The Business Of Faith

Black megachurches are turning pastors into CEOs of multimillion-dollar enterprises

tithing of millions across the globe, philanthropic contributions, as well as sales from tapes of Jakes’ sermons. “The parishioners we see today are vastly different from the ones 25 years ago. They have more money and are more diverse,” Jakes says. “We are pastoring to the equivalent of a small city. That power is in part a reflection of the size and sophistication of many modern, large churches.”

It’s that kind of power that allowed Pastor Anthony G. Maclin’s church, Sanctuary at Kingdom Square, to purchase Hampton Mall for $13 million in 2004. The old mall, located in Capitol Heights, Maryland, a neighborhood known for its high-crime rate, was little more than empty storefronts and pothole-ridden parking lots. The church plans to transform the 254,000-square-foot shopping center, renamed Kingdom Square, into a 3,000-seat sanctuary, complete with a school, a day care center, bookstore, hair salon, and spa. The funds for the estimated $15 million renovation were raised partly from church offerings, but the largest portion came from bank loans that congregants will repay. Profits earned from the church’s businesses are used to fund acquisitions and renovation of the mall. Moreover, there has
been a major economic impact on the surrounding community: Since the church purchased the mall, several new businesses, including Long John Silver, Family Dollar, and International House of Pancakes, have moved to the neighborhood.

In many ways, Maclin serves as the CEO of Kingdom Management, the for-profit entity established by the church to manage the mall. As head of a 30-member church board composed of deacons and trustees, he presides over annual meetings to approve the $8 million budget for both the church and Kingdom Management. Each year, Maclin is obligated to release a complete financial report to his 5,000-member congregation. In keeping with this, he has hired an accounting firm to review financial statements for both entities. Maclin also sits on the board of directors of the Collective Banking Group, which is instrumental in helping churches secure loans to construct sanctuaries and redevelop strip malls.

Founded as Glendale Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., in 1927, the church was originally located in an old wood-frame building. In 1995, it relocated to Capitol Heights after a $1.1 million renovation converted the showroom and garage of an abandoned Chevrolet dealership into a spacious sanctuary. Since the move, the church has been involved in development projects, gaining financing through drives and bank loans. In 1997, the church purchased an old technical-school building for $1.2 million and turned the structure into a gym, credit union, bookstore, day care, and hair salon. In 2000, Maclin’s church transformed a seedy nightclub into an even larger sanctuary and concert hall. The church recently sold those properties for more than $6 million. “From an economic perspective, the African American church has always been a leader in the community,” Maclin says. “Who else in our community has the resources? We are trying to erase the blight in the community by creating our own jobs and recycling money in

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