County, whose residents have been demanding more recreational opportunities, has offered to pay $6.3 million for Celebrtation of Praise Church of God, which can't afford an upcoming $7 million "balloon" payment on its mortgage.

The 47-acre megachurch on a hilltop overlooking U.S. Highway 27 includes an Olympic-size swimming pool, the largest auditorium in Lake County, a gymnasium and 30 undeveloped acres that could be home to a new police station, a conference center or a recreation complex….

Although the church property went on the market about a year ago, city leaders took a sudden interest in the site after a series of public "visioning sessions" in which residents clamored for more recreation. Some suggested a splash park for kids; others proposed a zip line and a zoo.

The unusual deal, which is contingent on property appraisals and inspections, may be the church's salvation, too.

Celebration of Praise, which moved to the site about a decade ago, had never missed a payment on its mortgage, which has a $7 million payment due soon, said Pastor Chris Dutruch. The 1,200-member church had hoped to refinance its loan, but couldn't do so because of tumbling property values.

Although it doesn't pay property taxes, the church has an assessed value of about $5.1 million in Lake County property records.

Celebration of Praise has invested more than $9 million in the site, county records show. It bought the land in 2002 for $4 million, borrowing $3.25 million. Then it sank more than $5.2 million into the house of worship in 2003 and added a $200,000 pool and spa in 2004. Like many megachurches of the past decade, Celebration of Praise added amenities in an effort to attract new members.

Well now! I can’t help but be impressed. 4 million for land, $200,000 for a pool and spa. And now you can’t make the balloon payment? Really?

I have to say, this does make me wonder. You see, Pastor, as the President of a small apologetics ministry, I would think I’d never be able to spend $200,000 on anything like a pool and a spa. In fact, $200,000 would just about cover 10 years of my ministry’s operation.  I also have a junior ministry partner, Nick Peters, who is an up and coming apologist; he is not as far along as I am, though, and presently he and his wife are struggling just to make ends meet. 

So I have a question for you.

Since you have experience in these matters, and are obviously far better versed in the stewardship of resources than either of us could ever be, Nick and I have decided to follow your lead. Do you recommend that we build an Olympic sized pool for our apologetics ministry? Or should we opt for something larger?

Please advise soon, as we already have plans for a down payment on a spa, just as soon as we get my poodle an air-conditioned doghouse.

Thank you, and God bless,

JP

 ***
(There was no direct email address for Pastor Dutruch, so I sent this to their media person, named Marco Diaz. I'll let everyone know if I get an answer.)




12 comments:

  1. Administration of a large church is no easy task. Although I do not know the church or its pastor, I think that as one body in Christ we need to feel one another's pain and sorrow. The church has obviously gone through enough changes and heart aches and needs our prayers and compassion, not our sarcasm, or judgmental comments. DBerrios

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  2. That is precisely the kind of thoughtless lack of discernment, and precisely the kind of refusal to hold the church accountable, that leads to exactly this sort of profligate waste in our churches when so many greater needs are being unmet. No, DBerrios -- calling such shallow experience, caused by self-inflicted and irresponsible woundings, "pain" or "sorrow" is an insult to those who have experienced REAL pain and sorrow. In the state of Florida alone, thousands of people are suffering needlessly a few miles from that church's front door. (I know the area well. Don't try to argue with me on that.) In fact, this state's governor, who serves the Tea Party agenda, cut funds to countless needy programs the last few years, including to the disabled, the homeless, and the hungry.

    So don't tell me they need "prayers and compassion". They do need sarcasm and judgment, and they need it badly, because they and too many other Christians are stuck in this luxurious dream where their most heartfelt prayer during the day is that the Audi's been running a little rough lately.

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  3. iT is what it is... now they must deal with the change.

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  4. Judgment? Anyone who has not sinned (or made mistakes) cast the first stone. Enough said.

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    Replies
    1. No, there's more to be said. That's typical poor exegesis of John 8. Try here:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ZvJBVHdlHU

      Try John where Jesus says to judge rightly.

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  5. If you don't know the whole story please don't try to comment on it and act like you know. Before Pastor Chris became the senior pastor at Celebration of Praise the previous pastor was the one who made all of the unnecessary changes, the pool was his idea, the spa was his idea, and all the extra clutter that is near the church was his idea. After the Church was built the previous pastor upped and left to start his own church taking about half of the church's population with him. Half the population? Half the the funding. Without the necessary numbers and funding the church started to dwindle, until Pastor Chris came and started a change. Sure the church is still in debt but it's starting to slowly but surely climb it's way up. So please do not slander the name of someone if you do not know the whole story.

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    1. Yeah whoop dee doo there, Ebo. That sure makes the whole situation hunky dory and makes the CHURCH itself look much less irresponsible...because it was "Pastor X" who screwed up rather than "Pastor Y". It was still a grossly irresponsible project, and that's the point. I don't care who left or how much of its free cash went with it. The church was foolish with their stewardship, and that's that. If they hadn't been, they'd now be helping the poor in the area instead of climbing out of debt (What do you want? A medal?).

      Excuses like these are nothing but tiresome diversions from what is, in the end, an act of gross irresponsibility.

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    2. JP Holding - Actually, what Ebo pointed out is a HUGE "whopp dee doo" regarding your assessment of the situation. You did not call out the church....you pointed your sarcasm and vitriol at the current pastor.

      Now you are being called out by Ebo for directing your acidity at the wrong person...the person who did NOT create the issue, but is trying to right the wrong.

      I would challenge you to post your apology to Pastor Dutruch, as you are in error and completely un-Christlike in your attitude toward him, while apparently not knowing the actual facts.

      Dislike the decision of the church congregants if you will...but you went after the pastor personally, and have now been rebuked for being wrong. I would expect that someone who is obviously as well versed in the Bible as you are would understand that you need to make amends for being "an accuser of the brethren".

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    3. Wrong, COTC. If you had any literary sense at all, you would recognize the letter format as a narrative convenience rather than a personal callout to the pastor. Any intelligent reader who hasn't spent their lives watching slapstick comedy would know this and not fuss about it as a way to dodge the issue of this church's selfish, irresponsible, spendthrift ways in the face of so much suffering. Keep your self-righteous nitpickery to yourself.

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  6. "So I have a question for YOU.
    Since YOU have experience in these matters, and are obviously far better versed in the stewardship of resources than either of us could ever be, Nick and I have decided to follow your lead. Do you recommend that we build an Olympic sized pool for our apologetics ministry? Or should we opt for something larger?"

    Mr Holding WHO is is the YOU? It seems that the sarcasm is directed at Pastor Dutruch as EBO and COTC point out. Please admit that you really believed the Pastor Dutruch was the administrator when the church foolishly spent that money on the Olympic.

    I do not condone spending all that money on a pool but remember all us unintelligent readers use common sense and in context this is directed at the present pastor. I do believe you owe him an apology.

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  7. Already addressed in prior comments. AGAIN:

    If you had any literary sense at all, you would recognize the letter format as a narrative convenience rather than a personal callout to the pastor. Any intelligent reader who hasn't spent their lives watching slapstick comedy would know this and not fuss about it as a way to dodge the issue of this church's selfish, irresponsible, spendthrift ways in the face of so much suffering. Keep your self-righteous nitpickery to yourself.

    It is COP who owes the church at large an apology for wasting money so foolishly.

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  8. This church was excessive. I remember being charged a large fee for daycare because I was ten minutes picking up my child. I asked the lady in the front, "Is this church for rich people?" The reply came back a resounding "YES!!!" I couldn't believe it. I never went back.

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