Learning to Live: Transforming the Culture’s Perspective on Finances
By Carl Stagner
It may be that the best way to live out the love of Christ in our culture today is to address real needs of real people with real solutions. The economic downturn has left individuals and families in great financial distress. Even before the economy took a turn for the worse, responsible money management was not prevalent in a society where credit cards and loans offer short-term satisfaction for materialistic hunger. Today, the weight of a struggling economy is pressing down on people who live right next door to churches that may be unaware of this real need. First Church of God in Ellettsville, Indiana, has decided to address this need head on—with those inside the church and those who live next door.
“When we understand the biblical concepts of how God intends us to look at money, it frees resources for ministry,” Pastor David Dittman explains. “When finances are under control, we can do amazing things with the resources God puts in our hands—whether it’s giving in the local church or meeting a need outside of that.” With this in mind, the church agreed that their neighbors could practically benefit from the biblical principles of Financial Peace University.
Since fall 2010, First Church has offered Financial Peace University about twice each year. Lately, the sessions are being held on Wednesdays. Several families come in from outside of the church to participate, some from other churches, and some who are unchurched from the surrounding community. Dittman reports that many have been challenged to get out of debt and practice biblical stewardship. Many of those who have come out of the program have testified that they are working hard to pay off debt and are becoming more and more able to do things that were otherwise financially impossible.
Though the church has not yet seen anyone join the church as a result of Financial Peace University, the ministry has clearly made a difference in the lives of those who were enrolled. “My wife works in a medical office with a woman who is coming to the class, and we believe there’s a great possibility that she will start bringing her family to church.” Dittman explains God has used the program to produce some nearly immediate transformation: After just two weeks into current program, a young couple from the church turned in their first-ever tithe check! And when a woman in the congregation had a family member pass away in Honduras, the church’s transformed perspective on stewardship and love kicked in. “Without any notice on Sunday morning, our church came up with a $600 love offering to help her get down there.”
Dittman considers Financial Peace University to be a beneficial and practical discipleship and outreach tool for local churches. “It addresses one of the great needs of helping people understand true stewardship and what it really means to handle everything we have as a gift from God. The current material we are using is just filled with Scripture. There are so many in our culture now that are struggling financially.” One unchurched family could not afford to take the class, so the church stepped in to assist and effectively demonstrated God’s love.
“We are not a large church,” Dittman explains. “We currently run about thirty-five to forty on Sunday mornings. Yet we are able to make an impact in our area through this ministry.”
Church of God Ministries and the Transformation Teams encourages individuals and congregations to conduct Biblically-based financial and stewardship training, and recommends Financial Peace University or Crown Financial Ministries. Financial Peace University teaches sound biblical teachings about money but does so in a format that makes it an effective outreach ministry into your community. Crown Financial Ministries offers the same teachings but in a more in-depth biblical context, making this more appropriate for use among believers. Discounts are available for Financial Peace University by mentioning when ordering that you are part of the Church of God with offices in Anderson, Indiana.