As the looming deadline of August 2 fast approaches, many Americans are thinking about money and debt. Despite the polls, I would venture to guess that most Americans are only thinking about their own money — or lack thereof — and their own debt. Go to Times Square or Los Angeles and ask people on the street about the debt crisis in Washington and they will look at you with a blank stare.
However, ask them about their own finances, jobs, mortgages, car payments, grocery bill and how much it costs to fill their tank of gas and they will gladly have all the relevant information at the ready. In fact, “debt related stress is up 17% from November” levels and equal to stress levels in 2009, during the worst of the recession. People are not nearly as worried about the national debt as they are their own debt. I think most of us can relate to that sentiment.
For those who are worried about their personal finances — particularly those who have incurred a lot of debt — there is one surefire way out of the financial mess. It’s realizing — unlike President Obama — that any credit card debt is not manageable. Oh, you might think it is. But, in the long run going into debt to buy things today that you cannot afford will only cause more stress and worry.
That’s why Dave Ramsey, America’s premier Christian financial expert, is encouraging people to join the Great Recovery and learn “God’s and grandma’s ways of handling money.” If only more politicians would heed that advice, our country would be in far better shape. But, since many of our “leaders” don’t seem to possess any common sense or real world business experience, it appears that individuals and families will have to make the Great American Recovery start at the grassroots level.
To get out of debt — either personally or as a country — will take time. There really is no such thing as a “get-rich-quick” scheme that will work. They might appear to work for some — just like the lottery appears to work for some — but too many people, particularly Christians — fall prey to smooth-talking salesmen who promise instant results and loads of money. We should expect this type of behavior from the likes of Bernie Madoff, but when Christian pastors and churches peddle the “get-rich-quick” multilevel marketing schemes to their parishioners, that is unbelievable.
In revealing posts exposing one such multi-level marketing scheme being “presented” to church members by a mega-church pastor — and former President of the Southern Baptist Convention — both Tim Rogers (“Surprised by a Hero of Mine”) and Peter Lumpkins (“FHTM and Dr. James Merritt’s Confusing Ministry”) reveal the dubious nature of Fortune Hi-Tech Marketing, Inc., a “direct selling company that gives people the opportunity to build their own businesses by marketing FHTM’s diverse lineup of outstanding products and services.”
I know that Southern Baptist churches, like Cross Pointe Church where Dr. Merritt is the Senior Pastor, are autonomous. However, I find it hard to believe that any pastor would use the sanctuary of the church to hawk this kind of “get-rich-quick” multi-level marketing scheme to members of his church, particularly when the pastor is already making money off the scheme and stands to make even more money by signing up more people. And, couching what you’re doing in spiritual language does not make one immune from criticism or questioning.
That goes for those companies who specialize in “Church Capital Fundraising Campaigns.” Far too many churches forget that God is in control of finances and that He will provide what our churches need — be it for new ministries or new buildings — and that He often gives us above and beyond what we could think, ask, or imagine. William Thornton, the SBC Plodder, shares 10 lessons he has learned when it comes to CCF Campaigns (“Those wonderful church capital fundraising campaigns”).
Finally, when it comes to money and finances, many (most?) Christians and churches understand that the money that they have is not their own, but is a gift from God that we are to use as good stewards. As stewards, we are not to keep all that God has given to us, but we are to give some back to Him through the local church in the form of tithes and offerings. As churches, we are not to keep everything that people give, but we are also called to be generous givers for the cause of Christ and fulfilling The Great Commission.
As Southern Baptists, our churches partner together to accomplish missions and ministry in our communities, states, nation, and world. We can do far more together than we can separately. Through what is known as the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists pool their resources together so that the Gospel can be proclaimed in North America and to the uttermost parts of the world.
If you want to know more about the Cooperative Program and how those who maybe considered “blue state” Southern Baptists (as opposed to “red state” rural/suburban SBs) view CP and the visions that are “competing” within the SBC, I would encourage you to watch “Talking Cooperative Program” (posted at MicahFries.com). In an interview with Fries, Bruce Ashford, and Jimmy Scroggins (a classmate of mine at Southern Seminary) conducted by Jon Akin during the recent SBC Annual Meeting in Phoenix, the interview may have you wondering, “Is Bobby Welch Wrong About CP?” I know what my answer to that question would be, but I’m not sure it would be the answer of many within the “blue state” contingent within the SBC.
Regardless of what happens with the debt ceiling debate over the next few days, each of us has a personal responsibility to be good stewards of all that God has entrusted into our care. Money is not evil, although it is the root of all kinds of evil. Using Biblical principles and common sense, let’s “live like no one else today so that later on we can live like no one else!”