Mike Slaughter Interview: The Christian Wallet

Mike Slaughter Interview: The Christian Wallet

This summer I was in Ohio for my nephew’s wedding. One night I was reading The Christian Wallet by Mike Slaughter (yes, that’s my summer reading, I am a total nerd for this stuff).
I suddenly realized that I was somewhere close to the fourth largest United Methodist Church in these United States. Coming in “fourth” translates to 5,000 weekly attendees. Just how close was Bellbrook to Ginghamsburg Church? 40 minutes you say MapQuest? I’m there!
And so I went to hear Mike Slaughter, the founding pastor of Ginghamsburg UMC and prolific author of such well-known books as Christmas is Not Your Birthday and Change the World. Since 2005, Ginghamsburg has invested over $8 million in sustainable relief projects in Darfur, Sudan and South Sudan. Wow.

Lucky me, I ran into Rev. Slaughter after the early morning service and – after I told him all about you, my awesome readers – he graciously agreed to do a phone interview with me about his newest book, The Christian Wallet.

Alert: This blog post is a tad bit longer than most. Stick with me!
The Christian Wallet has three sections: How We Spend (consumerism, how to budget, how to avoid debt); How We Give (tithing, investing, taxes); and How We Live (thinking about how we spend our time, where we live, and living simply). This book offers a holistic view of money and the way it can bind or free us.
My initial couple of questions to Mike (I can call him “Mike,” right? Maybe that should have been my first question.) were, “Why this book? Why now?”
Mike’s response was that “40% of Jesus’ parables talk about money or possessions. ‘Where your treasure (money) is, there will your heart be also’ (Mat. 6:21). Money matters. Money matters for churches. Although I’ve written a number of books on this topic [Shiny Gods, Upside Living in a Downside Economy, etc.], John Knox Press came and asked me to delve even deeper into the topic. They wanted me to look at the spiritual, moral, and ethical dimensions of how we spend.
He continued, “And why now? Because debt is one of the biggest oppressors that people face in this consumerist society. And people of faith are not immune to falling into debt.”

Rev. Mike Slaughter

The ethics of spending are another reason this has now become an important issue for Mike. He pointed to an example in his book: When he was teaching in Vietnam in 2013 he had a beautiful, custom silk suit made for $200. Feeling pretty good about it, he later told one of his young staffers about his great buy. The staffer’s response? “For that price, you have to wonder if the suit was made by child laborers or in some unsafe or unhealthy environment.” Mike was jarred into the realization that Christian wallets have global implications.
When asked what a congregation can do to develop a culture of generosity Mike answered, “Learn how to talk about money. We know people are already doing just that – take a look at the PBS ratings when Suze Orman is on. Check out all the books on money and investments. Folks are paying advisors to help them navigate financial waters. People are already talking about money. Our job is to help them heal and release for their maximum God potential.”

 Slaughter continued, “It’s important that we empower people to live debt free. It’s important that people be liberated to become generous. Churches tend to guilt people because of what they [churches] don't have… but money follows mission. Tell the story of where people’s financial investment is going.”
One way Ginghamsburg tells their story is through “Kingdom Investor Dinners.” Folks who give $1,000 or more to the church are invited to a BBQ dinner in May to hear how they are making a difference in the life of Ginghamsburg and the community. Mike says that he has seen people’s “investment in mission” double and triple as a result of these dinners.
Somewhat surprisingly, given Ginghamsburg’s $5.3 million budget, Slaughter follows a fairly conventional calendar when he speaks about money. Many of the books that he’s written on the topic come from the sermon series he does starting mid-October culminating with the church’s commitment service the Sunday before Thanksgiving. “Spent” will be this year’s theme and in previous years it’s been “The Christian Wallet,” “Shiny Gods,” or “Money Matters.” But it’s not just about the stewardship series. It’s also about giving people financial tools throughout the year with classes like Financial Peace University. It’s also telling the story about where money goes through Mission Moments, testimonies, and videos. People want to give to something. As he emphasizes, “Money follows mission, not budget.”
All this seems to come naturally for someone who “never had to overcome a fear of preaching or speaking about money.” Mike attributes his lack of fear to the way he was discipled. A self-described “young 24-year old” when he finished seminary, Mike was fortunate to have an Asbury Seminary professor who talked specifically about money and the “danger of debt and the need for investment.” The class still shapes the way he looks at and talks about money. Seminaries take note.
We wrapped up our conversation hoping that this book will find traction. And it should. When I first met Mike in June he agreed that this book could be categorized as “Financial Peace University from a Wesleyan perspective.” The Christian Wallet is a great new addition to the pantheon of books about faith, finances, and making generosity possible. John Knox press is getting ready to offer a free leader’s discussion guide to go with the book. You’ll be the first to get a link when it comes out. I strongly urge you to get the conversation started and offer this book as a small group study in the fall. As Slaughter says, it’s “not a quick read.” It’s to be studied, discussed, and should lead to substantial changes in the way people of faith relate holistically to money.
Slaughter ends his book with “Eight Christian Wallet Principles” – each of which could individually be utilized for discussion purposes. I’ll finish with one of my favorites and one of the hardest to fully embrace, “All of my wallet’s contents, every single penny, come from God. I am the steward, not the owner.” Thanks to Mike Slaughter for writing The Christian Wallet to challenge people of faith to live God-filled lives and for helping us navigate with common sense and hope one of the issues that – rightly or wrongly – dominates our lives.
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past decade, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she helped raise over $2.5 million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. She wants you to know that if you Google “Christian Wallet” that you can see many “real” Christian wallets on the internet. She served as the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Lay Leader from 2008-2012. Her position with the Conference is funded through a generous grant from the Collins Foundation; she is available to consult with churches in Oregon and Idaho. You can reach her at inspiringgenerosity@gmail.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/inspiringgenerosity.
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.