News

First Family Church: a timeline

Updated: 2011-09-29T17:13:41Z

June 21, 1973: Troubled teenager Jerry Johnston invites Christ into his life at the Windermere Baptist Conference Center camp in Roach, Mo.

1979: A 19-year-old Johnston forms Jerry Johnston Ministries and begins making a living as a traveling evangelist. He soon gains national prominence by going on speaking tours and sponsoring evangelical crusades.

Sept. 22, 1996: Johnston launches First Family Church in Shawnee Mission South auditorium. About 600 people attend the service.

April 2001: After meeting in 11 different rental facilities, First Family moves into its new building on 51 acres in southern Johnson County. The 54,000-square-foot building features a “Heavenly Bucks” coffee shop, $500,000 sound system and 1,500-seat sanctuary.

March 11, 2007: The Star reports that hundreds of First Family members have left the church in the past few years because of concerns about financial accountability. The newspaper also finds that the church is structured in a way that provides little financial oversight.

April 1, 2007: Johnston makes his first public response to The Star articles, telling his congregation, “We are accountable, we are responsible.”

May 2007: The Kansas Attorney General’s office says it is reviewing two separate complaints alleging that Johnston misused church money. One of those persons also files similar complaints with the IRS.

July 2008: The IRS attaches tax liens to First Family Church property, citing more than $107,000 in unpaid payroll taxes from 2007. The church quickly pays and the lien is released. The Star later reports that the state investigation initiated by the attorney general has been closed. A state spokesman says investigators found no activity that violated the Kansas Consumer Protection Act.

Jan. 25, 2011: Regions Bank files a foreclosure petition in Johnson County District Court, saying First Family Church owes more than $14 million in mortgage and other costs. The church’s board of elders issues a statement saying that last year, Regions Bank “unexpectedly” called the church’s mortgage.

Sept. 4, 2011: First Family Church announces that it is losing its building and everything in it. The final services will be Sept. 11, the board says, and the church will “re-launch” on Sept. 18 at Olathe East High School under the name New Day Church Kansas City.

| Judy L. Thomas, jthomas@kcstar.com

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