Pastor Tavener Smith of the once-popular Venue Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where his congregation gathers every Sunday for worship, admitted that $4.86 million in property had been seized, initially from a bank. He said he was scared when he saw the notification.
“You’ve read or seen on paper that the bank has issued a foreclosure notice on our building. This is absolutely true,” Smith said in a message to his church about a week ago. “We’ve been through a rough season. It’s not a lie. We’re not hiding it. The season we’ve been through as a church has been pretty public.”
The venue’s “hard times” began last December, when a video of Smith kissing a female church employee was leaked online, prompting at least eight church workers to quit. It was later revealed that, in the process of divorcing her ex-wife, Daniel, who co-founded the church, Smith was closely involved with that employee.
The Daily Beast also reported that volunteers found Smith visiting his home half-naked with the same employee last November.
Since then, Smith has stayed out of the pulpit as his church struggles to find volunteers, bleeds members, and loses revenue in the aftermath of the scandal.
More than two weeks ago, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported that the Venue Church had defaulted on the loan on its 6401 Lee Highway property.
Additionally, Danielle Smith, whose divorce was finalized in 2021, claimed in a civil lawsuit filed in Hamilton County Court on July 25 that the church failed to pay her as agreed.
Payments were scheduled to begin on January 1st and continue monthly for a ‘specified period’. The Daily Beast reported.
The complaint alleges that the church failed to make the first payment and the payments in May, June, and July.
A notice of foreclosure and sale of the church indicates that it will be auctioned on August 24. It was unclear as of Tuesday if this process was still in motion, according to the notice, Venue Church owed him $2.8 million to purchase the property in 2019.
A call to the church by Christian Post was not answered.
In a message last week, Smith revealed that he was scared when he first saw the notification, but after the initial shock, he calmed down and prayed.
The pastor said that since then, God has associated the church with “truly amazing lawyers.”
“I can stand here and tell you that there are multiple options they are offering to help us stay here and get it done.
“When you’re navigating a situation like this, it’s a horrible situation and you’re not just going through it alone, you’re going through it with a group of people that affects a lot of people. “So when we found and saw that notification, we were just as scared as you were.”
The distressed pastor said he was comforted by the knowledge that “God hasn’t finished us.”
“This is what the Bible says: You can know the truth and the truth will set you free. I always said this: There is a difference between fact and truth.” He said. “Facts happen. Truth takes precedence. And I just prayed. And the Lord gave us the wisdom to find really great lawyers. They really helped us.” I just wanted to let you know that you don’t have to go home, don’t worry.”
Smith argued that the parliamentary church would survive even without the building.
“Venue Church, we are a church no matter what,” he emphasized.
“Are you with me? If tomorrow we were walking and an earthquake happened and this building was swallowed up and disappeared, we would still be the church. The church is not a building. It is not a building.” No. … we are the church,” he continued. “If you… all come to my house, we’ll load up there. Dead ends, down the street, wherever [go].”
Smith further disclosed his claim to tell the congregation in 2017 that the church had no debt.
“In 2017, through the Promise campaign, I took the stage and said, ‘Let’s celebrate that this debt is gone.
“Through the Promise campaign…this was a donation campaign when we got this building. , signed a lease to be here,” he said.
After signing the lease on the building, Smith said it needed renovations, and church leaders thought it unwise to raise money to do the work.
“We felt like the Lord said, ‘Raise the money, and whatever you raise, that’s what you put into doing the renovations.’ Buildings.” Smith said. “And when I made that announcement, we didn’t have a mortgage. It was a really honest celebration. It was where we were.”
Smith said it took two years before he had the opportunity to purchase the 38,000-square-foot building and an additional 10,000-square-foot space next to it and five acres of land.
“Now we are in debt,” Smith said. “But it’s good debt.”