One of the two locations of Without Walls International Church in North Lakeland, Fla., has been standing abandoned since August, causing rumors about whether the ministry will be able to rise up from its financial strains.
The large and empty Lakeland building sits without electricity. The sister church of the Tampa, Fla., location ministered by its senior pastor Paula White, has not held a service since at least August, when the electrical supplier disconnected its power due to numerous missing payments amounting to over $50,000, The Ledger has reported. Lakeland Electric has reportedly applied the church's deposit of $51,180 to cover the debt, but that is not the end of the ministry’s financial nightmare.
Without Walls reportedly bought the Lakeland property – with a capacity for 9,000 congregants – for $8 million in 2005. However, the church did not manage to attract enough followers, and by 2008 the property was put up for sale, according to The Ledger.
Later that year, the mortgage holder, California-based Evangelical Christian Credit Union, began foreclosure proceedings on both Florida properties, claiming the church defaulted on a $1 million line of credit. Without Walls managed to reach a settlement with the creditor in 2009 by selling two parcels of the Lakeland real estate for $1.38 million.
A notice posted outside the building reportedly says that it is unsafe for human occupancy, but a rumor has been swirling that a small remnant of the church's congregation has continued to meet at the sanctuary, using an emergency generator to power the lights, according to The Ledger.
The newspaper suggested that the peak of the church's financial trouble might have something to do with the fact that Paula White, its magnetic preacher who attracts congregants and media attention with her charisma, is reportedly considering moving to New Destiny Christian Center, where she would take over the reins after its previous pastor, Zachery Tims, passed in August.
White is deeply connected with the ministry of late Tims, whom she reportedly referred to as her “spiritual son,” but many of the NDCC congregants have not been eager to accept her as their new senior pastor, and have preferred to back Tims’ wife, Riva Tims, instead.
White is also an author and a popular TV personality. Her life is followed with interest by the media, especially since her divorce from the Rev. Randy White, with whom she co-founded Without Walls in 1991, under the name of South Tampa Christian Center.
The Christian Post could not reach Without Walls nor Paula White Ministries for immediate comment.
Further information on The Ledger article can be found here.