ARDEN — Drive up to the campus of Biltmore Baptist Church and take a look.
You’ll see the gated entrance and the sprawling, modern building complex and likely think two things: “lots of members” and “lots of money.”
The “lots of members” thought is correct.
With more than 6,000 members and a weekly attendance of more than 4,000, Biltmore is one of the largest Baptist churches in Western North Carolina. It’s located in the town of Arden, just off I-26, south of Asheville, near the airport.
On the question of money, Biltmore’s approach to Christian stewardship and finances could help many North Carolina Baptist churches, even in this period of economic slowdown.
Biltmore’s leaders have found that, if members follow the Bible’s teaching on money and stewardship, they will naturally be much more able to support the church as they should.
Stewardship development is handled mostly by Wayne Clark, one of Biltmore’s five senior leaders serving under Bruce Frank, senior pastor. Clark directs church development and major projects.
He entered the ministry after a long career as a top executive with a major oil company, work which routinely sent him jetting around the world and living in Europe for a time.
Clark begins by setting forth how he and other church leaders handled the question of money.
“One of the things we looked at here was how do we best communicate the stewardship aspects. I strongly believe that, when you first accept Christ, that doesn’t mean you start digging into your wallet the first day. You really don’t have a good sense of tithing or anything like that. I think that’s something that comes with Christian maturity … you have to look back to the Bible to really educate people on stewardship and the fact that everything we have belongs to God. We’re simply managing what He’s given to us,” he said.
Clark and Biltmore leaders looked at many stewardship/money management programs and ultimately settled on Crown Financial Ministries as their preferred program. Members such as Dick Leonard went to Crown Financial Ministries training and then started classes at Biltmore. Gerald Gillespie later joined Crown’s western North Carolina team and helped with training at Biltmore and throughout the area.
The church launched Crown’s Bible study program late in 2004 with two classes. By 2006 Biltmore had trained 41 facilitators among the members and was offering 24 classes. Most were small, 12-week classes for adults called “Life Groups,” but there were also classes on teen finance Bible study and a “Business by the Book” class for business people.
The classes proved to be very popular. They were so popular in fact that Biltmore had to revise their training to accommodate the high interest.
“In 2007 we had 26 classes, including two for children. More than 200 people attended Crown classes in 2007,” Clark said.
By mid-2009, the total number of people who have attended a Crown class stood at 525. “That’s a good representative cross-sample of our congregation,” he said.
It’s likely one of the larger, single-church Crown programs in North Carolina. Twenty-one Biltmore members have acquired the training needed to become Crown Money Map coaches. People can now enroll in Crown through Biltmore’s web site.
Clark said that Crown has published research on people who have taken the Crown course in churches of several denominations in 42 states:
Three years after graduating from a Life Group,
- reduction of debt was 38 percent
- 33 percent reported they had no debt, twice the percentage before the classes
- savings and investments increased by 58 percent over three years
- annual giving to the church increased by 70 percent
- giving to the church was up 47 percent
- 46 percent said they pray more
- 64 percent reported they read the Bible more
- 78 percent reported the relationship with spouse had strengthened or greatly strengthened.
“That’s not surprising,” Clark said, “when you consider that 70 or more percent of divorces involve the issue of money.”
Many Biltmore members have worked to make the Crown program a success, Clark said. He praises the work of Rita Hall and other members of Biltmore who have laid a firm foundation.
“People realize how much the Bible does instruct us on finances. Everyone who comes through the classes learns that,” said Hall, current Crown coordinator at Biltmore. She has also been impressed with the friendships that develop as people go through the Crown Life Groups.
Gillespie, Crown representative for western North Carolina, also teaches Crown concepts to all students entering Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute, the Baptist State Convention school in Hendersonville.
“What would happen if our churches understood true biblical stewardship?” Gillespie asks. He can be reached at (828) 696-9055, ext. 114.
Crown partners with the Southern Baptist Convention and the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, which means N.C. Baptists can get reduced rates on Crown materials.
For information on Crown, go to www.sbc.net/newday or call (800) 722-1976.
For Baptist State Convention information on Crown in North Carolina, call (919) 395-5102, ext. 5539.
Struggling with debt and getting behind on payments? Crown will provide financial coaching free of charge. For details go to www.crown.org or call (800) 722-1976.
It’s a New Day classes
The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention will partner with Crown Financial Ministries to host one-day conferences at the following locations:
- Sept. 11 – New South River Association
- Sept. 12 – Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
- Oct. 24 – West Chowan Association
- Nov. 14 – Nags Head Church/Chowan Association
Registration costs $20 and includes conference materials and lunch. Spouses are encouraged to attend at no additional charge.
Contact Amy Torcasso, (800) 395-5102, ext. 5539, or [email protected].
View Biblical Recorder stories on finances here.