Forgive Us Our Debts

Mount Carmel Baptist Church is teaching its congregation how to manage credit

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have remained debt-free.

Tithes have increased 25% in the past year. Mount Carmel takes in more than $2 million yearly for operation costs and fund community projects.
Russell practices what he preaches. At one time, he worked three jobs to pay credit card debts that mounted when he was first married. He now has one credit card, American Express, that he pays off every month. He has written a book, Upon This Rock (Faith and Action Publishers, $11.95) that outlines the debt liquidation program so that it can be implemented in other churches. Here are some of the principles he teaches:

A. Pearl and Stanley Thomas Jr. didn’t know how much debt they had until Russell started holding revivals. They didn’t have credit cards but had accumulated almost $11,000 in unpaid bills. “We wouldn’t have been able to say how much we owed if someone had offered to pay those bills,” says Pearl, 41. “Being more aware of the debt made a difference in how we went about eliminating it.”

She and Stanley, 45, both worked overtime and began by paying off their smallest debts first. They managed to pay off about $2,000 in seven months; the church took care of the rest.

“When I was growing up, we had layaway, but the money you paid went to the purchase price, not the interest,” says Russell. When it comes to making big purchases, he suggests doing the same — open a savings account and put away money each month until enough has accumulated to pay for the item.

“Bishop really promotes doing something for yourself,” says Pearl, who was inspired to start her own sewing business. She is teaching her children sound management principles to the point that her 10-year-old daughter chides her when she uses a debit card. “She says, ‘Mommy, you know what Bishop said about using credit cards!’ I have to explain that this comes directly out of our account!”

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