Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Getting Believers Out of Debt - Lesson 3

In this series of posts we have asked the questions "Should the church borrow?" In our last post we concluded from the examples of scripture that:

1) Personally we should not borrow,
2) We should not pledge our resources to the debt of another
3) By implication the Church should not borrow either.

So if God says don't borrow and don't pledge, what are we to do to aggressively pursue the work of God's kingdom. We looked to Exodus 35:21 and 36:3-7.

The first principle we found in these passages was that, we need to get the believer out of bondage to debt. So what path can the believers take to find freedom from debt?
 Remember the scripture from our first post on this subject, Proverbs 22:7 where it says "the borrower is slave to the lender". Well the very next verse says "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it". These two verses are connected, they are a continuation of the same thought or theme. So I would conclude the church needs to teach God's children (believers) Biblical principles for handling money and one of these is to get out of debt.

There are a number of Christian organization that have excellent materials for this. Crown Financial Ministries, and the Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University are two that come to mind.

So let say we get this principle and we are training our people about Biblical Financial principles. But we ask ourselves, won't that take a long time? Well yes it could, if you take the approach where you do one class at a time with people who have a felt need for the information. These believers maybe experiencing some kind of a milestone in their lives such as engagement, marriage, or retirement. Some folks may also be in crisis like a divorce or bankruptcy.  Teaching principles to those with a felt need is a perfectly acceptable approach, you provide the information as people feel they need it. We know scripture transforms lives and world views, and so the transformation occurs as people feel they need it.

We all know it is human nature to not always do what is best for us? Does a 10 years old boy always want to brush his teeth? Does a 6 year old girl always want to make her bed? Does a teenager always want to mow the lawn or do the dishes? You know the answer is NO and I'll bet you can think of some more examples. So let's assume not all believers will feel the need to get training in Biblical financial principles. Here are some examples:
  1. Maybe they are doing OK financially and they are satisfied with the status-quo, they don't know any better. They could be doing a lot better but they don't know it.
  2. Maybe they make a really good income and have a lot of money to spend, they are definitely doing OK financially. They have never really considered the case for Biblical stewardship and "telling each dollar where to go each month" so that, even with a modest income, over a lifetime they could accomplish some really big things for the Kingdom.
  3. Maybe they know some of the Biblical principles but some of the cultural "wisdom" creeps in around the edges and derails their plan.
  4. Maybe they are too busy doing ministry to take time to find out the complete picture of what the Bible says in this vital area. If you are in this group, maybe one way to look at it is, you can serve others better if you get this training and are implementing it in your life. Pastors, elders and other leaders in the church fall into this category.
  5. Maybe they know all the Biblical principles but need continued reminders and accountability to really use what they know. (This would be me. Lots of head knowledge but I never quite get around to implementing some of it.)
Do you see yourself  anywhere on this list, there are a number of us believers who will probably never feel they need to come to training on Biblical financial principles. But even though we don't "feel" like it, it is important that we get a Biblical financial check-up and a booster shot from time to time.

Jesus said that if you are going to build a tower you need to plan ahead. You need the building plans and the financial plans. If you are growing rapidly and need to deal with the growth now, maybe you can't wait 5 years for everyone to have a "felt need" for Biblical Financial training. Maybe the whole congregation needs to go through the process together and some churches have done this with truly remarkable results.

So whatever model you choose, we need to train believers. This type of training is often a "boot camp" of sorts, where over several months of hard work and accountability people change their habits, their financial belief systems, and start to flex their Biblical financial muscles. The results of a weekly class over several months are much more effective than a weekend seminar, where a lot of head knowledge is received but life transformation is hard to sustain. Handling money God's way is not just head knowledge it is breaking old habits and forming new ones, it is accountability, it is reinforcement, it is encouragement and it is transformational. This doesn't happen in a weekend retreat, or even a really good sermon on stewardship (though there is certainly a place for those).

Our next post looks at the benefits to the church to train believers to get out of debt.


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