6 Wonderful Benefits Of Church Membership

This is a guest post from Patricia – a Church Management Consultant and blogger at Smart Church Management where she writes about strategic planning, goal development, church volunteer management, employee development and offers pointers on church administration. According to a report in the Christian Post , church membership is down in the two largest Christian denominations – The Southern Baptist Convention and the Roman Catholic Church. While the article admits that further research needs to be done to answer the question “why”, the report does state that “church-goers” who are in their 20s and 30s may attend a congregation but “resist” joining them. This kind of report is poignant because of all of the benefits there are to being a member of a church. A well run church provides the atmosphere for spiritual, social and physical support that is not available in other social organizations. When I reflect on my own church experience, I think of the those things that drew me to a church body and those things that keep me engaged with other Christians. Benefits of Local Church Membership 1. Friendships Most of my life-long friends have developed through a connection to a church family. Whether it was people I knew through church as a child or the parents of children my kids played with or friends I made belonging to varies church activities – most of my current relationships are tied to that church anchor. Making and having friends that share the same beliefs and values help us all navigate this bizarre world we live in. 2. Opportunities to Make a Difference One of the biggest benefits of church membership is its collective resource that provides opportunities to help others and make a difference. Church volunteer opportunities are available at most churches and these opportunities provide the system and structure to serve or support a cause. For example, my church does disaster relief work and provides the structure for Volunteers to get involved in helping other people. These kinds of experiences reinforce the Christian call to love and help other people. When we know we make a difference for a cause it gives us hope for a better world. 3. Accountability Belonging to a church provides a level of accountability for its members. Members that receive good biblical teaching learn to make good decisions , are held accountable by just showing up and being reminded of their core beliefs. The world offers many distractions and contradictions to Christian beliefs so having a community of people to interact with who think the same way helps to reinforce and hold us accountable to biblical principles. 4. Sense of Community Our fast paced culture has many of us living in isolation so much that we often live in neighborhoods and don’t even know the people down the street. Belonging to a church body provides interactions with other people and creates a social community. 5. Personal Development As Christians we are all on a journey of personal, spiritual and ethical development. Whether we are new Christians or have been a Christian for a long time, a dynamic church can offer church leadership , discipleship and spiritual development and growth. 6. Social Events One of the many perks of being part of a church body is the availability of social events and interactions with others. Whether it is participating in a bible-study, a baby shower, or the Wednesday night pot-luck dinner – the opportunities are there to participate in church events with friends and other church members. It breaks my heart when I speak to people who don’t go to church because of some misperceptions about the church experience. It is common for people to get offended or hurt by someone at a church and they decide to boycott the entire institution. I’m not suggesting that churches are perfect places with perfect people – because they are not – but I am suggesting that finding a great church that you can call home and make life-long friends is well worth the time and effort. I challenge you to step up and get involved if you have a church and if you don’t have one, find a church get involved and watch your life get transformed! Any other benefits I missed? Share them in the comments below! Church image from Shutterstock Related Articles: Creating A Church Website: How You Can Do It Very Cheap Pray for your pastors Public Transportation | Saving Money & Other Benefits The Diminishing Value of Money, the Jerusalem Church, and You This article was written by a Guest Author. If you would like to write a guest post for our personal finance blog , you can find out how here .

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Christian Debt Consolidation Companies: Here’s The Truth

In this economy, it seems like you can’t turn on the radio or TV for any extended period of time without hearing commercials for debt settlement or debt consolidation services. Same holds true while surfing the web. Now whether or not these services are even the right choice is a whole other topic (we will tackle that in a bit). Right now, let’s just discuss Christian debt settlement companies and how they compare to the other guys. Typical Christian Debt Consolidation Encounter Your typical encounter with one may go something like this… 1. You do a search Even a general search for something like “debt consolidation” or “debt settlement” may show ads geared towards Christians. However if you throw the word “Christian” in there, then it’s almost guaranteed you will see several of these companies at the top. The organic results will also be similar. Here’s an actual example of a search I did, with the company names and URLs blocked out: If you want help with your debt according to biblical principles, results such as these sound like they might be promising, right? Note: The examples I discuss below are not the same websites/companies pictured above. This is intentional, in order to protect Bob from being bullied by a specific company (that’s why I’m keeping every example in this article anonymous). 2. You click on one. So you go ahead and click on whichever one you fancy. When you do that, here’s what you usually [but not always] will encounter: From an advertised site – If you click on one of the sponsored results, you are usually taken to a one-page pitch for the service. This typically consists of a form for submitting your contact info, along with some basic information and bullet points to convince you to get a “risk-free no obligation quote.” Other than having the word “Christian” once or twice on the page, along with an image of a dove or brief piece of scripture, there may be little to no mention of what makes them different from others in the field. From a natural ranking – The naturally ranked websites near the top tend to have more beef. By that, I mean more text describing how debt consolidation works. There may be more religious emphasis intertwined – but ironically – sometimes the more that is said, the worse it can sound. For example with one company, the homepage featured this verse: I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on. Somehow, the site was trying to connect that verse to the path of living debt free. Using it in that context just doesn’t make sense; we all know what that verse is in reference to and it has nothing to do with debt. Worse yet, they cited it as being Matthew 21:1-4 (that story is in Luke 21:1-4 and Mark 12:41-44). 3. You contact one. Perhaps you submit your information via the contact form or you call the 800 number. Either way, you will be in touch with someone to discuss your circumstances. While I don’t have any personal experience with debt negotiation myself – for the purpose of writing this – I tried checking with a few self-proclaimed Christian services to find out what differentiates them. Each time, I hit a dead-end road. Are They Really Christian? Rather than answering that question myself, I will let you decide. However there’s no denying that a number of the debt help websites out there which market themselves as “Christian” are at the very least being misleading, to put it nicely. By researching websites’ WhoIs data, mailing addresses, business entity records and more, I came across companies which merely were operating a multitude of different sites, each geared towards a specific demographic. For example, in addition to their so-called Christian site, the same company might have a similar debt help site for general audiences, one for people living in Michigan, one for credit card debt, one for hospital debt, and so on. While it’s true every business is bound to have some unhappy customers, do a Google search for reviews of Christian debt consolidation companies and some of the alleged pattern complaints regarding some companies are alarming, to say the least. Many companies in this field (Christian or otherwise) operate as non-profit entities for tax purposes and probably marketing cachet. This in and of itself doesn’t necessarily mean that company is ethical. Just like how the president of an unscrupulous charity can legally take home a monster paycheck, the same holds true for these companies, too. Furthermore this article by a practicing attorney and former judge claims that “a debt settlement company NPO is a “perversion” of legitimate NPOs.” What Should You Do? Although the troubling traits I’ve discussed appear to be common in this industry, that’s not to say there aren’t exceptions. There may very well be legitimate and respectable Christian-focused assistance out there to help you with your debt problems. The purpose of this article is not to make a blanket statement. Rather, my goal is to demonstrate that there are snakes in the grass, playing the Jesus card to get your money. As a Christian, you need to be wary and do your research. Now going back to what I said at the start… are you sure settlement or consolidation is even the right choice for you? Bob has some excellent articles up which I would recommend you check out first: Is Debt Consolidation a Good Idea? Bankruptcy And The Bible (also discusses debt consolidation) How To Get Out of Debt (7 part series) This article is a guest post by Michael – a financial blogger by accident. He started Credit Card Forum in 2008 as a hobby, but after getting laid off, it morphed into his full-time job. While most of his time is spent obsessing over credit card rewards, he does love to surf whenever he gets the chance (and living in SoCal helps make that possible). You can read more about him here and find him on Twitter and Facebook . Debt stress image from Shutterstock Related Articles: Is Debt Consolidation a good idea? How to negotiate with credit card companies – GS5 Debt Reduction Carnival Resources and ways to cut your debt load This article was written by a Guest Author. If you would like to write a guest post for our personal finance blog , you can find out how here .

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How Giving is a Spiritual Discipline

“Stewardship is God’s way of raising people, not man’s way of raising money”  (Willmer, Smith. 2002.) 1 In Romans 12:8 we learn that some excel in the gift of giving , but what about everyone else?  We’ve all heard of spiritual disciplines such as prayer, worship, Bible study and fasting, but what about giving? In Romans 12:1 the Lord calls us to a life of complete commitment to Him by urging each of us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices.  The idea here is that we are, “all in”, so it’s important that we ask ourselves if there are any areas of our life that are not completely surrendered to, and under, the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  In other words, have you only given the Lord part of your life as a sacrifice?  Are there areas in your life that are currently off limits or that have not been fully surrendered to Him?  Oftentimes, this area is how we steward the time, talent and treasure entrusted to us by God.  We see an example of this separation in Luke 18:18-23 when a certain ruler asked Jesus how to inherit eternal life.  Unfortunately, while he was a good person, his possessions owned him vs. the other way around and we are left with a sad ending. This causes us to look deep within our day-to-day habits and routines and ensure that every area of our life is affected by our walk with Christ.  After all, our walk with the Lord is comprised of much more than a spiritual high during a Sunday morning worship service or simply listening to the word of God and not doing what it says.  We are called to be 24/7/365 Christians and our role as stewards is an essential part of the equation.  Or, as Dr. Wesley Wilmer and Martyn Smith (2002) state in, God & Your Stuff , “God is not indifferent to our daily financial choices, but is interested in transforming all of our lives” (p.23). What Scripture says about Possessions “Possessions are mentioned 2,172 times in Scripture—three times more than love, seven times more than prayer and eight times more than belief.  About 15 percent of God’s Word deals with possessions—treasures hidden in a field, pearls, talents, pounds, stables, and so on.  Obviously God understood that believers would find this a difficult area of their lives to turn over to Him” (Willmer and Smith, 2002, p. 9). There are four key points the Lord brings forth in Scripture regarding our possessions: God owns everything and has provided us all that we have ( Psalm 50:10-12 , Psalm 115:16 ) We are stewards of what God has provided, which involves management not ownership ( 1 Pet. 4:10 ) Everyone human being was created to give ( Gen. 4:4 , Lev. 27:30 , Prov. 3:9 ) Each one of us will give an account of how we manage the resources God has given us ( Rom. 14:12 , 2 Cor. 5:10 ) So how do we integrate giving into our entire Christian life?  Because giving is a spiritual discipline it requires a long-term commitment as well as the day-to-day steps that will help ensure we are fully surrendered to God as stewards.  Here are three tips that will help exercise the spiritual discipline of giving: Declaring Jesus Christ as Lord and Live out that Declaration – This is the first step on the road of biblical stewardship and living a life of generosity.  How we handle our possessions is a reflection of Christ and His Lordship over our lives.  If He is Lord, then we realize we are merely stewards of the time, talent and treasure God has entrusted to us.  If He is not Lord, then we will continue to see it as our money, our time and our abilities and live accordingly.  It’s a choice between two masters and the Lord makes it clear that none of us can serve two masters .  You may find it helpful to wake up and pray, “Lord Jesus, today I choose to pick up my cross and follow you.  May every aspect of my life be fully surrendered to you today”. Understand God’s Word as it Relates to Stewardship- Take time read and study passages such as Matthew 25:14-30 and Luke 16:1-9 , as well as reading books about biblical stewardship.  Click here to access 250 verses about money .  You can also sign up for an RSS feed that provides one stewardship verse for every day of the year to help cultivate the spiritual discipline of giving.  There’s too much at stake to not understand and grow spiritually in this area of our lives. Give to the Lord first no matter what the circumstances – This is another step each of us can take to become more like Christ in the area of stewardship .  Rather than paying all the bills and seeing what’s left for God, practice giving God the first fruits of what He has given you.  Each one of us should practice consistently giving according to our means and not robbing God when times get tough.  Don’t wait to get out of debt before taking the first steps of obedience.  Start now, and demonstrate to the Lord that you will no longer let worldly debt compete with your devotion and commitment to Him. Readers: How do you exercise the spiritual gift of giving?  What steps have you taken to exercise this discipline on regular basis?  1 – (Willmer, Smith. God and Your Stuff. NavPress 2002. p.9). Photo by  Mr. Kris Related Articles: Stewardship – What is it really? 10 Compelling Reasons to Give More What is stewardship? Are You a Stagnant Pond or Flowing Stream? Reminder: It Is More Blessed to Give Than Receive Spiritual P90X: Maximizing the Impact of Your Giving 6 reasons for giving more in 2009 Chris McDaniel is the Chief Business Development Officer for DELTA Ministries International (DELTA) and author of Igniting a Life of Generosity . Chris loves to spend time with this wife, bumping the volleyball with his daughter, playing catch with his son, serving the “least of these”, pizza, snowboarding, running half marathons, and seeing followers of Christ become generous givers. As a thank you for subscribing to our newsletter you can download our quick eBook ” 25 Ways To Save Money in 2011 ” for FREE! The articles on this site are for entertainment purposes and should not be taken as financial advice. Please contact a financial professional for specific advice regarding your situation. Also, many of the CPF articles help us pay the bills by using affiliate relationships with Amazon, Google, eBay and others. Find out more here .

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