About Dr. Soaries, Jr.

DeForest B. Soaries, Jr.

Dr. DeForest B. Soaries, Jr. is the Senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset, New Jersey. His pastoral ministry focuses on spiritual growth, educational excellence, economic empowerment and faith-based community development.

He is the author of “dfree: Breaking Free from Financial Slavery," which was published in February 2011 by Zondervan. The book is based on Dr. Soaries’ dfree® strategy, which uses a four-prong approach to teach people how to be debt free. It is his goal for his 7,000-member congregation to be debt free. A dfree® lifestyle means living without debt, deficits and delinquencies. The dfree® strategy, established in 2005, is available to churches, community organizations, businesses and universities.

dfree® was also the focus of the third installment of CNN’s Black in America documentary “Almighty Debt,” which originally aired October 2010. The 90-minute cable-news feature highlighted three families at First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens who were facing tough financial times as a result of the recession, from home foreclosure to underemployment and the struggles associated with paying for college.

Continuing his effort to stress the importance of financial freedom, Dr. Soaries has launched a national anti-payday loan campaign. This campaign is being coordinated by the Center for Responsible Lending based in Durham, North Carolina. The goal of this campaign is to educate the public about these predatory lenders that legally charge borrowers 300 – 500% interest on short-term loans and to mobilize a grass roots opposition to these predatory lending practices.

Dr. Soaries’ experience in creating change stems from his youth. As a college student, he led a campaign against drug use on campus that resulted in his being kidnapped at gunpoint from his dormitory room by drug dealers. He later worked on civil rights issues for the Urban League as a community organizer and Operation PUSH as the national coordinator.

His roles during and after college eventually led to historic and noteworthy government positions. From Jan. 12, 1999 to Jan. 15, 2002, Dr. Soaries served as New Jersey's 30th Secretary of State making him the first African-American male to serve as a constitutional officer of the state Dr. Soaries is also the former chairman of the United States Election Assistance Commission. Dr. Soaries was appointed by The President of the United States on Dec. 15, 2003 after being confirmed by the United States Senate.

Dr. Soaries is a popular speaker at colleges, universities, conferences and churches around the world, as well as, a frequent advisor to major corporations in the areas of diversity, philanthropy and community relations. He is also special advisor to His Majesty the Okyenhene (King) of the Akyem Abuaka Traditional Kingdom in Ghana, Osageyfuo Amoatia Ofori Panin II. He was recently honored by the government of Liberia and recognized at an Indigenous Investiture where he was designated and robed as a Paramount Chief.

Dr. Soaries earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Fordham University, a Master of Divinity Degree from Princeton Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Ministry Degree from United Theological Seminary. He has taught at numerous colleges and universities, the most recent being Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He has also received six honorary Doctorate degrees from institutions of higher learning.

In 2012 Dr. Soaries was listed on the Annual “Power 100” List by Ebony Magazine which identifies the most influential African Americans in the country. He is a frequent blogger and contributor to various periodicals and media. His work has been featured in several publications including the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Ebony Magazine, Black Enterprise, Church Executive and Government Executive Magazine.

Dr. Soaries resides in Central New Jersey with his wife, Donna and twin sons, Malcolm and Martin.

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