One of the two campuses of Venue Church is apparently shuttered as the Tennessee church’s pastor, Tavner Smith, is on sabbatical amid allegations of adultery.
Venue’s North Georgia campus at 3969 Cloud Springs Road in Ringgold is no longer listed on the church’s website. Photos posted to “The Venue is NO Church” Facebook page show what appears to be an entryway devoid of anything except a handful of Christmas decorations, a footstool, some brooms and a cardboard box.
A paper sign on the door announces the church’s two Sunday morning services are taking place only at the main campus in Chattanooga.
The church’s voicemail box was full and no one responded when The Roys Report sent an email.
Smith announced January 5 that he was taking a short sabbatical, just after a video of Smith kissing a woman other than his wife surfaced online. The woman was reportedly a church staffer and eight other staff members resigned after the video. (Smith and his wife were about to finish divorce proceedings when the video surfaced.)
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The Chattanooga Times Free Press reported this week that church leaders had for months denied rumors Smith was having an affair with a married woman.
Then after the video surfaced, some staffers asked Smith to step back from church leadership for up to a year while he sought professional help, the newspaper reported. However, Smith reportedly refused.
Staffers have also said the church is rife with abuse and questionable financial practices.
One former volunteer told the Times Free Press he donated $200 one Christmas to help buy a pair of Gucci slippers for Smith, who drew a salary of $200,000, per court records. Meanwhile, volunteers on the church’s creative team were encouraged to use their own equipment, a former creative volunteer told the newspaper.
Smith said he would return from sabbatical in February, but it’s unclear when this month he’s expected back. Smith introduced the guest speaker at Sunday’s service in a prerecorded video.
Pastor Michael Patterson also called for people to join the church’s “volunteer dream team” in this past Sunday’s livestream. Patterson said the church was looking for musicians, vocalists, and people with technology or creative arts skills, as well as leaders for the church’s youth group.
The church is reportedly seeing sparse attendance. It was once one of the country’s fastest-growing churches, but the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported just a third of the 150 seats were occupied at the 9 a.m. service January 23.
Venue Church had also been associated with the Association of Related Churches, or ARC, in its earlier days. The church-planting organization is now embroiled in several recent scandals involving pastoral misconduct.
Sarah Einselen is an award-winning writer and editor based in Texas.
4 thoughts on “Venue Church Shrinking In Wake of Pastor’s Alleged Adultery”
Multi-campus and megachurches are a real problem. A church can get so big that the pastor no longer has any meaningful relationship with the congregation. This is essential because a pastor is supposed to be an example of godliness (1 Peter 5.3).
Large churches create a bureaucracy between the congregation and the pastor, often consisting of paid assistants whose livelihood depends upon the pastor’s success, reducing even further any incentive to criticise someone for ungodly behaviour.
So true about staff at megachurch. My experience and my shortcoming as a staffer. Very sad and humbling on the other side of those days.
This is very sad. As pastors are held to a higher standard they are also human with sinful natures just like you and me. Tavner is a good person who has crossed some boundaries and he needs an opportunity to be forgiven with the same grace and mercy we all seek as we live out our lives. He needs to admit his actions forgive himself and seek God’s direction. As much as I love him and enjoy hearing him preach he needs to step away so people’s hurts can heal and he can restart with a fresh message. Because people are so judgemental and how it looks morally, I hope he and this girl will go their separate ways. As they both are in the same place in life with divorce, they need to both heal in their own space. I hope they both have another chance for finding a life partner it just does not need to be with each other. For what it matters this is my opinion as a Christian and as someone who loves Tavner Smith and his talents of bringing God’s word to life as he presents it to God’s people. And we are all God’s people.
Okay, this pastor before his church apology was hyping the offering. Saying giving money is our deepest act of worship. Manipulating people. He is no man of God. If you commit adultery and are going through a divorce, you need to step back for a time and figure it out. This is your typical show pastor. He is back in the pulpit for money and ego reasons only. I am all for forgiveness but he shows no real repentance if he’s huckstering for money. I see a wolf here.
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