Marcia Dixon charts the history of the black Pentecostal Church’s relationship with money
My attitude towards money, wealth and finance has changed over the years – in a good way, especially as my understanding of how money works has been informed by my faith and the reams of information on the topic that is now available.
Gleaning wisdom from the Windrush Generation
As a child of the Windrush Generation, it’s only recently that I’ve been able to adopt their wise, effective approach to money. Like many others I have been in debt, haven’t always spent wisely and had little understanding of how money worked.
The Windrush Generation worked hard for their money, were frugal and refused to live above their means. If they wanted an item that had a high price tag, they’d either save for it, pay for it over a set period or cautiously take out a loan. It’s worth noting that the Windrush Generation rarely used credit cards like subsequent generations have, so rarely got into major debt (apart from taking on their mortgage).
Many also found it difficult to access loans so they helped each other through a system called pardner. This entailed a group of people coming together and committing to pay a set amount into a central pool on a weekly basis.
Each member took turns in receiving the pooled savings, which were usually used to fund a specific purpose like a deposit for a house, buying school uniforms for children or paying for holidays. Pardners remain popular (I’m part of one) but these day are more likely to be paid via direct debit as opposed to cash.
Changing attitudes towards money
Black Pentecostal churches have contributed greatly to prevailing views about money within the black and African community.
I remember as a teenage Christian, churches often hosted building fund rallies where members raised money to finance the purchase of places of worship. Most Pentecostal churches have been bought with money raised by its members, who were ordinary working men and women.
Black church leaders have never been fearful of talking about money. I recall the subject of money being regularly mentioned in church – whether via sermons, songs or during offering time (which is often a moment of celebration in a service). Believers have been taught that it is a pleasure to give to the church, and that there is a blessing in giving to those in need – whether to people in church, charities or those living in poverty overseas.
Unfortunately, from the 1990s onwards, too many Christians were influenced by the ‘name it claim it’ movement (or prosperity gospel), which originated in the US. This teaching asserts that Christians can claim God’s blessings and material wealth by speaking positive affirmations or ‘naming’ their desired outcomes.
The Windrush Generation worked hard for their money, were frugal and refused to live above their means
This ‘name it claim it’ philosophy influenced many within the black Church during that time. While I believe that God loves to bless his children, I didn’t and couldn’t jump on this bandwagon when it came to prominence because it encouraged materialism; something the Bible speaks against. I also personally believe that people need to work hard for the things we need and want. I recall Christians claiming BMW cars, designer bags and mansions. The teaching took both churches and individual members in a negative direction.
I’m glad that attitudes to money within the Church have evolved so that they are now more aligned with scripture. Believers are now being encouraged to create wealth, steward their money well and to leave a legacy.
Through more recent teaching about personal responsibility, the necessity of education and the importance of leaving wealth for the next generation, the black Pentecostal Church movement has inadvertedly contributed to the growth of the black business sector.
Scratch behind the surface of any black business owner you meet, and they are more likely to be Christian. Many of them are women. I welcome this development. I know that I have greatly benefitted from it and the teaching has helped me build a PR business that is greatly influenced by my faith.
I also welcome the focus on wealth building, especially as I’m from a community where, historically, we were consigned to low-paid hard work, prevented from setting up businesses and faced challenges when trying to access opportunities to build wealth.
In recent years there has been a rise in the number of Christian women providing advice on how to build profitable businesses, as well as helping other women to generate and build wealth.
I’m glad I live in a time when the Church has moved away from its once prevailing view that money was evil (a misinterpretation of 1 Timothy 6:10), and Christians should stay as far away from it as possible. I’m also glad that the prosperity gospel is on its way out.