"The tide of consumerism, the tide of credit and the tide of debt that is sweeping over our country needs an absolute miracle to turn it back," the UK Chief Executive of Christians Against Poverty (CAP), Matt Barlow, told fellow believers at the launch of a brand new money management course to help Britain's most vulnerable stay out of debt.
CAP Money was launched at Holy Trinity Brompton in central London on Tuesday. The course has been developed by the charity as an answer to the new challenges – and opportunities – that debt and credit-driven poverty are bringing to the church.
"We as Christians, who believe in a miracle-working God, can play a part in the miracle that needs to happen in this nation to bring us back to a right thinking about money and a right thinking about how we handle our finances," continued Barlow.
The CAP Money course, written by founder and CAP International Director John Kirkby, enables individuals to regain control over their finances using a simple cash-based money management system.
CAP will train local churches in CAP Money so that they are equipped with a professional money management service with which they can reach out to those in their parishes struggling to keep finances in order.
Pastor Simon Benham of Bracknell Family Church has seen huge changes in his church since starting CAP budgeting courses 18 months ago.
Not only has his church helped 75 families and single people out of debt, but 17 people also committed to Christ as a result of the massive change for the better that the CAP course brought to their lives. And the newcomers have dramatically altered the church's previously middle class demography.
"It is so exciting to get up and think that there are 75 families in our community whose situation is different today because of what we are involved in as a church," Benham shared. "CAP is changing us as a church and our engagement with people who are struggling in debt."
He continued, "So often the churches have been polarized, and engaged either with social issues or with preaching the gospel.
"We are coming to an understanding of the wisdom of bringing those two together and saying 'here is a felt need we can help you with but also here is the message of Jesus Christ.'"
According to Dr. Cliff Arnall, a specialist in seasonal disorders at the University of Cardiff, the third week in January is the most depressing week of the year, when Christmas bills start to pile on the financial pressure and the dismal weather dampens spirits.
With this in mind, Barlow challenged Christians to break the cycle of depression.
"Debt is so much easier to get into and so much harder to get out of. We passionately beat with God's heart for the poor and we as God's people need to be bringers of hope in this society," he said.
Christian author Rob Parsons joined the launch of CAP Money. In his book The Money Secret, published in 2005, he predicted the coming of a massive market crash.
He pointed to the timeliness of CAP Money's launch in light of the present stock market turmoil.
"You and I are looking at this on a significant day in the history of our world. Stock markets are crashing around the world," said Parsons.
"This is not just about individuals. This is affecting nations, economies. It is not just a matter that people have been foolish in borrowing. The way that banks have lent has been foolish in the extreme. We are beginning to see the foolishness of the way the system has been operating."
Parsons hit home the golden rule of successful budgeting, telling Christians, "You cannot spend more than you have coming in."
He praised CAP for its professional and "breathtaking" work in helping people to overcome their debt. "They inspire me," he said.
Parsons also praised CAP Money as a "fantastic" course.
"They are changing lives," he said. "These people are bearers of hope. Thank you for what you do. You are serving the church, we are indebted to you. I am indebted to you."