Monday, March 16, 2009

Eight Steps to Getting Out of Debt

There’s no doubt personal debt has played a key role in the current financial crisis. Debt levels have been climbing for several decades. And pastor, more than likely, they’re climbing in your church.

You’ve got people in your church who are hurting – badly. A recent survey of Southern Baptist pastors by Lifeway Research showed that only one in four thought their parishioners were struggling with debt – well below the true national average. The average American is spending $1.25 for every $1 they make. My guess is that pastors from other denominations have the same false impressions of their congregation as well. Most of us have been clueless about the mounting personal debt among our church members.

Debt isn’t just impacting our church’s pews though. It’s impacting the pulpits as well. Many ministries are sunk because pastors are so burdened by debt they leave the ministry for more profitable work.

Debt is a problem we can’t ignore any longer. But how do we get out from under it? We’ve got to commit to these steps and help our congregations do the same.

1. Commit to becoming debt free now.
2. Start paying God and yourself first.
3. List all you own, owe, and earn.
4. Have a sale.
5. Set up a repayment plan to get out of debt.
6. Add no new debt.
7. Share the plan with your creditors.
8. Stick to it.

Learn how.

[from The Christian Post by Rick Warren]

The Message of Giving

Christian History has an interesting little article exploring the recent history of the offering in church services. The article covers government-supported churches (that's right, here in the U.S. of A. until 1833) and explains how the weekly passing of the collection plate during worship services didn't become common practice until 1900.

It's a little bewildering that a staple of the modern church service is such a recent addition. But it's also freeing, considering how that staple so often trips people up and prompts finger-wagging over churches only wanting your money.

Money and the church have always caused problems -- think lightning strikes, indulgences and selling pews, but maybe there's a way we could rethink this practice, still fund the church and do our giving. Without turning people off.

How do you go about doing your offering? And what message is it sending? Could you communicate more effectively by making giving less visible (online giving, pledge drives, etc.)?

Or should giving be an active and visible part of our worship, and if so, how do we deal with the naysayers?

Churches have varied on this from the book of Acts and up through the centuries. There's no right answer. But maybe it's time to reconsider how your church conducts its fund raising and whether or not your conventions are communicating your convictions.

[from Church Marketing Sucks by Kevin D. Hendricks]

ORU Project Takes a Look at Growth of Charismatics

Tulsa, long a global hub of Pentecostalism, is hosting an international study to look at what has become the fastest-growing arm of the Christian faith. Some 640 million adherents worldwide, across many denominations, practice Pentecostal/charismatic Christianity, with its emphasis on miracles, healing and speaking in tongues.

The Commission on Holy Spirit Empowerment in the 21st Century is sponsored by Oral Roberts University. It will culminate with a gathering of leaders and scholars from around the world April 8-10, 2010, in Tulsa.


Grace Alone

"Paul did not labor that he might receive grace, but he received grace in order that he might labor." (Augustine, De gestis Pelagii xiv, 36).

No distinction could be more important to our salvation.

Augustine knew what many over the years have not known — salvation is not of works; it produces good works.

He speaks of grace. Grace is something unmerited. It is an enabling power. Romans 8: 8 says that those who are “in the flesh [unsaved persons] CANNOT please God” (emphasis mine).” Yet people are always trying to do so by their own ability. The fact is that they are not able to do so: “Not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

That’s why they need the grace of God, regenerating and giving them the ability to believe the Gospel. Prior to that grace which brings spiritual life, one is dead spiritually; he cannot believe.
Roman Catholics have always believed that there is an element of ability left in man to which God may appeal. The Bible teaches otherwise. To be dead, isn’t to still have a little life left!

So, we are grateful to God, who provides for every aspect of salvation—from beginning to end. That provision is called grace.

Grace is an interesting concept — difficult for proud man to fathom. Men want to contribute something-if not everything — to their regeneration and justification.

There were some Puritans who believed by works, you could “prepare” yourself for regeneration, and they set people on long periods of becoming sensible to their sins, so that the Gospel could be given to them when ready. Not so. In Scripture, people are saved on the spot at having heard to GOOD News for the first time. Consider the Ethiopian Eunuch; Lydia who had to have her heart opened to believe, or the Philippian jailer.

Alleine’s Alarm to the Unconverted is a handbook of Preparationism and ought to be avoided at all costs. It talks about all sorts of works, but in the chapter called “Directions to the Unconverted,” he never once says, “Repent and believe the Gospel.”

People are saved by grace through faith — which leads to works as a result of conversion.

[from Institute for Nouthetic Studies Blog by Jay Adams]