Hip-hop group Wu Tang Clan said in their 1993 iconic hit, "C.R.E.A.M.," that cash rules everything around us, and an Atlanta pastor preaching on the purpose of money and the problems with materialism believes they got it right.
"The reality is, cash does rule everything around us," Leonce Crump, pastor of Renovation Church in Georgia, told The Christian Post in a recent interview about his new sermon series titled, "C.R.E.A.M."
The problem is, he said, is that people tend to become slaves to the dollar instead of stewarding their God-given resources.
"I think the number one kingdom ethic is that the money is not ours in the first place," explained Crump. "We're not owners, we're stewards. And if we're stewards, then we'll learn to handle God's money in a way that ultimately glorifies Him, and we may get some residual benefits from that, but it's not the focus."
Crump, who believes more Christians should learn to leverage culture in ways "to move people's hearts toward Christ," is the founding pastor of the 800-member multiethnic Renovation Church and partners with the Acts 29 church planting network.
Below is a transcript of CP's interview with Crump in which he explains the purpose of the "C.R.E.A.M." sermon series, what he believes is the only solution to materialism, and what he thinks could happen if every evangelical Christian in America lived with a kingdom perspective on money and finances.
CP: Tell me about the "C.R.E.A.M." series and what inspired it.
Crump: Obviously, any pop culture aficionado knows that that's a nod to Wu Tang Clan. A couple different things inspired it. The first thing is that there is a serious, serious misunderstanding of the value of money, of the uses of money, particularity in urban communities or rural communities, which I found great similarities between. Among the economically-challenged and even among those of means, how we think about money is skewed, it's wrong and it will lead to ruin. We see it in our country, we see it in our increasing debt margin, we see it in the poor choices that we make and the things that we value. So we want to be a church that is not only addressing the individual soul, but the social issues that plague our time, and really be cultural informants as well as cultural architects.
When we're looking at the issues that are plaguing Atlanta, this is one of those big issues that people just do not know how to manage money. The unemployment rate speaks to that. The number of houses that went into foreclosure speaks to that. The poor loan choices that have been made particularly by the economically-challenged and the under-resourced speaks to that. If we're going to be an effective church, we have to speak to that as well. That's why we chose to do the series.
The nod to Wu Tang was one of those wonderful opportunities where we could take a well-known cultural reference, not only musically but if you're a Dave Chappelle fan then you will remember the little skit (on "Chappelle Show") where he had "Wu Tang Financial" … So what a wonderful opportunity to take this song, knowing what it means and flip it on its head and say, "No, the reality is cash does rule everything around us." That we make major life decisions and they are driven by either our lack of money, our desire for money, our want for more money, our opportunity to get money or the things that money can buy. If we are Christians, if we are Christians, then cash should not rule us. Christ should rule us. If Christ rules us, then we have to re-evaluate how we're thinking about money.
CP: So what is the kingdom perspective on money?
Crump: I think that's multifaceted but if I was to hang it on a few big things, the first thing is that money does not belong to us. It's not ours. I actually made reference in my first sermon to some of the more poetic verses in the Bible that kinda speak to God (owning) "the cattle on a thousand hills," and Solomon saying that a man who strives after wealth will see his money fly away on the wings of an eagle. And then I said, "But there's this verse here that is very, very clear, where God says the gold is mine, the silver is mine." There's no two ways around that, there's no ifs, ands, or buts about that.
So I think the number one kingdom ethic is that the money is not ours in the first place. We're not owners we're stewards. And if we're stewards, then we'll learn to handle God's money in a way that ultimately glorifies Him and we may get some residual benefits from that, but it's not the focus. Our benefit, what we can have, the status we can gain, the amenities and the extras and all of the material gain, it's not the goal. It may happen. That's the other thing that I push on, particularly in our culture, is that monasticism is not the answer either. We're not saying that money is bad, we're saying that how you look at money is bad. At the end of the day, the primary kingdom ethic is that it belongs to God, that you're a steward.
The second [thing] that I think that's very, very important is that the only thing that eliminates materialism is generosity. That's it. That is the answer to materialism, is to be generous, to be givers of the things that we have. That can only happen of course if we first see ourselves as stewards and not owners. I think those are the two big ways that we have to see about money. If God would ever see fit to give us the means to move from there to invest, and understanding that we can actually leverage our money to support the work of the kingdom and to see the mission of God and also the good of people in the city last long after our lifetime.
CP: How many parts is the series? Which point in the series are you now?
Crump: The series is four parts, and I'm actually finishing up this weekend. The first was a big broad overview, some of the stuff I just gave you about how we think about money. The second part of the series was about our spending habits and our need to save. The third part of the series is about investment, which I just told you about. So you've got two verses there. In the second part about saving, the Bible is very clear that a fool devours all that he has, but a wise man has storehouses with grain and wine. There's a principle there, that we need to be saving. Then, of course Solomon also speaks of investment. He says a good man leaves some for his children's children. That's a paraphrase of course, but that's the gist of the verse. If we are able and God would see fit and we are good stewards, then we will have enough to where our children's children will be able to be good stewards of resources that God allowed us today.
This weekend I'll be finishing up with what we're calling the "Giving Challenge," and that quote is directly out of the sermon, that the only antidote to materialism is generosity. We're going to try to move people toward some level of sacrificial giving. If they're not giving anything at all, we want them to give something. If they're already giving 10 percent because they're believers in the tithe, then we want them to give sacrificially, we want them to move beyond 10 percent. If they're already giving beyond 10 percent, then we want them to ask the question, "How will God have us to do more?"