Over the last few months I’ve been watching the BP oil spill disaster unfold with horror and amazement. Here is one of the world’s biggest oil spills, a slow-motion tragedy.
What has also struck me is the jaw-dropping similarity between what has happened to the reputation of BP in a few months and what has happened to the reputation of the church over the millennia.
BP Loses Credibility
When BP was rebranded as ‘Beyond Petroleum’ it heralded a beginning of a new era. BP became a leader for change and hope in the search for alternative fuel. It is now perceived as a dirty, slow-to-act, greedy multinational.
The Church Loses Credibility
When the church began in the New Testament it heralded in a new age. The clear resounding voice of the church was one of freedom (from legalism and law), love, grace, acceptance, hope, physical healing and eternal life, to name just a few. But over time the church has become perceived as a place of narrow-mindedness, judgmentalism, hate, insensitivity and hypocrisy.
What happened? How did the church lose its voice? For many young Christians, the church’s voice is unrecognizable, so they’re leaving. And those outside the church often put their hands over their ears whenever they hear the church’s voice.
I think that the church’s voice has changed. We are heard for what we are against rather than what we are for. Have you noticed that the majority of media mentions of the church are for sexual abuse, homophobia or misogyny?
Some would say this is a church leadership problem, but is also very much a communications problem. We all know churches are doing fantastic work out there. How do we get our real voice heard?
Where is the Church in the Oil Spill?
One interesting note that actually connects BP and the church together is what I haven’t seen the church do in this disaster. Unlike Haiti, the Asian tsunami, the Nashville flood and other disasters, there has been little worldwide—or even from what I can see online American-wide—church response to this environmental disaster.
Some individual churches have pledged their assistance. They’re speaking with their actions and letting their fellow citizens know they care. And the National Association of Evangelicals has declared July 18 a National Day of Prayer for the Gulf. That’s what we need! But overall, the voice of the church has been quiet.
No avatars, no badges on church websites, no churches helping churches on this one. No bus loads of church volunteers rallying to the clean up. It’s the biggest man-made environmental disaster in American history. Livelihoods are being ruined, communities economically devastated. And the church is saying what?
Kevin Hendricks said in a recent post about this same issue that ‘the best marketing is action.’ Perhaps action here is a step to rediscovering the church’s voice.
- How is your church perceived in your community? How do you know?
- How is your church’s voice heard in your community?
- How do you think the wider church can reclaim its voice?
- How is the church responding to the oil spill? (We’d love to see examples proving that the church is responding well!)