Accused Pastor Tavner Smith Acknowledges Venue Church Facing Foreclosure

Por Sarah Einselen
tavner smith venue church
On August 8, 2022, Pastor Tavner Smith of Venue Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee speaks to his congregation. (Video screengrab)

Despite asserting earlier that Venue Church’s campus in Chattanooga “is going nowhere,” Tavner Smith on Sunday acknowledged that the congregation he pastors is facing foreclosure.

The Tennessee megachurch’s financial troubles became public months after Smith was accused of sexual misconduct.

Smith promoted this past Sunday’s sermon in a video posted August 2 to the church’s social media accounts. In that video, he said that “it’s absolutely not true, Venue Church is not shutting down.” He also said the church’s legal counsel “has assured me that I can tell you with confidence that our Chattanooga location is going nowhere.”

But on Sunday, he said legal counsel had offered “multiple options” for the church to stay put.

It’s unclear what those options are. Smith did not list them and he didn’t name the firm or attorney. The church did not respond when TRR asked to speak with its attorney.

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Smith acknowledged in su sermón that it’s “absolutely true” that the church’s bank recently published a notice of foreclosure. A copy of the notice shows it ran July 31, then ran again a week later, the day Smith addressed it in his sermon.

“When we found out and saw the notice, just like you, we were scared as well,” Smith said in his sermon. “But we also knew, God’s not done with us.”

“We’ve sought our legal counsel and they have assured me . . . that there are multiple options that they are providing for us to stay here and make it through,” Smith said.

A bank can foreclose after a debtor is behind on payments. Tennessee law requires banks to notify defaulting debtors directly about foreclosure proceedings, in addition to publishing newspaper notices.

The loan was for $2.8 million originally, El Informe Roys reported last week. It’s unclear how much is still owed or how far behind the church is on its mortgage payments. TRR reached out to the trustee handling the foreclosure on the bank’s behalf, but didn’t hear back.

Hamilton County tax records also show the church owes $2,151 in property taxes and interest on its tax bill that was due February 28. (Churches can apply for a property tax exemption in Tennessee, but church-owned vacant land doesn’t qualify.)

The church has drawn scrutiny since eight staffers quit in December over allegations Smith had kissed a woman who wasn’t his wife. Smith went on a brief sabbatical pero returned to preaching a month later. The church closed its satellite campus during Smith’s sabbatical.

Smith suggested in his sermon that the church had been open about its financial troubles. Both TRR y el Prensa libre de tiempos had previously reported on the foreclosure notice. The church has not responded to TRR’s previous requests for comment, either, and declined comment to the Prensa libre de tiempos por its report.

venue church foreclosure
Once recognized as one of the nation’s fastest growing churches, Venue Church is located in Chattanooga, Tennessee. (Photo via Google Streetview)

In the sermon, Smith also said his previous statements that the church was debt-free came before the church took the loan out for its building.

At the time, Smith said, the church was leasing the building and raising money to renovate it without having to take out a loan. He added the church bought the building two years later along with about five acres next door.

County property records show Venue Church bought the property in September 2019 for $4.5 million. It’s now valued at $4.86 million.

Smith launched Venue Church in 2012. Three years later it had become the seventh fastest growing church in the country, with some 2,000 people going to six worship services. It now hosts two worship services on Sundays.

The church was once associated with the Association of Related Churches (ARC), one of the continent’s largest church planting organizations. ARC is known for restoring and replatforming morally fallen pastors, and member churches have faced several scandals involving money or sex.

Sarah Einselen es una escritora y editora premiada que vive en Texas, EEUU.



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7 pensamientos sobre “Accused Pastor Tavner Smith Acknowledges Venue Church Facing Foreclosure”

  1. Yet another example of one of the Big Box Religion Outlet stores failing. It seems that our worship, preaching, teaching, and conduct have been infiltrated by some of the pop-culture. One of the reasons we are seeing this a confusion between contextualization and syncretism. Many of the pastors of these religion outlet stores have allowed serious error to develop in the church in the name of contextualizing Christianity for the 21st century masses; however, what they have actually done is allow syncretism within the church. Syncretism is connecting biblical practices, ideas, values, and theological language to different meanings in an unqualified manner. It is a best of both worlds solution. I can be a Christian and my old habits, practices, belief systems are connected to new Christian meanings.

  2. It seems that a pall has settled over the congregation. There were no catcalls this week from the 10 people clapping. These people clearly have been duped and it was done by a person with no self-awareness whatsoever. This is sad but maybe the members won’t be as gullible the next time.

  3. Gregory,
    While I appreciate your criticism of “big-box” religion – the rant on contextualization looses me pretty fast – we see contextualization all over the scripture….

    Yeah – that circumcision of the heart thing sure beats the alternative – especially as an adult…and helps promote those adult male gentile converts…😉


    1. As a long term missionary and mission administrator I have a good understanding of what contextualization can be. My seminary advisor wrote a ground-breaking P.HD dissertation demonstrating how God contextualized his message. However, much of what passes for “contextualization” by the post-modern Western church doesn’t look like contextualization to me. Contextualization happens when you try to find words/symbols/redemptive analogies in a receptor culture that will convey the meaning of God’s eternal message with equivalent impact to the receptor culture in which the message was first received. The message remains an eternal truth, the symbols/words/terms merely carry the message. Syncretism is different than contextualization. Syncretism takes the MEANINGS of the words/symbols/practices of the receptor culture and connects them to Christian words, etc. In syncretism the message is changed to fit the culture. So, you can connect 21st century desires for a richer more successful life–along with the secular self help terminology and means–and connect it up to Biblical proof-texts and preach it as the Gospel. It isn’t … and, it is a message that cannot bring salvation to anyone.

  4. Now for all the other megachurches to shut down too. The real NT church, and all too many churches in the 10/40 world, are semi-underground home fellowships. No entertainment, no flattering, no “God wants you to live your best life now”–just the whole Gospel and nothing but.

  5. In America, we are enamored with large things, and that is why we flock to mega Churches, with all the bright lights, rock bands, “Joe Kool” like Pastors with skinny jeans who preach “Lightweight” messages, and worldly approach to attracting people. It is no wonder that we’re seeing more immoral and sex-crazed young Pastors, especially in the White ARC type Churches. It is a disgrace and shame before Almighty God!

  6. Am I right in thinking when the Spirit leaves a church, the money does too? This analysis clearly doesn’t work for the scam artists who are clearly grifters taking money, but maybe that’s different.

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