SBC Life Articles

It’s A New Day

For too long the issue of personal stewardship has been neglected in many churches and the results have been detrimental in a consumer-driven society where Americans are pressured to spend, often more than they earn, Ashley Clayton, associate vice president for stewardship at the SBC Executive Committee, said.

"Easy money, credit card debt, and consumer debt have become a big problem not just in American culture but frankly in Southern Baptist culture," Clayton said. "What we're finding is the conditions inside the church are not much different than they are outside the church. Christians are overspending and are in as much trouble as non-Christians."

Church leaders including pastors and staff are not immune to the problem, he added, so the Executive Committee has entered an alliance with Crown Financial Ministries to help Southern Baptists grasp the crucial knowledge they need to implement God's perspective on managing their money.

A key component of the effort is a conference aimed at pastors called It's A New Day, which will be held in San Antonio on March 1-2, Orlando on March 22-23, and Atlanta on April 12-13. The cost for the first two conferences is $169, and the Atlanta conference costs $129, which includes fees, materials, meals, and lodging for one night.

Speakers will include Morris H. Chapman, Howard Dayton, Ed Stetzer, Hayes Wicker, Gary Smith, and Tom Mullins as well as pastors who have seen significant changes in their personal lives or their churches as a result of good stewardship practices.

"What we intend to happen at these conferences is to expose the pastor to some great resources and to create an awareness of the dilemma that families are facing," Clayton said. "What we believe is that the lack of financial stewardship is what is causing churches to stumble in a lot of areas.

"For example, it's not that people don't want to witness and tell people about Christ," he said. "You can motivate a crowd on Sunday morning about sharing their faith and they're ready to go. What happens is Monday morning comes around and these people are in debt and have absolutely nothing before them except the fact that they can't pay their bills."

At the conferences, pastors will be introduced to three main resources produced by Crown Financial Ministries. One is the 10 Week Biblical Financial Study Set for use in small groups, which is available to Southern Baptist churches at a 40 percent discounted rate through the fall of 2007 by calling 1-866-902-6578. Another is the Journey of Financial Freedom four-week church stewardship emphasis.

The Journey of Financial Freedom kit will include four sermon outlines, four weeks of age-graded Sunday School materials, PowerPoint slides, and related materials.

"That's going to be available in the spring for all SBC churches, and we will roll it out first to the pastors who attend the It's A New Day Pastors Conferences," Clayton said.

The Journey of Financial Freedom was piloted by Larry Wynn, pastor of Hebron Baptist Church in Dacula, Georgia. The campaign proved successful and resulted in numerous families starting their personal journey for financial freedom through the ten-week small group studies which followed the campaign. Also, the church marketed the campaign heavily to their community which resulted in a number of new families coming to Hebron.

A third resource is the Crown Money Map, setting forth seven destinations for individuals and families to reach in their journey to financial freedom.

"We want pastors to be aware of what's going on, and then we want to put some user-friendly resources in their hands, including materials to help people get out of debt," Clayton said. "What we're going to ask pastors to do at these conferences is to go home and be a catalyst for change in their church.

"The way we believe a pastor does that is to not tip his hat to it; it's where he says, 'Will you join my wife and I? We're going to be going through some personal money management materials, and we want you to go with us.' It will be good for the pastors and it will certainly be good for the church."

Responsibility for stewardship education within the SBC was transferred to the Executive Committee from LifeWay Christian Resources at the SBC annual meeting in Greensboro, North Carolina, as messengers approved the consolidation of stewardship with Cooperative Program promotion. The Executive Committee added a stewardship arm to "help Southern Baptists to grow in commitment to Jesus Christ by applying biblical principles of stewardship."

The Cooperative Program is Southern Baptists' method of supporting missions and ministry efforts of state and regional conventions and the Southern Baptist Convention.

The collaborative relationship with Crown Financial Ministries serves as the core of a national stewardship initiative called It's A New Day.

"If we are right with the Lord in the area of stewardship, we will be right with the Lord in the area of the Cooperative Program, and we will become a giving people by biblical standards," Morris H. Chapman, president of the Executive Committee, said.

Crown Financial Ministries, based in Gainesville, Georgia, is a Christ-centered, Bible-based ministry formed by the merger of the late Larry Burkett's Christian Financial Concepts and Howard Dayton's Crown Ministries.

Clayton's role in the stewardship emphasis is to work with Baptist state conventions, associations, and churches to implement It's A New Day strategies. He is also promoting a book by Ken Hemphill titled Making Change, which is a thirty-day journey into biblical stewardship, personal money management, and cooperative giving for the purposes of world missions and theological education.

"We're very excited about Making Change, and it has already been widely distributed through state conventions to our pastors," Clayton said. "What's coming in the spring is a forty-day workbook and DVD for churches to use in discipleship groups.

"The thing that I like about this book is it lays a very strong biblical and historical foundation for stewardship issues in the church and it deals with some Baptist distinctives like cooperative missions and cooperative giving," Clayton added. "We recommend it highly."

One of Clayton's goals is to make the material covered at the It's A New Day conferences transportable and accessible to pastors in every state convention, including those far from the cities where the first three conferences will be held. Everyone needs to have the information available, he said.

"Pastors and churches have a window of opportunity to give leadership to this pressing need in their church and community. Churches who respond quickly, helping individuals and families to get out of debt, will position their church as relevant and authentic in their community," Clayton said. "The world outside the church already is awakened to this issue, evidenced by scores of books, radio talk shows, and syndicated TV network programming on the subject."

The SBC's new national stewardship initiative, It's A New Day, is about giving churches an opportunity to be at the forefront of what could be a large and sweeping movement of lordship and financial integrity, Clayton said, adding that the initiative is about making Christ Lord of everything.

"In most of our churches where there is a Crown study being offered or there is a Financial Peace University by Dave Ramsey being offered and there's some presence of personal money management, what has happened is some layman in the church has had a burden for it and has fought his way up the chain and been given the nod to teach a finance class," Clayton said. "He's gotten the materials together and taught the class on his own almost against the tide.

"It's amazing that we have the presence that we have. Imagine if it were the pastor saying, 'We have never experienced such peace in our lives as having our finances in order,'" he said. "… The difference as this goes forward has got to be the pastors. It has been on the backs of laymen through the years, and we believe pastors need to shoulder the responsibility for doing this."

For additional information or to register for the It's A New Day conferences, visit www.sbc.net/newday or visit www.sbc.net and click on the It's A New Day banner.

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  • Erin Roach