That debt is now about $29 million, said Bryant and a church spokesman.
Bryant said he told the board before coming on board that there needed to be a strategic economic plan to reduce debt and support the ministries. It couldn't be done by simply passing the collection plate, he said.
He said the church wanted to look “more appealing to other financial institutions” and wanted to shop the existing debt to other lenders with more favorable terms.
New Birth, he said, was going to “start the journey towards becoming debt free.”
Bryant’s “pet project” also includes adding solar panels to the church, which would lower its carbon footprint but also reduce energy costs.
Experts say New Birth sits near the granite hills of Arabia Mountain, where development is sparse because builders must blast through rock to install sewers.
New Birth owns at least 250 acres in DeKalb County, of which about 180 acres are “buildable.”
Bryant said the church did not plan to “sell one acre of our land,” and was in talks with potential development partners.
Anthea Butler, an associate professor of religious studies at the University of Pennsylvania, however, is skeptical.
While such plans may generate excitement, “he has to have big donors and he probably doesn’t have them right now.”
She questioned how New Birth would be able to develop those projects when the church is already carrying big debt.
“Who will lend you money to make more debt?,” she said. “Are the properties lien free? If he’s not selling one acre, I want to know how he is going to be building. You can’t make bricks without straw.”