dfree: Achieving Freedom from Debt
In 2005 when our church was faced with the challenge of excessively high monthly mortgage payments and utility bills, it appeared that it could be time for me to resign my position as senior pastor. I had served for fifteen years and the church had many significant accomplishments: membership had grown; community development projects included health care, education, job training, youth development, and affordable housing initiatives; and we had built a magnificent worship facility that was the catalyst for neighborhood revitalization. However, the cost of constructing our church far exceeded the original plan for many different reasons and we had borrowed more money than we had planned to complete the project. After meeting
with the trustees in February of that year, I felt like the challenge was too great for me to handle.
The day I planned to resign, I had a spiritual experience in the parking lot of the church – the cars started talking to me! And it was their accents that I will never forget. The cars near mine all had foreign accents – British and German. The car behind mine had an Italian accent. The sight and sound of these late model foreign cars – BMWs, Mercedes, and a Lamborghini – reminded me of my younger years when I was driving late model cars and wearing nice clothes but had no savings, no insurance, and no capacity to help anyone or donate to any worthy cause. It also helped me understand the next focus for my ministry. I had to teach my members the strategy I used to move from being broke for the first thirteen years of my adult life to being financially secure. Without such instruction, it wouldn’t make sense
to ask our members to give more financial support to the church. That’s how dfree® was born.
I often hear ministers say the offering is the part of a religious service where everyone can participate. The implication is that even if you cannot sing or speak, you can give money to support the ministry. But the truth is, not everyone has money to give to the church or anything else. If someone’s income is so low they can barely make ends meet or their spending habits are such that they pay the previous month’s bills with the following month’s check, they just don’t have any real financial capacity. Most African Americans are in one of those two categories. Until that changes, we cannot enjoy the freedoms and the opportunities our people struggled so hard to attain.
We start at the beginning with a true assessment of our current realities concerning our money. I know that because of my personal experience – having to write down every dollar I spent for a month, having to stop buying things I didn’t need, and taking every dollar I could to pay off my credit cards and other debt. Prudential did a study of African-American financial behavior and discovered that getting out of debt
is the number one financial goal of the majority of black people. That is why dfree® starts with reducing and eliminating debt. So that is why I have committed
to challenging Black America to pay down one billion dollars of debt and shift that money into savings, investments, and insurance. We call this “The Billion Dollar Challenge” and to join this movement we have created a tool, www.billiondollarpaydown.com, where we confidentially set our debt reduction goals and track our progress. Until we pay as we go, pay our bills on time, and live within our means, we will never be free.