The Reverend Dr. DeForest B. Soaries, Jr. has served as the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens (FBCLG) in Somerset, New Jersey since November 1990. His pastoral ministry focuses on spiritual growth, educational excellence, economic empowerment, and faith-based community development.

As a pioneer of faith-based community development, Dr. Soaries’ impact on First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens (FBCLG) and the community has been tremendous. In 1992, he founded the Central Jersey Community  Development Corporation (CJCDC): a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that specializes in helping vulnerable neighborhoods. In 1996, the CJCDC launched Harvest of Hope Family Services Network, Inc. (HOH). This organization seeks to develop permanent solutions for foster children and parents.

From 1999 to 2002, Dr. Soaries served as New Jersey’s Secretary of State, making him the first African-American male to do so. He also served as the former chairman of the United States Election Assistance Commission, which was established by Congress to implement the “Help America Vote Act” of 2002.

In 2005, Dr. Soaries launched the dfree® Financial Freedom Movement. The dfree® strategy teaches people how to break free from debt. In 2011, Dr. Soaries wrote his first book: “dfree®: Breaking Free from Financial Slavery” (Zondervan), which highlights his top 12 keys to debt-free living. The book was updated and reintroduced in 2015 under the current title of “Say Yes to No Debt: 12 Steps to Financial Freedom.”

Dr. Soaries currently serves as an Independent Director at Independence Realty Trust, a position he has held since February 2011. He has also served as an Independent Director of the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York since January 2009. And in January 2015, he became a Director of Ocwen Financial Corporation.

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.

Dr. Soaries resides in Monmouth Junction, New Jersey with his wife, Donna, and twin sons.