In a horrifying chain of events that treats the body of Christ like a commodity, congregants of Fellowship Church in Miami had the shock of their lives when they were told at the end of the sermon that their campus had been sold to a new megachurch looking to expand in the area, and that service would be their last. Ever.
After an altar call at the end of the service, campus pastor Chris King announced to the congregation:
I’ve been a part of this amazing community for a long time. My kids have been raised in this place. And one of the things I’ve learned over that 20 years [is that] transition is a part of every living, growing organization, and Fellowship Church is all about transitioning to reach people. Today we are announcing a transition. We are transitioning Fellowship Church Miami, effective today, into Vous Church. Vous church will be taking over this location, with Pastor Rich Wilkerson Jr.
Pastor Rich and Pastor Ed have been close friends for a while. Our churches are very similar – there’s a lot of things that we do very much alike. We’re excited…
The church is a sattelite campus of Pastor Ed Young’s Fellowship Church in Texas, one of the largest in America.
With the sudden announcement, it was all done. The church closed its doors and shut down its social media pages and website that day, leaving up to 200 members scrambling over where to go next.
There was no message from Ed Young himself, thanking the church for being part of the flock and their years of service. There was no pastoral aftercare. There were no instructions on where to go next, other than that they may want to consider the new megachurch when they had their first service, which was a month later.
In fact, Vous Church moved in the very next day after the announcement and started construction and building it out, aided by dozens of workers, helpers and volunteers, making it clear this was planned a long ways out.
There was no further contact with campus pastor Chris King and no further contact with the main Fellowship Campus, leaving the congregants to be scattered to the wind. Some of the volunteers received a brief group chat message, but that was it. There was no warning to the congregation about what was about to go down, and no opportunity for the congregation to find a pastor who could care for them, or to make plans.
It was a congregation abandoned and left to fend for themselves. [Editor’s note: Shepherd! This is nothing less than desertion of post in time of war. There will be a reckoning.]
Former worship pastor Steven Anderson explained that many people eventually found new churches, with large contingents staying in groups.
Two days after the announcement, I actually formed a WhatsApp group for a handful of us. The group started off with 9 people and grew to 65 in 3 weeks. We all discussed the different churches we wanted to try out, and visited in a group so large, that we had to warn the churches days in advance. Most of us have found a new church that we can see ourselves at. We aren’t all under the same roof anymore, but the group acknowledges that the church is not confined to four walls.
One congregant member told us that it was especially cruel, given that there was a big focus at the end of the year to donate to the church, with reasons given that it would fix up the ailing building, as well as special campaigns over the last years to raise money for capital projects in Texas. “We’ve been used for our money and then cut off when we weren’t worth the hassle.” This comports with a message from the campus pastor two months before the sale, urging congregants to donate their “year-end gift” which links back to the main Texas church.
One church member left a long comment on the news story, explaining how they were done dirty, with details that corroborate many of the things we have since learned. You can feel the hurt in her words. She writes:
I too would like to express how I know all of the church members feel in Miami about this closure. The church feels saddened, hurt, and even betrayed by this unannounced sale of the building without prior notice or reason to the entire congregation.
I have been attending from almost the beginning of the opening. Everyone feels betrayed because many of us served for many years and gave so much in our time and efforts, tithes, offerings and even for special capital campaigns like the last one named INTENSE which was said was going to be used for the purchase of another million dollar facility in Frisco, TX, and to maintain and fix the physical buildings including this one in Miami which needed so much attention.
The only thing they did were to fix the worship center roof because it was raining on us during services and the kids area. Everything else was a mess with leaks everywhere, the walls and ceilings were a mess. I think though, the obvious is what everyone could see from the big screens.
The main campus in Grapevine, TX, year by year has diminished in size. Also, many of the staff began to leave or [were] fired without word of why. Even here in Miami, after their midtown Miami campus was closed and sold, that staff came here to the South Miami location and for a while I remember about 14-17 paid staff were here but all little by little were fired or quit.
In the end, only 2 couples or 4 staff [sic] were running the campus. When it came to the congregation many have also left from here because of so much pressure to just serve in a position but not the true interest in coming to our help in times of need.
I served in different places including the Kids dept. and all I would get was calls to come and serve but when I would ask for prayer and did not come because of illness, I never received a call.
I must exclude pastor Art and his wife Lisa. They were the only staff people with true ministry and pastor’s heart for the members. Unfortunately even they were never told of the closing and our hearts feel so bad for them and their kids. The other couple the Kings knew already and even had their house for sale by the time we all were told. (Editor’s Note. We heard similarly that Pastor Art was fired from the church a few days later, being likewise kept in the dark the whole time. Art joined the aforementioned Whatsapp group and tried to encourage the congregants. With the church having between 150-200 congregants we don’t know why they didn’t just continue the church elsewhere with him as pastor. We’ve reached out for comment but none has been forthcoming so far)
I understand there may be a situation which might have been challenging economically but this church and its pastor Ed Young never came to us to give us an opportunity to give more offerings or extra to keep the campus open.
If truly reaching the lost was in their hearts, they would have at least given us the opportunity to govern ourselves and establish a pastor search committee to continue church here. If we would have been told, I’m sure the congregation would have stepped up.
What is sad is not just what was done, but how terribly it was done in such a heartless cold fashion. That last Sunday, not even Ed Young himself preached or even came here. (Editor’s note. Ed Young would only show up around once a year in person, and the last time got upset because the congregation didn’t show proper enthusiasm at his presence during his visit- the disappointment communicated to the leadership team) There was a guest speaker and the message was on “Interruptions” and how God uses interruptions in life to grow our faith. At the closing Chris King said, “talking about interruptions, starting TODAY, RIGHT NOW there is a transition occurring and we as Fellowship Church transition into officially becoming Vous Church with pastor Rick Wilkerson Jr! [sic] and for more information as to the times to check the Vous church website and the best…is…yet to come!!!!
As you can imagine everyone was stunned, shocked, people didn’t know if the service was over, others were questioning what was happening?, what does it mean?, others tears began to run down their cheeks, It was a horrible day and it has been 3 terrible weeks. I have not been able to stop crying and I don’t think pastor Ed or Lisa Young or the rest of the campuses even understand the damage that has been done to us.
There was not even a video of them thanking us for the years of service and giving. After much thought, all they were interested was in the money this merger property would provide them. It is so sad to see when a ministry like this is run with such a corporate mentality that they put their company interest over the people who turns out is the church.
I’m sure they will make an excuse for them using the proceeds to expand the kingdom or seek more of the lost, but they just fled Miami which is probably one of America’s most unchurched cities just to bring in the millions.
We don’t even know how much this building was sold for. It is just so hurtful and heartless. This pastor and his close staff is so used to doing this and they keep on merging and then closing those churches. I love for the members to STANDUP, and SPEAKOUT against this abuse of power. Ed Young…….. shame on you!”
What an evil thing to do.
But after all, it’s just business.
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