Venue church faces foreclosure and sale after pastor-involved sex scandal

Venue Church, once one of America’s fastest growing churches, faces foreclosure following allegations that Venue pastor Tavner Smith was involved in sexual misconduct.

In December, eight employees at the Venue quit after a video of Smith kissing a woman instead of his wife surfaced on social media. A month later, I resumed pastoring the church. Around the same time, the church also closed one of his two campuses.

On Sunday, the Chattanooga Times Free Press issued a notice of foreclosure and sale, saying it is behind on the mortgage on a property at 6401 Lee Highway in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The property will be sold to the highest bidder at 2 p.m. on Aug. 24 in a court in Hamilton County, Tennessee, according to a notice.

The original loan amount for the property was $2.8 million and was secured by Venue from First Citizens National Bank of Dyersburg, Tennessee in September 2019, the notice said. The property is currently valued at $4.86 million, according to Hamilton County records.

Lloyd’s Report (TRR) reached out to Venue for comment, but the church did not respond.

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Venue Church Foreclosure
Once recognized as one of the fastest growing churches in the United States, Venue Church is located in Chattanooga, Tennessee. (Photo by Google Street View)

Last Sunday, the venue held services as usual. A young pastor, JP Mejia, preached the sermon. Smith appeared in the launch video and said he was on vacation.

A video of the service posted on YouTube did not mention the church building being seized and sold in August. Likewise, the church’s website makes no mention of an impending sale, and I couldn’t find any mention of it on Venue’s Facebook or Instagram pages.

The church still accepts donations online.

Smith started Venue in 2012. By 2015, Venue was ranked number 7 on his America’s fastest growing church. At the time, the church had nearly 2,000 attendees and his six services.

The venue currently has two services on Sunday mornings. In January, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported that only a third of the venue’s 150 seats were occupied during his one of the 9 a.m. services.

In its early days, the venue was associated with the Association of Allied Churches or ARC, one of the largest church planting organizations in North America. The ARC has recently been plagued by a sex scandal involving a pastor. The organization is also known for reviving and re-platforming sexually depraved pastors.

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