Jimn Kyles of Anchor Bend Church—an Association of Related Churches (ARC) megachurch in Texas—recently urged his congregation to give more money because the church built a new campus it “cannot afford” and is delinquent on its mortgage. Soon afterward, Kyles taught a class on “financial wisdom” at Highlands College, the ministry training school for ARC in Birmingham, Alabama.
Kyles spoke March 23 as part of Highlands College’s Leadership Encounter Day—a special event featuring pastors from across the nation teaching students “personal leadership skills and how to apply them.” Kyles’ class on “Financial Wisdom” specifically instructed students “how to make budgets and manage their money,” according to a post on Instagram.
Yet, Kyles’ Anchor Bend Church moved last year into a new campus with a $5.5 million mortgage—a cost they’ve struggled to cover, Kyles said in a February 5 sermon. “According to the national average, we’re healthy,” he told the congregation. “We just ended up in a building we cannot afford.”
Kyles also noted that Anchor Bend Church was delinquent on a portion of its monthly payment. “The total mortgage payment that is due just to bring us current for February is $51,000—right now, today,” he said.
The school where Kyles spoke is located on the campus of Church of the Highlands (COTH), the second largest church in America with a weekly attendance of 43,000 and the flagship church for ARC. The president of Highlands College is Chris Hodges, co-founder of ARC and senior pastor of COTH.
Give a gift of $30 or more to The Roys Report this month, and you will receive a copy of “Wounded Workers: Recovering from Heartache in the Workplace and the Church” by Kirk Farnsworth. To donate, click here.
Over the past several years, ARC-affiliated churches have been embroiled in numerous scandals. These include a former COTH pastor accused of rape returning to public ministry at another ARC church. Weeks ago, a student ministry leader of an ARC church in South Carolina was charged with 13 counts of assault and battery. And, in February, multi-site Next Level Church shut down after allegations of years-long bullying and financial misconduct.
Highlands College functions as a feeder school for ARC churches. On its website, the school boasts that it has trained more than 1,000 students and placed them in 297 ministries in 35 U.S. states and nine foreign countries. The school does this by partnering in placement “with a network of over 13,000 churches through two organizations”—ARC and GrowLeader, a ministry headed by Hodges to help churches break the 1,000-person attendance barrier.
Highlands College was recently granted initial accreditation from the Association for Biblical Higher Education.
The Roys Report (TRR) reached out to Highlands College and to Kyles for comment but did not receive a response.
‘Not going to let vision outpace our people’
In his February sermon reviewing church financials, Kyles claimed that Anchor Bend Church fared better than many evangelical churches following the COVID pandemic.
“There are churches all across America that have not gotten back to their pre-COVID numbers,” he said. “(Some) churches—and I have mentored and coached with them—they’ve (had to) shut their doors because they just can’t do it.”
Several recent surveys have noted declines in religious attendance and giving to churches. A survey by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability released in November reported a 6.6% decline in giving to churches. A study released in January by the American Enterprise Institute found that 8% of Americans haven’t returned to churches they previously attended before the COVID pandemic.
Kyles struck a positive note in his message, while also stating their church’s financial difficulties. “We are not trying to make it—we are making it and thriving and growing,” he said. “(But), in 2022, I need you to know this: every month we have needed a miracle to pay this mortgage.”
According to social media posts, Anchor Bend Church finalized the purchase of its property on June 12, 2020, and celebrated the grand opening of its new church campus on January 13, 2022. The lead pastor, who noted that construction costs “doubled” during the height of the COVID pandemic and the church had “zero” reserves as of February, seemed to express regret over their new property. He said he wouldn’t make a similar purchase again.
“We’re going to make a resolve: we ain’t getting in debt anymore,” said Kyles. “I don’t care if that land is $1.7 million. We’re going to raise $1.7 million. And when we raise it, we’ll buy it. And if we don’t raise it, then that’s not our land. But we’re not going to let vision outpace our people.”
Regarding church attendance, he reported that more people attended Anchor Bend services in 2022 than in 2019. However, he said giving has not rebounded to pre-COVID totals.
Kyles explained: “Discipleship and giving takes about a three-month on-ramp. You’ll show up and ask, ‘Do I trust the pastor? Is the money being stewarded right? Do I feel anything funny?’ So it takes usually two or three months for the on-board of: ‘This is my church and I can trust them.’”
In addition to the Leadership Encounter Day, Kyles also attended another out-of-state event this month—the Maxwell Leadership Conference in Orlando, Florida. There he posted a picture of himself with Jeremy Foster, the disgraced former pastor of another ARC megachurch in Texas. As The Roys Report noted in a previous article, Foster now is a C-level staff member with the Christian values-based Maxwell Leadership, despite committing adultery and reportedly marrying his mistress.
Freelance journalist Josh Shepherd writes on faith, culture, and public policy for several media outlets. He and his wife live in the Washington, D.C. area with their two children.
4 thoughts on “ARC Pastor Leading Church Delinquent on Mortgage Teaches College Class on Finances”
I have an idea. Instead of begging for bucks for a new building they should look after the Congregation and take care of their needs. Help them pay off their debt like for instance their homes or cars. Things that are basic human needs and then teach them how to budget.
Headline reads like satire from Babylon Bee.
A satire in the Babylon Bee has a half-life of about six weeks before it turns into real life.
It could be posted under the Bee’s real life sister site “Not the Bee”.
The Roys Report seeks to foster thoughtful and respectful dialogue. Toward that end, the site requires that people use their full name when commenting. Also, any comments with profanity, name-calling, and/or a nasty tone will be deleted.
Comments are limited to 300 words.