SAN ANTONIO (BP)–When Ken Whitten and his wife Ginny had been married for six years and had three small daughters, they had no clue how to manage their finances and argued about them often.
“I couldn’t even spell budget, let alone get on one,” Whitten, pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church in Tampa, Fla., told messengers at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in San Antonio June 12. “I rationalized to myself that a budget is too restrictive. It’s too time-consuming. I’m not very good at numbers.”
Whitten was a minister to singles at the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., at the time, and finally he humbled himself enough to ask for help. After a couple at the church taught the Whittens about getting on a budget, their story changed.
“We learned that the definition of a budget was simply planned spending,” he said during the Executive Committee’s afternoon report. “It was telling your money where you wanted it to go, not wondering where it went. We discovered that in the Bible God measures our spiritual maturity by how we handle our money.
“We discovered that God measures and evaluates how much He can trust us and the spiritual blessings that He gives us according to how we handle our finances,” he added.
Whitten, through his testimony, promoted the “It’s A New Day” financial freedom initiative for churches developed by the Executive Committee’s Cooperative Program and stewardship division.
“They’re not wanting to get something from you, they’re wanting you to know that they would like to give something to you,” Whitten said of the EC effort. “They would like to equip the pastor to be financially fit and faithful. They would like to equip the church to be fiscally responsible.”
The Executive Committee has partnered with Crown Financial Ministries to provide resources to help Southern Baptists grasp the crucial knowledge needed to implement God’s perspective on managing money.
“When Ginny and I started this plan, it was a new day back then,” Whitten said. “It was long before the days of [the] computer, and we did not have a computer but we had a blue book, and that blue book had tabs on it. Those tabs had markings like ‘clothes’ and ‘Christmas’ and ‘building program’ and ‘tithing’ and ‘windfall.’
“And our kids knew back then to ask the question not, ‘Is the money in the checkbook?’ but driving home from church one Sunday night one time our children said, ‘Mom and Daddy, is there money in the blue book for McDonald’s tonight?’ That’s how we operated our life,” he said.
Because of the training and discipline they implemented years ago, Whitten said his family learned to be good stewards of the financial blessings God granted them.
Larry Wynn, pastor of the Atlanta-area Hebron Baptist Church in Dacula, relayed the testimony of how God helped his church manage their finances in order to give $1 million for missions through the Cooperative Program.
When Wynn was called as pastor of Hebron Baptist 29 years ago, the deacons sat down with a legal pad to decide how much to pay the pastor and how much to give to missions.
“They determined that year to give $600 to missions and $600 to the pastor,” he told messengers during the Executive Committee’s morning report. “At that moment, I began to pray that we would increase missions so I would get a raise.”
As the church’s finance team began to pray, they sensed God leading them to begin giving a percentage of the church’s budget through the Cooperative Program. First they gave 2 percent, then 3 percent and eventually 10 percent, Wynn said. Last year, Wynn told his church members he’d like to see them give $1 million through CP within a few years.
“But about that time — because of a belief in our church that people need to be taught the biblical model of stewardship not only in giving but how to manage their finances because people are in such debt and bondage in financial matters — we partnered with Crown Ministries and the Southern Baptist Convention and the It’s A New Day initiative,” Wynn said.
As Hebron Baptist served as a pilot church for It’s A New Day stewardship studies, members learned how to break the cycle of financial bondage and how to get out of debt. They applied God’s Word and realized there’s a spiritual aspect to money management, Wynn said.
“In December, our administrative pastor came to me and he said, ‘Pastor, you’re not going to believe this. It’s not going to be two years or three years. This year we will give $1 million to missions through the Cooperative Program to take the Gospel of Christ around the world,” Wynn recounted.
“… When you do Kingdom work around the world with faith and vision and courage, it will never detract from Kingdom work at home,” he added. “It will always multiply and amplify your work at home. When we’re faithful to the people across the world, God will give us faithfulness at home. ”
The Cooperative Program division launched at the annual meeting an emphasis called “Every Number Has a Story,” aiming for 2,800 additional Southern Baptist missionaries to engage the remaining unreached people groups of the world with the Gospel by 2010.
For more information, visit www.sbc.net/newday or visit www.sbc.net and click on the It’s A New Day banner.