How Debt Can Destroy Your Ministry

by Art Rainer June 13, 2017

Here in the United States, we struggle with debt. As time progresses, so does our debt load. We now have the greatest amount of consumer debt in our nation’s history. While our credit cards experience a feast, our savings accounts experience a famine.

The current and future fallout from our debt is significant. Marriages are falling apart. Retirements are abandoned. Stress and hopelessness are increasing.

I wish I could say that those in ministry have avoided the debt plunge. But I know that this is not the case. I have had the conversations.

In my book, The Money Challenge, debt is identified as a “Generosity Killer.” It wreaks havoc on our ability to live with open hands as God intended.

For those in ministry, you could say that debt is a ministry killer. Personal debt places burdens and barriers on the lives of those in ministry. Let’s consider how debt can destroy your ministry.

1. Debt can cause you to put your calling on hold. For those called to be foreign missionaries but have personal debt, their calling may be put on hold by the missions organization. For many, they simply will not have the ability to pay off their debt while serving on the field. For those who feel called to pastor, you may not be able to take a role at a church because they do not pay enough to cover your debt and living expenses. So you choose a more lucrative (non-church) route to pay the bills, promising yourself that it will be temporary. Unfortunately, temporary often turns into permanent.

2. Debt can tempt you to avoid teaching about biblical stewardship. Your debt load weighs on your conscience. You look at the over 2,000 verses on stewardship and money with guilt. You question how you can lead others to align themselves with God’s design for them and their money. So you decide to hold off on teachings about stewardship and money for now. And later, you wonder why your church lacks in generosity.

3. Debt can create stress that spills over into your ministry. Financial stress is known to damage the home (which is bad enough), but rarely does it stop there. You try to compartmentalize your feelings, but every now and then, they spill over. Your attitude becomes less than gracious. You seem angry. You seem worn out. You repel others, and not because of your biblical faithfulness. 

4. Debt can create marital difficulties. The statistics are consistent here. Financial stress is frequently reported as one of the main reasons married couples get divorced. High debt loads and other poor financial decisions have a high probability of hurting your marriage. While you may not get a divorce, your marriage will likely be more stressed and conflict-prone.

5. Debt can be a symptom of a much larger, hidden issue. The Bible consistently shows us that money management reveals heart management. The way you prioritize your finances reflects the prioritization of your heart. God designed us not to be hoarders, but conduits though which His generosity flows. Debt gets you further away from realizing this design. What hidden issue is the symptom of poor financial management revealing in you? This is a question worth contemplating. Left unchecked, the issue may hinder your ministry.

Give generously. Save wisely. Live appropriately. Managing your money in this simple sequence will help you avoid debt. Debt is a “Generosity Killer.” But it can also be a ministry killer. If you have debt, pay it down aggressively. If you don’t have debt, consider the consequences before buying something you cannot afford.

Don’t let debt destroy your ministry.