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OIL INTO WHINE? Churches along gulf hoping to share in BP payout (What do YOU think?)

Image: Pastor Dan Brown

This is a guest post by my friend Mike Loomis. Find out more about him at his blog.

The oil spill in the gulf is horrible. Period. The ocean, wildlife, and coastline will be affected for years, maybe decades. Untold thousands are hurt, both financially and in terms of opportunities. Future plans are shattered. My heart goes out to these people, and I’m glad there is some financial assistance for them from British Petroleum.

This news story from MSNBC caught my attention yesterday. A church in Alabama has applied for $50,000 in financial disaster relief from BP. The pastor was quoted as saying, “We’re fighting for our lives just like a business.”

Another local church leader said that churches that abide by biblical stewardship principles don’t need help from BP because they often find “miraculous provision” for their needs, adding “There also are more practical problems to seeking compensation from BP.”

I can see both sides, but right now I’m uneasy with a church applying for damages from government/business because of lost donations.

What are the implications here? Is the church “just like a business”? Does the church have a case? Shouldn’t a church be a solution to a problem, rather than a victim? Why did the national media think this story was interesting?

What do you think?



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Steven

posted July 30, 2010 at 8:48 am


Yet again, the “clubhouse” is SO important. The little churches only last as long as people come in the doors. I wonder what Jesus would really think of this kind of thing. The money seems to be in control.



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Brian

posted July 30, 2010 at 8:55 am


I have a problem with this. A church can survive through this. The building may not but the church can still be active, maybe house churches?



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Jessica

posted July 30, 2010 at 9:16 am


No, I don’t think BP should need to pay nonprofits for lost donations. (Except possible assistance to the pastor if the church cannot afford to pay his salary–similar to assistance given to seafood restaurant employees or whatnot whose employers can’t afford to pay them right now.)

If the church or other nonprofit is doing something to help the PEOPLE affected by this disaster in a way BP is not, then I could see asking for donations from churches and others in other areas of the country. I would consider donating to a church down there that was offering assistance to struggling families, but NOT just to keep their doors open.



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Riggs

posted July 30, 2010 at 9:20 am


Although if we’re supposed to pay taxes to “help the needy” and “share the wealth” than why not use some to help a struggling church?

This was a quick comment… haven’t had time to really think this through.



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Noelle

posted July 30, 2010 at 10:26 am


Why is the church having financial troubles due to the oil spill? Is it due to the financial problems members of the congregation are facing with their tourism or sea-related jobs? Seems too indirect a connection to me to spread whatever monies do come. I live in one of the poorest counties in the U.S. Everyone suffers if no one has good jobs. It’s hard to place the blame on one place and expect a handout though. I don’t see our area churches requesting money from the failing auto industry or the corrupt banks that led to so many foreclosed homes.

When the butterfly flaps its wings and there’s a hurricane on the other side of the world, you don’t get to sue the butterfly



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    Mike Loomis

    posted July 30, 2010 at 11:46 am


    Love the butterfly comment, Noelle!



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    Adam Shields

    posted July 30, 2010 at 8:43 pm


    But this was not a butterfly. There is a direct connection between loss of fishing and oil rig jobs and the amount of money those former employees can give to a church. If a resturant empoloyee has the connection, why not a pastor. Small church are usually 70-80 percent building and salary.



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Dayne Jones

posted July 30, 2010 at 10:36 am


My friend was going to give me $100. He got oil on his shoe and had to spend $100 to replace them and now can not give me $100. BP is responsible for my loss.



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John Dobbs

posted July 30, 2010 at 11:02 am


A little experience in this area, having been a minister at a church on the Mississippi Gulf Coast following Katrina. Although Katrina was more vivid, the destruction easier to detail (i.e. news stories wondering where the oil slick is now … this story is going away). I do not think it is wrong to make appeals when there is a need. Christians of a common mind are usually willing to help – and in some coastal communities the loss of the fishing industry is a catastrophe. I do have a problem, though, with seeking financial support from a company because it smacks of greed. Whether it is greed or not is a matter of the heart and someone else will have to judge, but it LOOKS like a desire to get on the bandwagon of handouts. In my opinion the Christian world ought to take care of its own. More government involvement means less autonomy (a word that means nothing to this administration). This church should appeal to their denomination for help. If we follow their cue, then many churches could ask Wall Street or Freddie Mac or …well… you get the picture. The outpouring of love and funding from various denominations allowed us to minister to our community. A gift from a parachurch organization was given to repair our building. We were thankful to be able to do both. But in matter of priority, we helped our community for several months before getting our building back in order. Interesting story.



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    Adam Shields

    posted July 30, 2010 at 8:45 pm


    My question would then be, is anyone helping these churches? Many are going to be non-denominational. And even if they are denominational, many of the free-church style denominations (Baptist, etc.) would not think of providing support to another local church out of their area.



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Charlie H.

posted July 30, 2010 at 6:15 pm


the only way it would make sense is the church is going to buckle and not pay its rent, but even then they could just roll with the punches and move locations. But it definitely seems to stink of taking advantage of the situation and being money hungry, even more so when the article refers to it as lost revenue (there is no direct quote so maybe the reporter called it that).



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Adam Shields

posted July 30, 2010 at 8:48 pm


Many of the comments seem to suggest that this is a government handout. The money is not government money. This is more like an insurance payment. If your church building was destroyed because of the negligence of a local company (gas station explosion, fire, etc.) would it be wrong to expect that the company should be responsible for the cost?



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Ken Summerlin

posted July 30, 2010 at 11:02 pm


I’m a native and resident of the Gulf Coast, living just across Mobile Bay from Bayou La Batre, the community referenced in the MSNBC story. There’s no question that both the environment and economy of our region has been severely impacted by this oil spill nor that the economic implications have adversely affected contributions to churches and NPOs. In his comment above, Adam Shields makes an interesting comparison between the BP compensation fund and insurance claims. Even so, I think asking for or accepting compensation from BP would be a terrible mistake and an example of “getting ahead of God.” It seems to me that asking for this money from BP is akin to the church saying to God, “You don’t understand my needs. What you are giving me to work with through the hands of your people is not enough. I can supplement your provisions with money from this large corporation.”

Take a look at the comments that follow the original MSNBC story to get a glimpse at how the world sees this. Do we really want to give them this impression of what we believe about God?



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    Adam Shields

    posted July 31, 2010 at 5:57 am


    I think that how people perceive this is important. But why is this not an insurance claim? Should you not accept an insurance payment “because God will take care of us?”



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      Mike Loomis

      posted July 31, 2010 at 8:22 am


      Good points, Ken and Adam – and all!

      As Ken pointed out, the comments on the MSNBC story (and the fact that they did a story at all) were central to my concerns.

      “70-80% of a church’s budget for building and salary” doesn’t seem to lessen the concerns. Is a church “just like a business”?

      I agree with Adam’s point that taking an insurance claim is OK, but remember that this requires the purchase of a policy.



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        Adam Shields

        posted July 31, 2010 at 9:09 am


        If someone hits your car, it is their insurance policy, not yours that pays. You do not need to have an insurance policy to get paid (unless your state requires one to drive.)

        I really do think that public opinion should be considered. But what should not be considered is the morality of taking the money. If you have been damaged, and the line of damage is clear, it is not immoral or inappropriate to accept money as compensation.

        The church is not a business, but the church (as it is run in the US) does require money to operate. I don’t think that it cheapens the church to acknowledge the weakness of the congregation.

        I am worked with a lot of poor churches (as a denominational staff person). Many of these churches can barely open the doors. I know many pastors that are maxed out on personal credit cards to keep the doors open. But what is almost universally true of these churches is that they are more generous than much better off churches. In large part because the church is made up of the poor themselves. I am not idolizing these poor churches. Many make spectacularly bad decisions about how to operate. But most of the time, those bad decisions are done with the desire to help people.



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