According to the latest data from faith-related research company The Barna Group, only 4% of Americans regularly tithe to their religious organizations or charities. It says that's a three percent drop from 2010.
But First Baptist Church of Tellico Village doesn't follow that trend.
Sunday the church celebrated paying off the note on its $2.5 million sanctuary expansion with a note burning ceremony.
After a quartet sang "Oh Happy Day," Pastor Charlie Barnard signaled for each fellowship hall table to take their copy of the promissory note and light it on fire in a baking tin.
"We wanted to be good stewards when we decided to build this sanctuary," says Barnard. "We had one million in our hand before we broke ground."
It was the culmination of a three year financial campaign. During that time the church was also able to increase their annual budget, raise $8,000 to build a basic church in Mexico, send thousands of pairs of shoes to Honduras and build a Habitat For Humanity house.
The congregation is situated in the midst of the Tellico Village retirement community in Loudon County. The congregation's average age is 63-years-old.
"We're kind of unique in that some consider us a 'retired church,'" says Barnard. "But we're anything but retired."
He says building a church in a retirement community means filling the pews with full-time Christians.
"We may not be as young and have the energy we used to have, but we've got other resources," says Barnard.
The congregation is considered small by the standards of some area Baptist churches - just 200 members.
But founding members Kaye and Larry Cate say it wasn't just a few deep pockets that made the campaign possible.
"It sounds like a big challenge, but it's always been there when we've asked for it," says Larry Cate.
Cate says since the church began about 15 years ago, there are many congregants who never got to see their vision come to life.
"I'm saying this to represent a lot of people who are no long with us," says Cate. "They wanted this so badly and those of us that are still here and still
working, our main goal is to make sure that we represent them, and keep
what they gave so much for, moving forward."