Author, dfree: Breaking Free from Financial Slavery (Zondervan 2011)
Sr. Pastor, First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens, Somerset, NJ
First African-American Male Secretary of State in NJ (1999-2002)
Featured in CNN Documentary, "Black in America: Almighty Debt"
BA, Fordham University
M. Div, Princeton Theological Seminary
D. Min, United Theological Seminary
The 700 Club
DeForest Soaries: Breaking Free from Fianancial Slavery
By The 700 Club
CBN.com - In 2003, at the conclusion of a church building campaign that exceeded a decade of planning and a cost of $20 million, the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens, New Jersey, found itself with a multi-million dollar mortgage and dwindling funds.
While overall giving had gone up steadily by at least 10 percent each year for the last 15 years, Pastor DeForest Soaries says the church resources had been drained by over-budget construction costs and unexpected litigation to get the job finished. As the trustees and church leaders looked to him for a solution, someone suggested that Pastor DeForest start preaching about tithing. He was at a crossroads.
“I was uncomfortable concluding that preaching tithing was a solution to the church’s financial pressures,” says Pastor DeForest.
One day, Pastor DeForest noticed the cars in the parking lot were all luxury showroom cars. Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Cadillacs lined up beside each other. Suddenly it became clear. “Our members were driving late-model luxury cars, wearing designer clothing, taking exotic vacations and dining in the best restaurants. But could they really afford such lavish lifestyles,” he asked. “Our people did not give to the church because they did not have it to give.”
Pastor DeForest thought if the church could help people get out of debt, then the people would naturally help the church get out of debt. So he launched a worldwide church campaign.
“The challenge that people in the church faced was something that preaching alone could not handle,” says Pastor DeForest. “We needed a highly visible campaign.”
Three words popped into Pastor DeForest’s mind: debt, delinquency and deficit.
The congregation was committed to overcoming their individual financial problems with a community approach that included education, accountability, encouragement and evangelism. After 6 months into the dfree ™ program, the church’s income rose by $500,000. At the end of 12 months, their income increased by 1 million dollars.
Today, dfree™ has liberated thousands of people from financial slavery. “The issue of consumer debt is destroying the country,” says Pastor DeForest. “The Bible calls debt slavery. The borrower is slave to the lender. So anything we submit ourselves to is bondage.”
Pastor DeForest speaks from experience. He got his first credit card at 18. He was broke at age 33 when he married. Although he had a good job, Pastor DeForest carried balances on 4 credit cards. For 15 years, he lived a life of payments, interest and penalties.
Over the years, he found steps to get started:
1. Admit the problem. Credit card debt continues to threaten the financial stability of many low-and middle-income families, hampering their ability to save and move up the economic ladder. Live within your means and eliminate the use of credit cards.
2. Address the mess. We are living in the midst of constant marketing. Practice delayed gratification. Examine the psychology of your spending habits. Make a list of all your income sources and a list of all your debts.
3. Adjust the attitude. Compile a written list of everything you spend money on. You will see exactly where your money goes.
Every month, Pastor DeForest recognizes people who pay off debt in the church. One couple was laid off on 12/31/10. Because they had saved 6 months of living expenses and have been paying off debt the last 5 years, they were able to make it. Another couple says getting debt free saved their marriage. “It forces families to talk about finances,” says DeForest. “It’s never too late.”
Another young girl is claiming her debt-free victory 3 years in advance. “It’s a shift in thinking,” he says. Now Pastor DeForest is helping other churches across the country. “We need to be content with what we have. We need to take control over our finances because we want control over our lives.”
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