‘Black in America’ Shows One Pastor’s Determination to End Debt

Pastor DeForest Soaries installed a four-step wealth building program at his NJ church

SoariesDixonPhoto-Z

Pastor Soaries says debt is equivalent to a kind of slavery

It all started seven years ago when New Jersey minister DeForest Soaries realized he didn’t have enough money to pay off his new church. Rather than asking his cash-strapped congregation to dig into their pockets to fund the building like other clerics might have, the senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset decided he’d work in reverse–helping to fix the finances of his “flock” so they could in turn bless the “shepherd.”

But what the former New Jersey Secretary of State did along the way was launch a movement he’s now trying to take nationwide. Featured this Thursday on CNN’s third installment of Black in America with Soledad O’Brien, the one-time Republican lawmaker’s five-year-old program, DFree, stands for living without “debt, deficits and delinquency.” Through weekly workshops, seminars and sermons he’s encouraging parishioners to stamp out credit card debt, pay their bills on time and steer clear of monetary traps like lottery tickets, payday loans and check-cashing places. Soaries says they only keep Blacks in financial “slavery.”

“When I see people who are stressed out because of financial lenders, couples arguing about money, people losing their homes–increasing their health risks and decreasing their productivity–it confirms for me that we’re living in a kind of slavery,” he says. “The overwhelming majority of our people don’t have a budget or written plan,” he explains. “Fifty-four percent of us have no bank account or are still using check cashing places, money orders and payday lenders. So if 54 percent of Black people are not functional participants in the banking system,” he concludes, “we are in bondage. Proverbs chapter 22, verse 7: The borrower is servant to the lender.”

Soaries–whose book DFree: Breaking Free from Financial Slavery will be released in January–says he knows what it is like to live in bondage. He admits that in his 20s he refused to buy a house because he “didn’t want to cut the grass.”  “I wasn’t thinking about the equity I was losing,” he says. “I had a car payment bigger than that of my house. I never knew what the interest rate was. All I cared about was what the monthly payment was. When I entered my 30s,” he says, “I realized I was broke.”

This Princeton doctoral graduate, who is now on the board of the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York and says he taught himself about budgeting and debt income by reading financial books and affiliating himself with “institutions and people who were successful,” preaches the gospel of debt-free living every chance he gets. “I told my church when they get tired of hearing it they can fire me,” says Soaries.

He’s instituted a four-step wealth-building program he says is foolproof:

1. ”Track your spending,” he says. “Learn how to prepare a budget.

2. Get control of your spending. No more living on credit.

3. ”Get ahead through investments–save $100 a month, institute a retirement plan, and invest in real estate.

4. “The last step is to teach other people. Give back.”

That’s exactly what Soaries is doing. He estimates under his tutelage 25 percent of his 7,000-member congregation has freed itself of debt, with folks testifying each Sunday about how they did it. He points to individual success stories–the pharmaceutical rep who lost her job but had saved so much money she was able to live without an income for a year, or the family that can split their time between Florida and Atlanta because they paid off their mortgage ahead of schedule–as his motivation.

“Churches are the most admired and credible institutions among our people,” he says. “Pastors owe it to them to teach things that will better their lives.”

Click here for a preview of Black in America: Almighty Debt, which airs Thursday at 9pm on CNN, and check Blackenterprise.com tomorrow for an interview with host Soledad O’Brien.

ACROSS THE WEB
  • Marcus

    We must become debt free. Awaken our people to the fact that this is our problem, we must reclaim our neighborhoods and the businesses within them. We must, must let the black dollar rotate through our community at least 7 times before going out. We must start reporting more of our young men and women to become police officers, firemen and bankers so that we have representatives looking out for us within our own neighborhoods. Demand more out of your child’s education. WE need to rise and become that powerful entity that we deserve to me…join me and do your part, help someone in your circle to rise and we all rise.

  • Jennie S.

    I am debt free! My last outstanding bill was paid last week! Now I can focus on building up my savings.

  • Sherrill

    Pastor Soaries was the inspiration for our church St Matthew AME Orange, NJ to start a No Ds ministry where we pray for No Debts, No Delinquencies and No Deficits. We start by having our members go through an 8 week video class on Discovering how to manage God’s money..note God’s money not our money! This ministry is extremely valuable and relevant especially in these uncertain times. THANK YOU Dr. Soaries!!!!

  • Micheel

    Thank you Pastor Soaries. I have attened chruch most of my life and you are the first Pastor that I can say that have sopke of not only living debt free but to teach how to become debt free as well as remain debt free.Do not misunderstand me, i’m sure many Pastors preach of living debt free but you took great time and details as to how to obtain this. Many christians live with the idea that God supplys all of our needs yet we, yes WE, me included live way beyound the life God has provided and then we look to God to mend our mistakes, which by all means he can…But again we need to be mindful. Again Thank you so very much Pastor Soaries and CNN and a big hug for the Bishop….

  • Oluwole Adeleke

    To my home church pastor, Rev.Dr. Deforest Sories, continue the great work. This is the reason that I have been watching the church services online from Virginia every sunday. You have continually made the bible as practical as possible. I have been a member since 1991, when you started preaching your first few sermons after being ordained and Rev. James Johnson was your assistant pastor. May GOD bless you, your wife, and your boys.

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    oh i wish to be debt free in the next few years and i wanna be a millionaire too ;

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    we always get home loans everytime we do some home renovation *

  • Terran Jones

    Good stuff. I think it is good when churches teach the Bible in a practical way.

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    you can avail of home loans from several companies that offer low interest rates ;*-

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  • http://consumermiser.com ConsumerMiser

    This is very inspirational. We need more pastors like minister DeForest Soaries to preach this message of financial responsibility. After law school I was in debt too, but I used the teachings of my parents to pay off my law school debt. I’ll never forget my father getting laid off when my brother and I were still in college, yet our family lived off of my mother’s teacher’s salary and did not really change our life style noticeably. This is because my family lived below our means so that when we lost one income, we were still able to live reasonably well without going into debt. I now try to share some of what I learned on my own personal finance blog at ConsumerMiser.com.

  • Ms. FrancineEnglish

    I was floored when T.D. Jakes & rev Soares said ” although tat family has not enough money to pay their bills” but tides come first! What damn planet are we living on. Those people need to keep every dime that they have to go toward, to not loosing there home. Will T.D. Jakes & Pastor Soares let them stay with them in their homes. That is the reason I don’t go to church now. It’s all about the money in their pockets. The church will not go under for as long enough for that couple to get back on their feet!

  • Christine

    “The bank is trying to take away our home!” Actually . . . it’s not your home. You are borrowing t. Move out,
    cut the bank’s losses and everyone else who is carrying you, and rent just like everyone else who can’t afford to own.

  • Christine

    “The bank is trying to take away our home!” Actually . . . it’s not your home. You are borrowing. Move out,
    cut the bank’s losses and everyone else who is carrying you, and rent just like everyone else who can’t afford to own.

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