In his book How Much Is Enough? 30 Days to Personal Revival, author and financial expert Larry Burkett says, "Money is never a problem. It's a symptom."
Expounding on that statement, Ted and Jeanette Warren led workshops on the whys and hows of sound Christian financial planning during Sunday School Leadership Week at Glorieta, N.M., this summer. Ted Warren is chief operating officer of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, and his wife, Jeanette, is a certified public accountant.
In church "we always seem to make stewardship as give, give, give. But what we are realizing is that the average person is in a bad financial place," Ted Warren said. Giving the person in the pew sound, biblically based financial advice is a first step in good stewardship, he said.
How someone answers the question, "How much is enough?" reveals several things about him or her, he continued. It reveals a person's priorities, relationship with God, attitudes, values and what's important. These last three, he added, reveal a person's identity and his definition of success.
In discussing the world's definition of success, Warren listed power, wealth, address, fame, athletic prowess, career position, and car. All these things, he said, "are temporal."
God defines success, Warren said, as obedience, character, availability, knowing God, and redemption. "None of these is temporal," he said, adding, "There is a great contradiction in what the world says and what the Bible says about the successful life."
A person's identity, or who he is in Christ, is the foundational issue of all money management, Warren said. "How we identify ourselves defines our attitudes which, in turn, determines our actions.
"We have to determine if we really trust God," Warren said. "There's a big difference is saying we trust Him and really trusting Him. There will come a point when you have to ask yourself, 'Do I really trust God?' This may be at a point of crisis with your health, your children, your money, or anything else."
Settling the issue of trust will make financial decisions easier, Warren said.
Jeanette Warren said people in churches need to know resources are available to help them if they find themselves in financial trouble.
She said she would like to see every church have a Christian financial planner available to help people who are struggling.
"This person could be someone like me – a layman with financial experience who can help."
Based on information from Burkett's book, Ted Warren said 150,000 calls come into the Christian Financial Concepts office every month asking for advice.
The profile of the average caller:
• age 30-35,
• owes $15,000-$20,000 in school loans,
• owes $17,000-$20,000 in credit card debt,
• owes $20,000 on two cars, and
• owes $120,000 on the average mortgage.
In American homes today, including those of church members:
• 50 percent of all marriages fail.
• 60-80 percent of these cite financial problems as the root cause of strife.
• $1.17 is spent for every $1 earned.
• The rate of savings is -0.7 percent – less than during the Great Depression.
Warren continued with the CFC stats, noting that today in evangelical churches, including Southern Baptists:
• Individuals pay four times as much in interest as they give to the church (10.2 percent vs. 2.3 percent).
• 80 cents of every $1 is given by those 55 years old and older.
• 20 percent of members give 80 percent of the money contributed.
• 30 percent of the members give the other 20 percent collected.
• 50 percent give nothing at all.
• one in five churches borrow money to keep the doors open.
"There is a difference in our needs, our wants, and our desires," Ted Warren said. "Second only to love, the Bible speaks about money. Two-thirds of all Jesus' parables deal with money. Jesus brings us to a point of decision about our financial situation."