From the article:
"The rise of nondenominational churches and a resurgence in the evangelical movement also led to more religious institutions seeking to borrow. Churches were often founded in storefronts or school auditoriums, but as they grew, they built sprawling edifices, including so-called mega-churches. At the same time, some older churches lost members as young people went elsewhere, and had to borrow to survive."
"The lenders were, in a sense, betting on the likelihood that a particular pastor could attract a large audience or, in some cases, on the popularity of one denomination over another. But, where those bets were wrong, or too optimistic, congregations found themselves knee-deep in debt and at risk of losing their houses of worship."
I am aware of credit unions and lending agencies out of Southern California that cater to evangelical churches. It wouldn't surprise me if further analysis of church finances from the 1990s to today showed that the visionary impulse of church leaders, the discomfort of constant accomodations to rented facilities, and the preference of many committed church goers for a "regular building" created an affinity between money-lenders (both Christian and non-Christian organizations) and church leaders.
Of course, congregations require financial support to sustain their ministries. Just as other non-profits are also being affected, at the same time of the "contraction" of financial credit we may see a "contraction" of new ministries. We may be seeing a "gap" from 2008 to 20011 of new church starts across the nation.
And yet, who knows? Perhaps instead the opportunism of congregational leaders will excite them to take over the discarded husks of failed auto dealerships. Today's showrooms may become tomorrow's refurbished worship auditoriums. They provide space and ample parking. But it can only happen if they can secure enough money to purchase the land and hire the contractors.
Anyways, the full article can be found here.