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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?"
A few practical tools...one of the things that we covered was the idea of budgeting and the reality that first you give towards God's kingdom and then you pay the debts that you owe, and then you estimate the taxes that you will owe. Only after doing those three things do you set a budget for your lifestyle, because those three things all involve money that you don't have first rights to, not if we believe that we're stewards of God's money. Uncle Sam's gonna get his, so we've got to submit our taxes. And if we owe someone something, then we need to pay that back as good representatives of the kingdom. The Bible says don't be a lender or a borrower, so we need to take care of those debts. We need to take care of those debts. Then and only then, do you actually sit down and say, "OK, now what should I be living off of?" Because prior to that, other people have first right's to your money.
That was another big issue, is the idea in our culture that borrowing is normal and necessary, and it's not. We just bought into that lie, that if I can't afford, then I'll borrow to buy. It's not yours. Even a mortgage is not home ownership. Wells Fargo owns [it], because at the end of the day if something happens where I'm unable to pay my mortgage, Wells Fargo will come and get their house. The Bible says that a borrower is slave to the lender, that the lender is master over the one who borrowers.
We are enslaved to Sallie Mae, we are enslaved to our mortgage holders, we are enslaved to the people who hold our notes for our car loans. At the end of the day, if we were ever unable to pay those things — because that's the mentality we have: "As long as I can make the payments it's fine." But if we were ever unable to pay those things, then those people would come and get their property. What an incredible world it would be if Christians could have those funds released. There are some crazy things we could do. If every evangelical Christian in America gave $60 we could free every child sex slave in the world. But we don't have $60 because Mac has our $60. Our money is tied up with some material gain, so we can talk about justice and all the great things we want to do but we can't even resource it because we're resourcing ourselves.
CP: Not all Christians are in agreement when it comes to tithing. Even when you're just talking about money, people tend to come up with all kinds of ideas. So are you encouraging people to practice generosity just inside the church, or are you encouraging them to practice generosity outside the church as well?
Crump: Absolutely. I think that is the narrative of the New Testament. Now I think you should give inside the church if you're a Christian. I think that if you are a generous person with a generous heart, then you will give inside the church and outside the church. That is the challenge. It would be much easier for me to say, "The Bible says give 10 percent." Which it does, in the Old Testament, but even that 10 percent is not 10 percent. That would be easy.
The hard part, and what I find so beautiful in Paul's words is, this is not about a set amount. This is about how you view your money, who you think it belongs to and how generous are you willing to be. Are you willing to go without something you want to meet the needs of someone else? That's what we're really trying to call our church to. In the midst of that we want to teach them to be wise stewards and stop being foolish about debt and consumer debt and getting themselves wrapped up in situations where they end up slaves to some master who holds the note on some object that has diminished in value the moment they drive it off the parking lot or take it from the store.
CP: What has the response been like to the "C.R.E.A.M." series? Are congregants having the type of discussions you hoped they would be having?
Crump: Absolutely. As a matter of fact, I've had multiple people repent to me and to their city group leader for not giving. Multiple people who have made radical steps, including one person who has figured out a way to pay off their car in the next year and half so that they won't have that consumer debt any longer. Had other people make commitments to only buy their vehicles cash now instead of doing financing. People paying back-tithes, in their opinion. Of course this is not anything legalistically I would want to hold them to. But (people) writing checks and saying, "I haven't paid tithes in a year. Here's the last year of the giving that I should have given." So it's been a pretty phenomenal response.
Learn more about Renovation Church online: www.renovationchurch.com/sermons