I started attending Grace Family Church in November 2006, partly because of a referral from my previous church in Orlando. When I saw a billboard at the intersection of Dale Mabry Highway and Kennedy Boulevard that read, You Matter to God—Grace Family Church, that sealed it.
I had only been attending a few months when Pastor Craig Altman gave a series of sermons on finances. I wanted to meet with him and discuss Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University (FPU) course. I told the Pastor that I wanted to help someone lead FPU because I knew nothing about personal finance, yet desperately needed help in that area.
During college, I had ignored my parents’ advice and signed up for a ton of debt. (Yes, I got the free T-shirts and Frisbees). I thought I was buying happiness, while also trying to impress people. After graduating from Ohio State, I leapt into business and continued to feed my debt habit. A few years later, at the age of 25, I filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy, after months without a job. At a time when many young professionals were launching successful lives, mine was sinking.
I was ashamed and embarrassed to tell anyone about my financial problems. The situation sent me into a tailspin that lasted almost five years.
Like the billboard said, however, God showed me that I mattered to Him. He had plans to prosper me and not to harm me, just as the Bible declares in Jeremiah 29:11. God had a future and hope for me. He pulled me from the distress of debt and showed a poor steward of His gifts that His grace is sufficient for me. He used Grace Family Church to teach me about salvation through Jesus Christ. I learned that I didn’t have to be buried under my mountain of mistakes.
In March 2007 the Lord led Pastor Craig to have faith in me, despite my financial ignorance. I had talked with him about helping someone else lead FPU, but Pastor Craig asked me to lead the first class of 18 people—alone. I learned later that a cellophane-wrapped FPU kit had already been sitting in the church’s storage, unopened. I opened it, and the GFC Stewardship ministry was born.
Since then, God has authored countless stewardship success stories, including my own. As a single man, I learned how to give, save and spend God’s way. I eliminated more than $37,000 in debt and saved over $20,000 in an emergency fund in less than two years. Two years later, I was married to my beautiful wife, Becky Dean Horvath, and we began our marriage anchored in financial agreement. We even paid off our home—all before I turned 40!
Now in our seventh year of the Stewardship Ministry, we are growing just like the rest of Grace Family Church. FPU has expanded to annual enrollment of 300 to 500 people. So far more than 2,000 people have taken FPU. Together, they have eliminated more than $4.5 million in debt and saved over $1.5 million in emergency funds. We have furthered our reach with other small groups, classes and workshops, including Dave Ramsey’s Legacy Journey, Financial Freedom 1-Day, Money Mentors Financial Counseling, Foundations in Personal Finance for College, and Generation Change for High School. In 2014 we launched the Purpose Vocational Ministry.
Through it all, I have learned that God’s way works no matter how many resources you have. He has worked financial miracles in my life and in the lives of so many others who sought to become good stewards. The results that followed over the years have proven what God can do when we trust Him with everything, including our finances.
Article originally published in Grace Family Church 20th Anniversary Magazine and Ramsey Solution’s Stewardship Central.org.