The time for pastors and churches to give lessons on financial stewardship based on biblical principles has never been more critical, say Christian leaders.
Saddleback Church’s Pastor Rick Warren, who has devoted most Sunday sermons this fall on the subject of money as talked about in the Gospel, kicked off his financial series by stressing the severity of the nation’s problem.
“We are now three years into a major recession. There are more people out of work right now than ever in our lifetime. There are more people underneath the poverty line than ever in America. More people are classified as legitimately poor than ever before. There are more people that own a home that is upside down, another words they owe more on it than its worth, than ever before,” he said.
Warren said that like most of the nation, his congregation reflects an 11 percent unemployment rate. During his introduction to his sermon series, he also said that the Bible is the best place to go for financial advice.
“The Bible is literally filled with advice on how to get out of debt, how to stay out of debt, how to prosper, how to have financial stability, and how to save and spend,” he said.
Some churches, such as The Rock in San Diego, have upped their focus on ministries related to financial counseling and special small group studies on the subject. The Rock recently had a half-day seminar called, “Financial Bootcamp.”
Workshops from the church’s “Rock Financial Life Ministry” teach budgeting, eliminating debt, and employment issues. The ministry emphasizes that they want to teach its members to manage money from a biblical perspective.
While many churches have made financial advice part of the ministries offered long before the recession, others may have been too slow to catch on.
Pastor Chris Goulard is a board member of the Christian Stewardship Network, an organization devoted to training church leaders about starting and building ministries devoted to teaching money management to its congregation.
Goulard, who has also been in charge of Saddleback Church’s stewardship ministry for the last eight years, told The Christian Post that the current bad economy should serve as a wake-up call to Christian leaders everywhere.
“We took an informal survey about seven years ago and could not find a single seminary that had a class on financial stewardship,” Goulard said. “I think it’s a topic most pastors are uncomfortable teaching because most pastors are not trained in finances.”
He said that many churches in the U.S. had previously fallen short on sermons and studies about money in fear that doing so would give the wrong message about the church wanting more funds. However, Goulard said he does see a growing interest among pastors to teach on the subject, much of it coming because of the downturn.
“Even without the recession we should have been teaching about this topic in church all along,” he said. “I’m actually thankful for this economy because it has awaken a lot of people up to what’s important in life. I think it’s a unique opportunity. Jesus talked about money more than any other topic.”
“It’s obvious to not only pastors but everybody that there is a huge need [for stewardship training] because there is a lot of hurting people in the churches,” he said. “More and more churches are starting to develop a stewardship department. I don’t mean a fundraising or a development office. I’m talking about training the members of the church biblical financial stewardship, which is fundamentally a discipleship issue.”
Goulard was asked about how the recession has effected what is happening inside the Christian church.
“It’s created an absolutely unprecedented opportunity for pastors to reach their people with the Word and what it says about contentment, biblical stewardship, and about what is important in life. When they do that you’ll now have many more fully devoted followers of Christ who are chasing after Kingdom things rather than chasing after worldly things,” he said.
However, obeying God’s principles may not mean a better economy for the nation, Goulard added.
“Unfortunately, when people start applying good stewardship principles it is actually a negative for the economy in the short run because people start saving more and spending less. It’s ironic because we are living in such a consumer driven economy,” he said.
“However, we can’t focus on the short term. Christians have the opportunity to stand out in culture as being different and I think that would be a great witnessing opportunity for people,” he explained.