A Churchwide Financial FastHow One Church Used A 21-Day Financial Fast To Grow In Contentment, Joy, & Peace
In this month’s episode of the CSN Podcast, our host, Derek Sisterhen, interviews George Thompson, Pastor of Stewardship and Finance at Faithful Central Bible Church in a discussion about, “How One Church Used A 21-Day Financial Fast To Grow Contentment, Joy & Peace.”
George Thompson is the Pastor of Stewardship and Finance at Faithful Central Bible Church in Inglewood, California, as well as a devoted husband and father of two twin boys and a daughter. George has written several books including Millionaires In Training: The Wealth Builder, Set-4-Life: The Diary of a Champion, and coauthored The Total Package: The Keys to Acquiring Wealth and Walking in Divine Health. His most recent books are part of a series called Ready, Set, Grow where he has taken over 20 years of teaching and living out these life stewardship principles and turned them into easily digestible lessons for anybody to consume.
What to read more about this month’s episode? Here is an excerpt from the transcript of this episode’s conversation.
Derek: Today we are going to talk about the 21 Day Financial Fast that you have led at Faithful Central. For our listeners, they can check out some of the details on the financial fast by going to FaithfulCentral.com/FinancialFast. So, George, as ministry leaders interested in seeing our people grow in their relationship with Jesus, we recognize how important spiritual disciplines are, reading Scripture, prayer. Usually, when we think about fasting, we think of not eating or taking the time to seek God through prayer. But you launched a financial fast. So, I want to hear what exactly is a financial fast and what started you down this road at Faithful Central?
George: That is a great question, Derek. First of all, about two years ago, Bishop Ulmer had come to me and said, “Hey, we want to do a fast a little bit different this year.” Because we had been fasting and doing the Daniel Fast for, I’ve been to the church 11 years, the entire time. We’ve always done the Daniel Fast. That was no meat, no sweets, and no alcohol. We found out that, hey, a lot of people don’t drink anyway or sometimes some people were…some people also wanted to just…they didn’t eat meat anyway, or they’re a vegetarian…or I don’t know, in California people try to eat healthy I guess. So they found out that they weren’t really doing all the elements of it. So one of the things he wanted to do, he said, “We want to do something in the area of finance and do a Financial Fast.” And he asked me to kind of make one up.
I’ve written about five in the area of finances. Bishop Ulmer has written two in the area of finance. So, between the both of us, I sat down and wrote down 21 principles that would just be good for someone to do with their finances. And then we would just walk through every day being a very special day in teaching them a financial principle and then go through it. Secondly, as you said, but you know, usually we’re used to using Scriptures or learning is a part of the financial fast. So that’s why we had built the financial fast. So, there are just different elements that I like to go over with you of the fast. But one of them is using the Bible. Meaning that we use SOAP which is, you know, that’s a way of studying the Bible by this method—the S stands for Scripture, the O stands for observation, the A stands for application, and the P stands for prayer.
So we used that during that period, but we also focused on…some of these Scriptures that we’re focusing on are…are financial Scriptures or also just teaching people about possession. Because as you know, most of the Scriptures in the Bible deal with about how people deal with what they have. And that’s stewardship.
Derek: This is great. I’m fascinated already because I didn’t realize that you had written so many books. So for all of our listeners, you have to go check out what George has put together in your little library, I suppose. So you’ve got these 21 principles, and we’re turning people towards scripture. We’re, also, I’m sure as we’re gonna talk a little bit more, you’re bringing in some practical application with this. Tell me, just ground level, if I’m someone who says, “Yes, I raised my hand. I’m signing up for the 21-Day Financial Fast, how does it work?”
George: That’s a great question. Because that’s what people have. That’s the first question Bishop Ulmer asked me. First of all, we have a text number because, you know, I want to be able to encourage millennials. I want to be able to encourage if you’re 8 to 108. So we have a text message that comes out every day, and that has a Scripture, you know like it has a scripture for every day what the scripture is and also what we’re studying for that day. So there’s always a scripture and while we’re actually online, I’m gonna look up, you know, our scripture that was actually for today in going through it.
So it was Proverbs 22:7. It talked about indebted slavery and then making somebody else rich by the sweat of your own brow. So then what we do is we teach every day to get out of the demons of debt. You already know debt is spelled D-E-B-T. So that’s doing everything but tithing. So we want to make sure that everybody knows that they don’t want to be not only caught up in that but just learning the techniques of that. But now your first question was…is though is that how does someone get started? So it’s either by email, they go to our website, they actually download the papers. And what we do is we just give you information about every day what you would do.
And so first of all, the basic elements are this is that we start moving from using…to just having a journal where they write down what they’re spending money on and that they kind of know that. And then also, a big principle is that we stop using credit cards. We even stop using debit cards. Then we go strictly to cash. So we start having people doing that. And then, by the way, we live in Los Angeles, so this is anywhere. We also understand that in 21 days you have to use a debit card or a credit card because I was doing the financial fast, and I took my kids to the dentist. And then when I pulled out of the parking lot, there was no attendant…there was no way of getting out of the parking lot without using a debit card. I understand that there are a couple of instances we have to do that if you travel. So just the first one is that we move to cash. You have a journal; you write things down. And then also, you only buy what you need, not what you want.
Three categories, as you know, from teaching. First one is, there’s a need, a want, and a wish. We only buy what we need. We find out when you go to use cash; you only buy what you need. You don’t buy all that extra stuff. As you know, as you know, what it says in Philippians is that “My God shall supply all of my needs.” It doesn’t say greeds. It doesn’t say wishes. It says needs, and it says all of mine. Then people do that, and then we start going through a transformation of renewing people’s minds by understanding, by putting the focus on God and not on material possessions.
So there are different days. Like one day we learned to be content. Just put the fork down, like you’re just learning that. And actually, the word fast, F-A-S-T, is what we put up on Sunday, and I go through this when we discuss the offering. And then before I do an announcement that fast, the F, the F stands for focus. And we have a goal we have to focus on what we’re doing. And the A stands to take action. I’m going to take action on what you’re doing. And the S is for sacrifice. That was the problem. That’s what the real focus is of a fast is that people have to sacrifice. And then the T is for trust. You’ve gotta trust God. Because you don’t know how you’re gonna do it, but that’s how you’re gonna do it. You know, after you sacrifice, you’re believing God, He’s gonna deliver what you and I are trusting God for. Amen.
Derek: Amen. I hear ya. That’s fantastic. You know, it’s funny. You made a comment in there that reminded me of something that a participant in one of our classes said here one time. She and her husband had just finished our financial coaching program, and she was saying, “We started to learn that just because we can afford it doesn’t mean we should have it.”
And that is, I think, that sounds like something that if everybody in kind of middle income America could get their arms…really, any income level but particularly people who have some disposable income but they think they’ve always gotta spend right up to what they’ve got.
Just because you can afford it doesn’t mean you should have it because even the items, even the things themselves if we can separate from just accumulating and acquiring and consuming. We start to see the world in a new way.
George: And that’s one, being content. I’ll pick which side, first, I want the women to be mad at me first. The women will be mad at me but a lot of times but I will say, we keep buying stuff that we don’t actually need. Women going out there and buying this and buying that and doing this and just like, hey, do we need another pair of … That’s why I ask, do we need another pair of shoes, ladies? And they say they need to go to the closets and they’re full of them. Now, now that I’ve made them mad, now on to the men.
Do we have to get the 2017 version of everything? First of all, you got a television, right? Then, you got the high def. Now, you gotta get … Then you go in Costco, and oh no, you gotta get the one that’s curved. You know what I mean? Like, the TV you have is fine. You know, the 50 inch is fine. You don’t have to get the 55 and then now what is it? The 65 and the 70 and the different areas. So that’s the different areas. Just learn to be content and thank God for what you already have. If you actually want to be successful in life, you should be focusing on what you do have, not what you don’t have. And be content.
Derek: That’ll preach. You’ve got Josh, behind the scenes at the sound board, nodding his head. So what’s really interesting about this story about how this financial fast came to life is that you had this incredible partnership out of the gate with your senior pastor. I think for anybody that’s listening to the CSN podcast, if you’re a stewardship leader in a local church, you know your senior pastor, your lead pastor, they are busy, busy people. And it can be difficult sometimes just to even get a little bit of the face time to even talk about a new ministry effort, a new project, a new initiative. But you know that if you can get the senior pastor, the senior leader at your church behind it, that effort is likely to draw the congregation up behind it. So you already had the benefit of this, this tightly woven I guess, kind of, alignment with your senior pastor. What do you, what do you say to somebody who’s like, “Hey, I’m a stewardship leader. I want to go, and I want to get my ministry effort moving here. How do I go and engage my senior pastor, my senior leadership, to get buy-in to launch this thing?”
George: I’m going to answer your question very quickly. But I would like to actually one day do an entire podcast on this topic. Because the secret, not secret but how you do this is you develop a culture of stewardship at your church. Trying to get an idea to somebody once every few years or preaching, preaching on finance once a year, that’s…I don’t know if that’s completely successful. So what you want to do is, is that you want to have a plan. As you know, it says in Jeremiah 29:11 that God has a plan and a purpose for our lives, plans of giving us a hope and a future. There has to be a plan for your church. Whatever church you go to, there has to be a whole financial, a whole stewardship plan for that church. And your senior pastor needs to be onboard from the beginning. Like, in other words, what is his vision or what is her vision for the church as a whole. And then, these are just things that can just execute that or that we can do to get those going.
But to answer directly, it is finding out the pastor’s heart and then plugging in the things that already exist, that already exist. Like in other words, like if your church is already doing a fast then just also discuss with the pastor there’s another way of doing it, doing a financial fast as well and in helping in those areas. That’s the easiest and quickest method. Plug into things that already exist and then just adding some stewardship components to it and then getting everyone involved.
Derek: So I appreciate that your answer is so succinct because I agree with you. You could devote a whole show; you could probably devote a series of episodes of podcasts just to this subject.
George: But that’s the whole reason why if someone ever is running a stewardship and they’re leading stewardship at their church, one of the reasons they say it’s not going very well or it’s failing, the reason why is they’re trying to do it by themselves. Like, I tell them, stewardship is not a department. What stewardship is, it’s a culture. What we do here is a culture. You can’t just have a Bible reading department or a prayer department, you know? No, no, no. This is a church that prays. This is a church that does stewardship. You look at certain churches that do stewardship very well; the senior pastor could halfway be the pastor of stewardship.
Because it has to be part of it, where everyone has bought into it in senior management. So that’s the job of the person that’s leading in stewardship is to get everybody onboard. It’s too heavy of a load to pull by yourself, and you’re only going to meet with a certain number of people that way.
Derek: So I think one of the things that I think is a little bit dangerous, even for some of the stewardship leaders that are out there in local churches, is to use the fact that maybe they haven’t gotten the buy-in from their senior pastor as an excuse for why things aren’t going the way they want them to go.
And I’ve seen in some cases where if you have this idea, something you wanted to put out there in front of the entire church, like a financial fast, you may have to win over your senior pastor with some smaller victories. And they may need to hear that, yeah, you’re making some progress in some other areas where people are really starting to actually buzz about what’s going on in your ministry. And now, okay, I see, hey, there’s something we could go to the…do the broadcast with here. To think though that you could come right out of the gate with something huge like this is probably a little bit naive.
George: Yeah. That would very aggressive. I mean, obviously, you know, I’ve been at the church for so many years and doing it that way. But initially, it was taking over the regular fast and then saying let me just add some components to it. In other words, like if people were just to make it very practical, if somebody says that “Hey, we’re no meat, no sweets, no alcohol, hey, let’s instead of…since I don’t already drink, or I don’t already eat meat, let’s just stop doing reality television.” Let’s stop hanging around or doing things that are meaning us no good. Why don’t we just take up…let’s not add anything to our credit cards?
Let’s look at an area…we had somewhere where we were doing service this year. So whatever we do…and I’m sorry. I’m sorry, I’m giving out all the secrets today. But whenever the Church has any campaign and they’ll through it out there…they said, “This year, we’re gonna serve with gladness.” And we give everyone a bag of…what area, how we’re going to serve this year. So now I said, “Great.” I took over…I said, “I’m going to look at this as a stewardship thing.” Because you remember, with stewardship, we have stewardship over three areas of our lives. Time. Every day there’s 86,400 seconds in a day. So we have to learn how to manage that. Second is talent. And the third is treasure. So when they’re serving, we’re going to help do…we’re going to help them do that. Because wait, because we’re really nice people. We’re great. But then also they’ll be stewardship elements of that next year. You see, you have to plant. And then, later on, we want to reap the harvest. So that’s how we’re gonna walk through this.
Derek: This is great stuff. Because I think, again, for a lot of the listeners to the podcast, they’re going to say, “Well, yeah, that’s great for George that he’s able to go and do a full blown 21 Day Financial Fast. But look at all this…he had it on easy street.” When the reality is, is you were taking all these nice little incremental steps, building that base that then allowed you to launch this thing forward. So here’s what I want to ask you now. I want to know how it went. You know, what has happened in and through this financial fast and what are you seeing happen there at Faithful Central?
George: Oh, good. That’s good, another really good question. So I’m going to tell you what happened last year when we did it and then also we’re doing it right now.
So first of all, last year we had so many people that came..and you know, one of the biggest things we want to do is get people out of credit cards and get people out of debt. So, so many people…we have so many testimonies of people that came, and they got out of debt and in the different areas. But also, where our…and then another…I just want to give you the two…another area is a lot of people, home ownership. Our church is in Inglewood, California. So people didn’t…we always said we were Los Angeles but then now that you are seeing where the Rams, where they’re building the stadiums, they’re doing a lot of developments in Inglewood and our church used to own the Forum, they were doing a lot of things for people with home ownership because now they have their finances in order, they’re able to do it.
Also again, we’re in Los Angeles, California. So the average home value in Los Angeles is $432,000. So it’s a little bit higher than it is around the country. So to quality to do certain things, people are in position. But I want to tell you one of the biggest things we got out of this. A lot of families became closer together. There’s a lot of people who had either children living at home with them, above age 18. And just them getting a plan together for their whole family, that was one. Also, marriages. Couples sitting down and there were, there were men that came to me at church, and they were like I’m doing the financial fast. Now, my wife, we’re sitting down, we’re doing this, we’re doing this, we have a plan. And then they made their husband sign the commitment card. Did I tell you about the commitment card?
The commitment card, as you know, in Psalms 24:1, “The Earth is the LORD’s and the fullness therein.” So we have people fill out a commitment card that they’re committed to the promise and declare to have stewardship over their finances and [inaudible 00:18:48]. And then they sign a quitclaim deed at the bottom overall, did I say some? I didn’t say some. I didn’t say most. All of their assets, everything they have, assets and debts, over to God.
And then they would manage it as if God were sitting there and they were just having a meeting with God every week of how they were managing their assets. Because remember, that’s what a steward is, just a manager of what God’s blessed you with. So when people had to sit down and then…for people in the financial arena, when they had a balance sheet.
That’s the first time some people had ever sat together (been married 10, 20, years.) It’s the first time they sat down together and actually went over their finances and what they were doing with God in setting their goals and actually achieving them. So that with married couples and then also my latest book, I call it “Financial Intimacy,” where we can learn how to manage finances together as a couple. And then the families working together and in doing it.
Derek: Man. I just love this stuff. I feel like I should go sign one of your quitclaim deeds right now.
George: It’s not too late. Because this year, this year, we’re on fire too. We had to go in and actually…I’ll be teaching actually congregation-wide over this week. So I have to adults and also to the general church.
Derek: That’s awesome. That’s so cool. I just…I love how…you know, on the one hand, we could say, “Oh, a quitclaim deed, that’s kind of a cute little add on.” But you’ve led the people to the place where they understand, yes, this is not my stuff. This is God’s stuff. It is simply for me to manage. And I think just that, that exercise of saying…even if it may be something that’s kind of cute and fun to fill that out, there’s really a gravity to it, there’s a weight to it. Yeah, this means something, and I understand who the true owner is. I just, I just love it.
George: It’s the accountability. Like your car, you drive a certain way. But if you had someone else’s car, you’d typically treat that car better. They have to start doing that. You have to start doing that. If you rent a car, you walk around the car and look at it. And you make sure you park it somewhere where you can just bring it back and not have no problems. We want to understand that we’re managing what God has blessed us with. So that’s why we want to just take that extra level of accountability.
Derek: That’s it, man. The 21 Day Financial Fast. George, thank you for joining me on the podcast today and sharing with me about this.
George: My pleasure. Any time.
Derek: So for all the listeners out there, I think he’s made a pretty good case for checking it out. If you go over to faithfulCentral.com/financialfast, you can get the scoop; you can get the details. And who knows? Maybe you sign up yourself. I’ll probably be heading over there once we finish this recording. For great content, the podcast, info on the next CSN Forum and more, visit ChristianStewardshipNetwork.com. Until next time here’s to leading and serving well, for God’s glory and your joy. Thanks so much for being with us.