Treading Water

June 10, 2012

David Sorn

The epidemic decline of Americans' ability to handle their personal finances is limiting what we can do for the Kingdom of God.

Treading Water

June 10, 2012

David Sorn

The epidemic decline of Americans' ability to handle their personal finances is limiting what we can do for the Kingdom of God.


Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.

Let me get right into it this morning with a confession:

I hate talking about money at church.

I just don’t really like it. At all.

I think it goes back to the thought that churches are NOTORIOUS for talking about money, and that’s all they ever talk about (“Hey everyone, we’re doing our 5th money series of the year!”), and I wanted to be different.

And my confession is: I think I’ve overreacted to that.

For the few of you that have been here since we were 150 less people 2 and a half years ago, you know, that we’ve barely ever, EVER even mentioned the topic of money at our church.

We just don’t talk about it.

But let me bring you in on what God’s doing in my heart & mind about it

Here’s the first problem: Jesus talked about money. A LOT

In fact, with the exception of talking about the “Kingdom of God,” Jesus talked more about money than he did about anything else.

Around 1 out of every 3 of his parables even, was about money.

So unless, I’m willing to take a scissors, and cut a good chunk of the teachings of Jesus out of the Bible, and never talk about them, I’m kind of in trouble as a pastor.

Here’s the other part of my growing conviction on this topic:

My isolationist policy of just “leave the topic alone” because people know what the Bible teaches about money and they don’t need to be reminded only works if you have a church full of seasoned Christians, and even then, it’s a suspect philosophy

(Hey…I never said I was anywhere close to perfect)

But Renovation Church is FULL of new believers who, in part, due to my oversight, have never even heard a teaching on this really popular topic in Scripture

SO…with that being said…it’s time to talk about money.

Does this mean that we’re gonna talk about it all the time and do 3 money series a year…probably not…but we can’t avoid it either


We’re calling this series “DOUBLE TRAP” because I believe that most Americans are in a serious double trap when it comes to our finances, and thus it’s becoming one of the major, MAJOR issues that the avg American struggles w/

Here’s the DOUBLE TRAP:

The first trap is this: Most of us have money problems

Ok. So just in general, we struggle with finances.

But here’s where it becomes a DOUBLE TRAP:

The second trap is this: Americans don’t talk about their money.

So, we’re in a DOUBLE TRAP here.

We struggle with it, but we can’t talk about it (it’s taboo), so now, not only are we trapped, we’re DOUBLE TRAPPED, and most of us, because of that, aren’t getting out of the trap!

WHEW! That’s a tough trap.

And it is indeed taboo in our culture.

In some Asian cultures, it’s not even that weird to meet someone, ask them what they do (Oh, I’m a lawyer), and then follow-up with, how much do you make a year?

In our culture, if I asked you that, you may or might not shoot me in the face.

We don’t talk about money!

I can’t ask you what you make…or what you have in savings…or what you give…or how you do your budget…we simply can’t talk about it.

It’s, in part, connected to why we never talk about it at church, it’s a cultural thing.

But culture isn’t always Biblical

And I can’t sit back and watch people drown and not say anything just because I don’t want to be uncomfortable. That’s not my style.


And sadly, the average American is indeed drowning when it comes to finances.

I sometimes liken our training in money to being pushed off a cliff into the ocean.

Most of us grew up with little to no training in how to handle finances (from our parents, from school, etc.),

And then we turned 18, and our parents kicked us out of the house..

And then they pushed off the cliff and said…swim!

“Yeah but you never taught me about…. AHHH!”

Many Americans have no game-plan whatsoever when it comes to finances.

We’re just simply trying to tread water…and hope luck comes our way and somehow bails us out.

Growing up, I don’t think I learned that much at all about money.

I certainly didn’t learn about it in school.

The only thing I can ever remember learning about personal finance was learning how to write checks in 8th grade.

“And boy do I write a lot of checks a year…”

Your personal finances are like the most important thing that you never took a class on.

For most of us, if we’re honest, money is practically like a foreign object to us.

Or, It’s like being in love with the thing that traps you in. We all want it, but few of us know how to handle it.

And, on top of that, we’re caught in a DOUBLE TRAP

We’re struggling, but the LAST thing we’re gonna do is tell someone we’re struggling.

It’s not like if I’m struggling to set-up a TV in my house or surround sound or some electronic.

Sure, I’m in a trap, I don’t know how to do it.

But it’s not a double trap. People talk about that. They go on facebook and say, “Anyone know how to hook up surround sound or someone I could pay to do it?”

But with money, we are DOUBLE TRAPPED.


And if you don’t think Americans are trapped when it comes to money, get a pen and paper out because we are about to bow at the idol of statistics.

I’m going to paint a statistical picture of the current state of American personal finances, and it is shocking.

One of the best indicators of healthy personal finance is the ability to save money.

In the 1950’s, the avg. American saved roughly 7% of their income

In the 1960’s, around 8%. In the 70’s into the early 80%’s: 10%!

Which is what most financial planners would say is your goal

By 1995, it dropped to 5%.

In 2007, right before the recession, it dropped to 0.6%!

The average MN was saving $228 a year! A YEAR!!!

In 2008/9, right after the bottom fell out, it jumped back up to as high as 6%, but apparently we are not fond of long term change.

It has only been falling again, and as of April of this year, the avg American only saves 3.4% a year.

At 3.4% a year, you can put away $1,300 a year.

Your idea goal is to put away 6 months worth of savings for a rainy day…

At that rate, it would take the average Minnesotan, 15 years to get just 6 months of savings…And that would NOT include saving for retirement, etc.

By the way, all of these stats are on YOUVERSION!

If you think that’s crazy, it gets worse.

Obviously, those are just averages, which means that 50% of the people are worse off.

In fact, 30-40% of Americans SPEND more than they EARN.

By the way, want a Global look at this?

The avg. American saves 3.4%.

The average German, 13%

The Average person in Switzerland, 14%

In China, around 30%

Here’s where it starts to get crazy.

Most statisticians believe that right around 60% of Americans are currently living check-to-check. (some put it as high as 70%)

Meaning, that at some point in the month, they could run out of money, if they didn’t get their normal paycheck for that week, etc.

You know when those stupid unexpected costs come your way?

Say, like your engine in your car dies. Your air conditioning stops working, etc.?

1 out of 3 Americans couldn’t pay $1,000 for an unforeseen problem if it happened to them.

And most of them, would pay on a credit card if it did.

Which brings us to another issue.

(By the way…anyone depressed yet? Hang w/ me…we’re not done yet)

The avg. American household w/ at least 1 credit card, has around $10,000 in credit-card debt. CREDIT-CARD debt. Not money you owe on your mortgage, credit card debt.

Most of us were just never taught how to save for savings sake.

Some of our parents taught us how to put away money, but it was always to BUY something (a toy, etc.)

I can remember, putting away money each week to save up for my Sega Genesis video game system.

Always the promoter, I even told my friends one year that “in lieu of birthday presents, I would prefer donations to my Sega Genesis fund.”

We only were taught to save money, so we could spend it.

But there’s great benefit to putting it away. The Bible tells us this.

(Proverbs 21:20) – NIV

The wise store up choice food and olive oil, but fools gulp theirs down.

One of the problems that plagues us in this DOUBLE TRAP is that we don’t have any idea how much we’re spending.

We get coffee, and go out to eat every weekday, we get gas every week, but how much does it cost?

We say, “I don’t know…I don’t want to look”

And yet it just causes grief.

A few years ago, Lindsey and I used to always argue every time she came back from shopping.

She’d come home with some new clothes, and even though she always got clothes at great prices, because I’m cheap, I’d say, “What are you buying clothes for again?” Or “Why’d you buy that?” Or “Didn’t you just get a shirt?” (even if it had been a while…cuz we weren’t keeping track, I had no idea…and it just caused arguments all the time)

We decided that we were going to budget our clothes spending in a really particular way.

We decided on a number, and on January 1st, Lindsey went to the bank and took it all out in cash for the year.

And honestly, we used to fight about it all the time, and I don’t think we’ve fought about it since

Cuz it’s set. We have a plan.

The Bible pokes us with this…even the ants have a plan!

(Proverbs 6:-6-8) – NIV

Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise. 7 It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, 8 yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.

But 57% of people have no budget whatsoever, and another good chunk of people have some sort of budget, but don’t stick to it.


Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.

But most of us live in this hasty, “gotta have it now” world, and thus never have anything.


Wait TIMEOUT for a second…why am I even talking about this? Is this a church or a financial planning seminar? What does this have to do with Jesus?

Maybe you’re thinking, I didn’t come to church just to hear about saving money, etc.

Wow, those were great questions. Thank you!

There are TWO really serious reasons why this is so important to followers of Christ.

Here’s the first one: We recognize as a society, AND as a church, that when Christians abuse alcohol, drugs, sex, you name it, that it’s a problem.

These things rob people of their ability to enjoy not only happy lives, but Godly lives.

They rob them of their ability to experience true joy in Christ.

And the same thing is true when we can’t handle finances.

You’ve maybe heard this one:

The number one cause of divorce: Communication

Number two: Money.

And by the way, you know what the one thing couples have the hardest time communicating about is? Money!

Our brothers & sisters in Christ are drowning in this, and it is taking them down, ruining their lives, and pulling them away from Jesus…

We, the church body, absolutely have to step in and help.

It’s at epidemic proportions.

Maybe you’re like…David, don’t struggle with this…I’ve got 50k in the bank.

That’s great. My challenge is to you is…help people get out of the double trap.

Be courageous…have some tough conversations with friends and family.

Be generous…God has given you an ability to do something that few people in this country have figured out.

He can really use you in a eye-popping way.

You’ve been given a gift. Use it…and not just for yourself.

Start praying about what God would have you do.


Here’s the other reason why the “state of the average American’s personal finances” is so important to followers of Christ:

Our epidemic struggles w/ personal finance hurt the Kingdom of God.

A few weeks ago, I was looking over promo videos for a class we’re offering called Financial Peace University, and I came across this video, and the concept of it really struck me. Let me play it for you:


God is calling us to do so much in His word.

He’s calling us to reach the unbelievers through churches, through evangelism.

His Word calls us to serve the Orphans. To help the widows. To Feed the Poor.

To bless people around us in our lives that are in need.


Drowning in our own finances.

Or at minimum, just treading water.

And you can’t help anyone else who’s drowning when all you can do is tread water.

Lifeguards know how to do more than tread water, and God’s called you to be a lifeguard.

God is absolutely calling us to do all of those things, but we’ve put ourselves in a place where we are unable to be obedient to Him because we’re DOUBLED TRAPPED with our finances.

The average Christian gives right around 2.2% of their finances to God (churches, non-profits, charity, orphanages, missions, etc.)

But maybe you’re thinking, “I hear ya David, Preach on Pastor David! If I just made more money, it wouldn’t be a problem! IF God would just bless us with more money, man, could we ever serve the poor!”

However, let me challenge your thinking.

This…is not an income problem, it’s a cash flow problem. It’s a DOUBLE TRAP problem.

We don’t know what to do (cash flow, budgeting), and we can’t talk to anyone about it. Hence…the DOUBLE TRAP

Here’s why it’s not an income problem:

If you are the AVERAGE Minnesotan, you are already richer than 96% of everyone else on the PLANET! 96%.

It’s not an income problem.

This CAN be fixed, but the answer isn’t just about you making more money.

You’re ALREADY richer than 96% of the world. Don’t get sucked in by the trap of competing with the Jones

This is not an income problem. Really, it’s a stewardship problem.

(Matthew 25:14-30) - NIV

14 “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. (used to be called parable of TALENTS) Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more. 21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ 22 “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’ 23 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ 24 “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ 26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. 28 “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

See, here’s the tough word: God has already given us as Americans, more than most people in the entire world. We’re 96th percentile.

The greek word for what they get is actually a TALENT, which is worth 20 year’s worth of the day laborer’s wage.

WOW! That’s a lot of money. IS it?

Let’s take a laborer in a different part of the world.

People in Haiti make $3 a day minimum wage (if they have a job)…80% do not.

5 days of work, 52 weeks a year, that’s $780/yr

Times 20 years: $15,600

The avg. MN makes that in less than 5 months.

And let’s just straight up repent: We’ve been bad stewards of an incredible blessing.

For some reason, he chose to give us the “5 bags of gold,” the big loan…

And we couldn’t handle it.

We have greater opportunity than most people in the world to make exponential impact for the Kingdom of God, and we are squandering it on ourselves…caught in our DOUBLE TRAP…unable to talk about it.

Unable to help the drowning cuz we’re just treading water ourselves.

But here’s the good news: You don’t have to keep TREADING WATER!!

You can “right the ship” here.

God can get you back on track, so you can begin finding SANITY in your life again.

So you can begin preparing for you future again, and not just this month.

And, most importantly, so he can eventually start using you as a blessing to other people and the Kingdom of God!

If I can go back to where I started…do you know one of the main reasons that I never really talked about money before as a pastor?

It’s because I feel like a lot of times, pastors give messages on Godly finances, and people feel convicted, but that’s all that happens.

People just sit there and feel convicted.

But they don’t have the TOOLS to do anything about it (again, cuz we’re in the double trap), so eventually they just get mad the pastor talked about it in the first place.

Cuz now I feel guilty and I can’t do anything about it, cuz I don’t know how!!

So, one of the reasons we’re doing this series at this time is because we have a way to help you.

If this is you…I’ve been talking right to you today…you’re just in a tough place financially, or feel like you’re about to be, or you don’t know how to save, how to get out of debt, and most importantly, how to use your finances for a greater impact than just buying things for yourself…

Then we want to help you.

We’ve been announcing for the past few weeks that we are doing a class this summer called Financial Peace University

It’s a 10-week DVD course with small group discussion that meets on Tuesday nights starting this week, that has helped thousands upon thousands upon thousands of people across the country, get out of debt, and start getting control of their lives again.

It costs $65, but the average person saves $2,700 and pays off $5,300 of debt just while taking the class.

Pretty good investment!

And there are a number of you in here right now, where you’re just in a tough place financially.

Unless, we’re in some statistical anomaly vacuum, there’s plenty of you in this very room, that are in this situation…right now.

& I just want to encourage u & challenge u, take a step forward.

Get out of the Double TRAP that everyone else is in.

You can get out.

We can teach you the tools.

We can TALK about this…and restore sanity to your life again.

Anyone can sign up. You just have to be 18. You can be making 100k a year, or unemployed. Single, married, it doesn’t matter.

This isn’t going to change unless you start taking some bold steps.

Let today be your day…to change the rest of your life.

Let’s pray.


This morning, we are going to take communion together as well. Communion is always a great time for us to remember what our faith is all about.

In the NT, Paul writes this about the reason for communion:

(1 Corinthians 11:23-26) –DON’T PUT ON SCREEN

23For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." 25In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." 26For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

And that is what we will do. But Paul also writes in this passage that we ought to examine ourselves before taking communion.

To 1) not do it in vain. To only do it if we truly believe it. And if you’re still just seeking, that’s ok. You’re on a journey. 2) Communion is an opportunity for believers to examine themselves (ask yourself some tough questions)

In the back, there are 2 tables….with pieces of bread and a bowl of juice. When you’re ready, you can get up take an individual piece of bread and dip it in the juice.

However, take some time to examine yourself before you go back.

Sometime to remember what He’s done and what He will do

And when you’re ready, at any time during the next few songs (if you need to wait, wait), you can go back and take communion.

If you would like to pray while you’re back there, we encourage you to do so. With each other, by yourself, or our prayer team will be in the back to pray for you as well (POINT THEM OUT)

We really just want you to encounter God during our service.

Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN

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