Venue Church Facing Foreclosure and Sale After Sex Scandal Involving Pastor

By Julie Roys
tavner smith venue church foreclosure
Venue Church in Chattanooga, Tenn. is now facing foreclosure following allegations that Venue pastor Tavner Smith engaged in sexual misconduct. (Photo via Instagram)

Venue Church—once one of the fastest growing churches in America—is now facing foreclosure following allegations that Venue pastor, Tavner Smith, engaged in sexual misconduct.

In December, eight employees of Venue quit after a video of Smith kissing a woman not his wife surfaced on social media. Smith then went on a short sabbatical but resumed pastoring the church about a month later. About the same time, the church also closed one of its two campuses.

On Sunday, the Chattanooga Times Free Press published a notice of foreclosure and sale, stating that Venue is in default of its loan of the property at 6401 Lee Highway in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The notice said the property will be sold to the highest bidder on August 24 at 2:00 p.m. at the courthouse in Hamilton County, Tennessee.

The original loan amount on the property was $2.8 million and was secured by Venue in September 2019 from First Citizens National Bank in Dyersburg, Tennessee, the notice stated. The property is currently valued at $4.86 million, according to Hamilton County records.

The Roys Report (TRR) reached out to Venue for comment, but the church did not respond.

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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)

This past Sunday, Venue held services as usual. Venue youth pastor, JP Mejia, preached the sermon. Smith appeared in a video at the open of the service, saying he was on vacation.

There was no mention in video of the service posted to YouTube that the church building was in foreclosure and would be sold in August. Similarly, the church website makes no mention of the impending sale, nor could we find any mention of it on Venue’s Facebook or Instagram pages.

The church is still taking donations online.

Smith started Venue in 2012. And by 2015, Venue was ranked as the 7th fastest growing church in America. At the time, the church had close to 2,000 attenders and six services.

Venue now has two services on Sunday morning. In January, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported that just a third of Venue’s 150 seats were occupied at one of its 9 a.m. services.

In its early days, Venue was associated with the Association of Related Churches or ARC, one of the largest church planting organizations in North America. ARC recently has been plagued by sex scandals involving its pastors. The organization also is known for restoring and re-platforming pastors after their sexual falls.



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13 thoughts on “Venue Church Facing Foreclosure and Sale After Sex Scandal Involving Pastor”

  1. Julie or anybody. When church real estate is sold. Who gets the money? My thoughts are the members should get a portion because it’s their tithes that paid the bills. I never thought about it before. If the pastors do then wow must limit my tithes to only general (non real estate) expenses. Please advise

    1. By law, the excess funds left after paying off the mortgage and other foreclosure expenses would revert back to the church itself. If the church closes, they would pay any final expenses. Any leftover proceeds would be distributed according to the church’s governing documents or to any parent or supervising organization. Depending on the exact circumstances, state and federal tax law may also influence the disposition of the funds. Members generally would not receive any proceeds.

    2. “What happens to the money when a nonprofit closes?
      Generally speaking, you can only distribute money and property after you’ve paid off all of your nonprofit’s debts. In turn, after paying off debts, a dissolving 501(c)(3) organization must distribute its remaining assets for tax-exempt purposes.”

      I believe the Board gets to decide which 501(c)(3) organization to send the money they have left to.

    3. Rene Riedlinger

      The church was a blessing for many people in the area. Yes, the Pastor was involved in something he shouldn’t have been and families were torn apart. But there were be many people who had not stepped into a house of worship for decades that felt welcomed and loved there. They will no longer have a church home. They did use portable chairs and I personally attended there for years. It could seat at least five hundred at a service, as many chairs as they needed to set up. Tavnor was a great preacher who grew one of the fastest churches in the US. Our services were diverse and many lives we’re saved over the years. For all he did wrong when he lost his way, you can’t ignore the thousands of lives he changed. His ex-wife is a bright, intelligent woman who will succeed and take care of her family. What happened is tragic for all involved but they should all be receiving prayers for healing.

      1. Kevin thank you for the answers and Rene I agree. Sometimes in my annoyance of pastors falling from grace, I forget (won’t name the name) of the pastor who led me to grace and how now some writers don’t speak of him in a honorable way. And not any type of sexual or financial sin. But when I needed God and his grace, God used this person and pointed me in the right direction. For that I am grateful.

  2. Looking at the building, it is church as warehouse. Now, I don’t mind an economical building, and at least there’s an awning over the entry doors, but I’d hope there is some simple beauty inside. Notwithstanding the degrading proclivities of the minister, as reported.

    1. Mark Gunderson

      I was trying to figure that out too. Details in the story:
      2,000 attendance across 6 services is 333 per service. That was in 2015. This building was purchased in 2019. Perhaps the quoted low attendance was at a different campus?

      I found the Chattanooga Free Times Press article and that’s what it says. It’s a 47,000 sq ft facility with “150 cushioned seats.” There’s also an article a few days later when they closed their N. Georgia campus so maybe it had a larger auditorium.

      According to an op-ed in the Free Times Press Tavner’s listed income at the time of his mid-2021 divorce (for child support purposes) was $200k/yr ($16,666/mo).

      I doubt his paychecks have been that large lately. Hopefully his ex-wife has a good job for the children’s sake.

      1. Cynthia Wright

        Maybe the “cushioned seats” are portable chairs, and they reduced the number that were set up as attendance declined.

        47,000 square feet. Is that as big as a Super Walmart?

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