First Family Church

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Exterior of the First Family Church/campus
FFC Exterior Bldg Photo.jpg
Basic information
Location 7700 W. 143rd Street, Overland Park, Kansas, 66223
Affiliation

Southern Baptist

Pastor Jerry Johnston
Country United States of America
Status Inactive/Closed

First Family Church (FFC) was a large Evangelical Christian church located in Overland Park in southern Johnson County, Kansas, on 51 acres (210,000 m2) in the southwestern portion of the Kansas City Metropolitan Area of the United States.

First Family Church was affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, and had among its guiding principles the stated mission to reach lost people, bring them into the family of God, and inspire them to mature in Jesus Christ.[1]

Worship Service during Discover Life Kansas City Crusade 2005 held at FFC

Leadership[edit]

Jerry Johnston, who was reared in Overland Park, founded the church and was its senior pastor from the beginning in 1996 until its closing in 2011.

Some of Johnston's relatives were among the nearly one hundred employees of First Family ministry. Wife Cristie Jo Huf Johnston, a native of Zeeland in southwestern Michigan, whom he met on an evangelistic tour in the fall of 1978 and wed five months later, was the director of Open Arms & Chesalon Comfort Circles,[2] a support group ministry designed to serve people with specific struggles such as alcoholism, anxiety, and sexual abuse.[3] Before the church closed, there were 23 specific groups, their only son, Jeremy Johnston, was the executive pastor and the chief operating officer of the media. The older son-in-law, Christian Newsome, husband of the Johnstons' daughter, Danielle, was the associate pastor of family and youth. Danielle was contemporary worship leader, the younger son-in-law was pastor for preteen boys; his wife, Jenilee, the Johnstons' younger daughter, held similar duties for girls. Joyce Johnston, Jerry's mother, was an executive secretary of the church.[2] Christian and Danielle Newsome left First Family Church in 2011 before its foreclosure to begin a new congregation in Lee's Summit in western Missouri.[4]

The church also had elders, deacons, and ministry leaders not on staff with First Family Church.[5]

History[edit]

First Family Church began when Pastor Johnston liquidated nearly $200,000 in assets from his debt-free ministry organization Jerry Johnston Ministries to start the congregation in his hometown of Overland Park, from its beginning in September 1996, FFC had eleven different rental facilities, everything from schools to movie theaters. It had a membership in excess of four thousand,[6] on September 11, 2011, First Family Church closed it doors, and the bank seized the church buildings with all contents inside.[7]

In July 2001, First Family Church launched its television ministry,[8] some sermons were broadcast globally via satellite and archive web video-streaming.

Its 125,000-square-foot (11,600 m2), state-of-the-art facility featured an indoor jungle gym and youth center with basketball courts, fitness room and youth café.

In the fall of 2007, First Family launched First Family Academy[citation needed].

With the closing of First Family Church, Johnston reorganized as "New Day Church Kansas City." This congregation met in Olathe, Kansas, first at Olathe East High School and then at a middle school in Olathe. New Day Church closed in September 2012.[9]

Impact of First Family Church[edit]

First Family Church offered many outreach ministries to the community of Kansas City, some of which were: the annual Operation Thanksgiving, which provided hundreds of meals to those without. The Shelter Shower ministry that provided a baby shower for expectant mothers who did not have friends or family to offer that for them, the Shelter Barrels ministry that was available for First Family Church members to bring designated items each month for families in need. Every month First Family Church members prepared meals for homeless shelters in the Kansas City metro area. Gifts were taken to a battered women’s shelter, and Bibles and blankets were taken to those in need during the winter months.[10]

First Family Church launched a sermon series on Christian Ethics; in a Reuters publication the writer addressed the issue of “Ethics crisis in America? Church leaders say yes.” The pastor of First Family Church commented on the crisis “Honesty is honesty. It doesn't matter if you are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, whatever. A lot of these debacles we're seeing can be traced and sourced back to a lack of good old ethics”.[11]

The Boston Globe reported that conservative churches in the state of Kansas, First Family Church among them, opposed same-sex marriage and supported a measure to ban it.[12]

On May 7, 2005 First Family Church’s pastor Jerry Johnston reportedly stood against evolution and believed evolution to be a non-scientific theory that should be taught as such. Other evangelical Protestants and Catholics worked together on passing Kansas' ban on same-sex marriages.[13]

In an interview with ABC News, First Family Church pastor Jerry Johnston commented on the Mel Gibson blockbuster film The Passion of the Christ and whether or not children should be allowed to view the film. First Family Church arranged for a number of private screenings for adults and youth in the Kansas City area.[14]

In 2004 Religious Tolerance.Org reported on the "Passion of the Christ" film and whether children should be allowed to view it. First Family Church endorsed the educational value the film provides to children regarding the life of Jesus Christ.[15]

The Baptist Press News reported that pastors and their wives of First Family Church all graduated with their Master of Divinity degrees.[16]

September 22, 2004, The Lawrence Journal World reported that First Family Church Pastor Jerry Johnston and the Reverend Jerry Falwell urged Christian leaders in Kansas to mobilize their congregations for upcoming elections.[17]

Controversy[edit]

In March 2007, The Kansas City Star ran a front-page investigative series of articles on financial concerns at First Family Church,[18] the paper published several follow-up articles on additional questionable activities of the Johnstons: Lavish lifestyles,[19] Jerry and Jeremy Johnston side businesses,[20] as well as delinquent tax payments. - The Kansas City Star/March 11, 2007 - By Judy L. Thomas[21] Additional reporting was done referencing that all of Jerry Johnston's children and his mother worked on staff with him.[22] Online reporting also reported on the honorary degree granted to Jerry Johnston.[23]

After the stories appeared, Bott Radio Network, a Christian network with 50 stations based in the same city as First Family Church, announced it was dropping Jerry Johnston and First Family Church from its local AM station (the only station in its network that the show was on). "Bott said the newspaper report raised some serious questions that could be easily answered if the church joined the ECFA" and that the ministry refused to join the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) pursuant to the radio networks standards.[24]

In July 2007, a follow-up article was printed in The Kansas City Star citing additional allegations, including the misuse of a $50,000 contribution to Jerry Johnston Ministries that was allegedly diverted to a personal account of the Johnstons', the article also reported that after the initial March 2007 articles in the Kansas City Star, the Kansas Attorney General's office began an investigation into whether Jerry Johnston used church money for personal gain.[25]

A contractor who worked for the church filed several complaints regarding the companies with the Internal Revenue Service, charging that church employees were forced to work for the companies, that church donations were used to fund Jerry Johnston Publications, and that church resources were used by J Cubed Media to conduct business.[26]

Foreclosure and shutdown[edit]

In February 2011, Regions Financial Corporation filed a foreclosure petition on the church, the bank requested the church be placed in receivership, claiming the church owed $14.4 million on two loans. The elders of the church stated that even while the FFC was current in its monthly payments, Regions Bank accelerated the mortgage maturity from 30 to five years due to the 2008 banking crisis and demanded the full payment of the loan,[5] the elder board stated that AG Financial made a cash offer to Regions Bank to finance First Family Church's mortgage, but Regions Bank rejected the offer.[27] Regions Financial Bank had not yet repaid the 2008 TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) loan from the federal government when it sold First Family Church’s loan to Blue Valley School District. The bank paid back its $3.5 billion in the spring of 2012.[28] Part of the bank's filing mentioned the church had a payroll of $915,000 a year, with over $600,000 of that going to the Johnston family,[29][30] on September 5, 2011, Jerry Johnston announced the church was losing its building. 2011 marked a dramatic increase of church property foreclosures; 138 churches were sold by banks compared to just 24 in 2008.[31] The church started hosting services at Olathe East High School and changed its name to New Day Church Kansas City.[32] New Day Church Kansas City closed down September 2012.

The First Family Church building was purchased by the Blue Valley School District, renovated, and repurposed into its "Hilltop Learning Center," a center for early childhood education.[33]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ First Family Church’s Guiding Principles
  2. ^ a b "First Family Church payroll includes several Johnston family members". religionnewsblog.com. Retrieved November 9, 2015. 
  3. ^ "Chesalon Comfort Circles". 2007-08-13. Archived from the original on 2007-08-13. Retrieved 2016-11-22. 
  4. ^ Judy L. Thomas (October 10, 2012). "Jerry Johnston's New Day Church shuts down". Kansas City Star. Retrieved November 9, 2015. 
  5. ^ a b "Kansas mega church faces foreclosure". mcclatchydc. Retrieved 2016-11-22. 
  6. ^ "Thought-policing in Middle America". WND. Retrieved 2016-11-23. 
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ First Family Church - History
  9. ^ Jerry Johnston’s New Day Church shuts down
  10. ^ [2]
  11. ^ "Ethics Crisis in America? Church Leaders say Yes". Carey Gillam. 2009-01-21. Retrieved 2009-01-21. 
  12. ^ "Kansans Set to Vote on Gay Marriage". Brian MacQuarrie. 2005-04-04. Retrieved 2005-04-04. 
  13. ^ "Evolution and Intelligent Design in Kansas". Greg Allen. Retrieved 2005-05-07. 
  14. ^ "Is 'the Passion' too Violent for Kids". ABC News. Retrieved 2004.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  15. ^ "The Passion of The Christ: Should Children and Youths see the Film?". religioustolerance.org. 
  16. ^ "Family of 4 Graduates Together". Tammi Reed Ledbetter. Retrieved 2009-05-09. 
  17. ^ "Jerry Falwell to Urge Johnson County Pastors to Mobilize Congregations". Associated Press. Retrieved 2004-09-22. 
  18. ^ "Lax financial oversight riles some First Family Church followers". Judy Thomas. Archived from the original on 2007-10-12. Retrieved 2007-12-04. 
  19. ^ Lavish lifestyles at odds with pastor’s calls for the faithful to sacrifice
  20. ^ Business offshoots add to bottom line
  21. ^ Pastor, church have been delinquent in paying tax bills]
  22. ^ First Family Church payroll includes several Johnston family members
  23. ^ Honorary degree elevates ‘Dr. Jerry’ Johnston
  24. ^ "Pastor’s radio show is dropped". Judy Thomas. Retrieved 2007-11-07. 
  25. ^ "Johnston's former ministry faulted: Misuse of group's finances is alleged". Judy Thomas. Retrieved 2008-03-07. 
  26. ^ "Kansas Religious Right leader shuts down controversial for-profits.". Church & State. March 1, 2008. 
  27. ^ Oberholtz, Chris. "Overland Park mega-church closes its doors". Retrieved 2016-11-23. 
  28. ^ "Document: Regions/ repays $3.5B bailout - Access World News – Historical and Current". infoweb.newsbank.com. Retrieved 2016-11-23. 
  29. ^ Salaries at issue as bank seeks megachurch receivership
  30. ^ [3]
  31. ^ "Banks foreclosing on churches in record numbers". Reuters. 2017-03-09. Retrieved 2016-11-23. 
  32. ^ First Family Church ousted from home, will ‘re-launch’ Sept. 18
  33. ^ "Blue Valley School District turns megachurch into a children’s campus". Kansas City Star. Retrieved 19 March 2015.