Debt is Dumb

Proverbs 22:27, “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.”

It hit us like a ton of bricks. I was entering the last semester of my master’s program, working a secular job, and serving at my church when we realized that we needed to do something about our finances.

To most people the way we were living our lives was not that bad. We do not own credit cards and all of our cars are paid off. By God’s grace we were paying our bills every month and for the most part were not worried about making next month’s bills either. Even though life looked good we realized that we could not do all that God had called us to because we had a problem. It was actually a $50,000 problem named Sallie Mae.

As we looked at this monstrous amount of debt we discovered a few realities about debt:

  1. Living in debt is living in bondage. Proverbs 22:27 says, “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is slave of the lender.” As followers of Christ we are called to only be subjects of him—not a bank. Free yourself from the burden and do not accumulate debt.
  2. Living in debt means you cannot do everything that God had called you to do. Imagine if the Lord called you to a church that could not pay you as much as you make now. Would you really tell God no? Or maybe the Lord has called you to serve with the International Mission Board, but you have an abundance of debt. If you have excessive debt, you are immediately disqualified from serving with the IMB. Do not allow debt to hinder you from following the Lord.
  3. Living in debt limits your family. Imagine all the things that you could do for your family and your children if you did not have debt. Debt may be holding you back from properly taking care of your family.
  4. Living in debt means you cannot give generously. If you are in debt the money that God has blessed you with is already postmarked with another’s name on it. What if you could take the money that you are paying to the credit card company and use it for the kingdom of God?

Nowhere in Scripture does God speak of monetary debt being a good thing. God longs for you to have an abundant life. Part of an abundant life is being free from the bondages of hopelessness and guilt so that you can follow the Lord wherever he leads you. Unfortunately, debt leaves you feeling hopeless and guilty. This is exactly what happened to me and my wife. I felt guilty for signing my name to a loan that I could not afford. I felt guilty for not being able to give to help others because I could barely help myself. I felt hopeless because I did not make enough money to pay off this debt. So we decided to do something about it.

In the book, Navigating Your Finances God’s Way, Howard Dayton suggests a few ways to get out of debt:

  1. Pray. You may think that you have created a God-sized hole so why not ask God to help you fill it back in?
  2. Make a Budget. You may think that you do not spend money carelessly until you write it down. When you see how much money you spend on extra books or how often you stop for coffee breaks you will soon realize where all your money is going.
  3. Earn more income. Maybe it is time to pick up a second job.
  4. Spend less by becoming content with what you have. Stop trying to keep up with the Jones. Most of the time they are just as broke as you are.
  5. Consider a radical change in lifestyle. Christian financial expert Dave Ramsey always says, “If you live like no one else, later you can live and give like no one else.” Could it be time to quit eating out and cut the cable?
  6. Sell what you are not using. For us it was a car, but I am sure you can find a thing or two to sell so that you can be free from the weight of debt quicker.

My wife and I are still not quite debt free but in six months we paid down a lot of what was owed. It is amazing to see how God has provided for us in the midst of our faithfulness and it is even better to see how he has strengthened our relationship in the process.

As followers of Christ we must realize that debt is dumb and is not a tool to be used for our gain, but a tool used by the enemy to make followers of Christ slaves to something other than Christ Jesus.  Avoid debt at all cost.

 

NOBTS students: Did you know that there was a resource on campus that helps you with how to handle financial decisions? The Program for Research, Education, and Planning (PREP) is designed to help students develop positive financial habits. For further information about their services and weekly Compass classes please visit them at http://www.nobts.edu/prep/default.html  or email them at prepassistant1@nobts.edu

 

Meeting Needs in Your Community

Here is an interesting article about one of our Caskey Center churches. Tom Bilderback is the pastor of Vieux Carre Baptist Church in the French Quarter of New Orleans. He has served in this community for the past 5 years.

Vieux Carre Baptist Church has exegeted their community, and determined the best approach to reaching the lost. The article points out that the church has a significant ministry to the homeless people of New Orleans, but their focus is not on providing care for the homeless. The focus is on reaching the lost in the community. To accomplish this task, Vieux Carre Baptist Church provides care for the homeless.

What does your community look like? What are the needs of the people within your community? How can you match your church members’ ministry gifts and abilities with the needs of the community? Answering these questions will help you identify an effective strategy for meeting needs and sharing Christ in the community.

 

 

A Pastor’s First Ministry Priority

I came across Richard Ray’s article today, and I wholeheartedly agree with it. In the article, Ray cautioned pastors on the importance of making time for your family. I’ll let you read the article yourself, but I do want to emphasize the fact that a pastor’s first ministry priority is to shepherd his family.

According to Titus 1:5-9, a pastor will disqualify himself for ministry if he does not shepherd his family well. Caring for your wife and children allows you to care for others in an effective manner. You model to your congregation what it means to be a Christ-exalting husband and father.

Finally, as Dr. Mark Tolbert, Director of the Caskey Center for Church Excellence, has often said, “You can lose a ministry position, and God will give you another ministry position. However, you only have one family. If you lose your family, you won’t have another family. Consequently, you will probably lose the ministry position as well.”

Take time each week to show how much you love your wife and children. Say it. Show it.

 

 

 

Acts 1:8 in Small Membership Churches: Reaching the Ends of the Earth

Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth”

From the beginning of the early church there was only one plan for the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be proclaimed to the world and that was by the church. As a matter of fact Jesus even gave his disciples a roadmap to follow in accomplishing that task in Acts 1:8. In this verse Jesus tells his followers that they will be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. The great reality that the church today is faced with is the responsibility to minister to those across the street, across the country, and even those in the furthest most parts of the earth. In previous blog posts we discussed what some Caskey Center churches are doing in accomplishing the task to reach Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria; but what are small membership churches doing to reach the ends of the earth?

A recent survey conducted showed that most Caskey Center churches are involved in international missions by giving. Of those churches surveyed the most frequent way of giving

to international missions was through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (18.6%). Other forms of giving included Cooperative Program giving (17.4%), supporting individual missionaries (11.3%),and giving to other miscellaneous ministries  (9.3%).

In addition to giving, a large number of churches participated in international missions by serving in short term missions (13.8%), while other churches engaged in international missions by  proactively identifying and engaging different ethnic groups in their local community (2.8%).

One pastor described the unique ministry that his church is doing by saying:

“We recently began a ministry called PURE. This is taken from James 1:27. In this ministry we strive to support orphans and widows around the world. We seek to meet their spiritual & physical needs. Through PURE we currently support a Pastor in India. This Pastor also runs a Christian orphanage, in our church sponsors all 9 of the children in the orphanage. Sponsoring means we provide the resources to meet ALL the needs of each kid.

Also our church has separated the year into quarters. Each quarter we have a missions offering; two of these quarters are for Lottie Moon and Operation Christmas Child.

We also use some of our budget overage from the previous year to fund our missions committee. We currently support 5 missionaries that are overseas full-time. A few of which are Southern Baptist but not with the IMB.”

This is an example of what God is doing through one church to help reach the nations with the Gospel, but God can work through your church as well. As a matter of fact Jesus commands it in Matthew 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Here are a few practical suggestions that you and your church can use to be intentional in international missions:

Pray: Do not underestimate the power of prayer! Maybe your church is one of the churches that does not participate in any form of international missions—pray. Maybe your church is one that has members which say, “Why do we have to go somewhere else, we have ministry right here?” Pray. Maybe you do not know what to do next—pray some more. Continue to ask God to change the heart of your church and to help you lead them in what ministry to do next. For a list of IMB pray needs visit: http://imb.org/pray/default.aspx#.V1BtvfkrKUk

Give: Giving to international missions is one of the key ways to encourage and support international missions. Give to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and continue to give to the Cooperative Program. Find ways to give to missionaries who are on the field to support the work that they are doing already. If and when you begin to give, share stories with the church of what is being accomplished through the gifts that are given.

Go: Every person needs to take the opportunity to physically go and be apart of foreign missions. Jesus’ command to go was one that was personal and unique to every person who calls themselves a follower of Christ. Have you ever considered that if you do not have a an active passport that you may already be out of the will of God? We should be prepared to go as soon as the Lord calls us.

Think Outside the Box: As you heard in the example above, there are many unique and different ways that a local church can be involved in international missions so do not be afraid to think outside of the box. There may be ministries that target international people groups near your church already. The main goal is that you and your church are involved in making Christ know in every nation!