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Pinellas letters: How much more should churches do?

Re: Churches obligated to help communities

Diane Steinle column, March 16

Churches already doing their part

I wonder what you were thinking when you wrote the article. The St. Petersburg Times is a major business that can probably better afford to supplement community services than our sister churches with small congregations. What if we expected your company to, say, build a teen center to help boost the community spirit in the Greenwood community?

Ever since George Bush entered office eight years ago, I have heard calls for the "faith-based community" to support various needs in our nation and in our cities. These folks go on to say that budgets are tight so the faith-based community must take up the slack. Whatever happened to creating solid budgets and staying within logical, sane limits?

I find that people who urge church participation for social problems and issues are many times those who never enter a church, much less contribute to the church's growth and outreach. Are you a member of a church and if so, do you contribute both financially and with your time?

There are so many needs in our area. Our church has a strong community outreach but can only meet so many needs because of our budget. Where do you think our operating budget comes from?

Are you aware of the many great things our local churches are doing in this community? They do feed and clothe the hungry and oppressed. Our Bible tells us to reach out to lost souls. We are a place of refuge and hope, not an extension of the Police Department or backup for the city's budgetary needs.

Where did you get your information on declining church membership? There are many thriving churches in our area. My husband and I are active members of one of them, Calvary Baptist.

As Christians, not only are we asked to tell the good news of Jesus, but we are also called to be good stewards of monies contributed. Can you say this about our government, both local and national? Case in point: the spending of $10-million on downtown Clearwater redevelopment to enhance the living of residents who are "tax-exempt church" members.

I would be happy to welcome you to our church so you can see firsthand why churches exist. We are the body of Christ actively serving the community.

Wendy Snellgrove, Clearwater

Re: Churches obligated to help communities

Diane Steinle column, March 16

Faithful should pick up the slack

As a taxpayer, I applaud the efforts of Clearwater police Chief Sid Klein and Mayor Frank Hibbard in reaching out to our local churches to provide help and guidance to our families with youths at risk. As a person of faith, I see this as our duty.

Families trying to make a living are not always able to be home to supervise their young ones. A recent survey by the YWCA Hispanic Outreach Center in Clearwater confirmed this observation and pointed out the need for neighborhood places where children can safely gather after school.

With the tax cut measures that are soon to be implemented, more and more of our recreation centers will not be able to stay open to offer after-school programs. Churches should step in and supplement these services, in addition to providing guidance to those who are in trouble.

Maria N. Edmonds,

Tarpon Springs

Re: Churches obligated to help communities

To get support, you must give it

You are correct that the Gospel preached by Jesus was not to be limited to the walls of the church and those who already believe and practice its precepts. Jesus never addressed a spiritual need until he first met the physical need in a person's life. As Christians can be defined as "Little Christs," it seems his example is a good one to follow.

You are correct with your question regarding the church involvement in "lifting of the downtrodden" and such. Further you ask the key question, "If churches don't do these things, who will?

"Who will?"

So why do they not? I assume you want to do more than announce the problem, so this is the question that must be addressed before things will change.

I believe it begins with the "morass" you say the church should eagerly wade into instead of staying within the walls. Your answer lies in how the morass came to be in the first place. Track society's decline and then compare it with the escalating attack on prayer, the militant reduction of church influence in schools and in public areas, and the overall tainting of church by the media and the society you say the church should save. You ask the church to fulfill the Great Commission and follow the Ten Commandments in a population that has been indoctrinated and inundated with the notion that the church in 2008 is irrelevant.

You ask why the church will not step up to the plate when they are often pictured as a nuisance and an antiquated form of devotion with rigid standards. Yet we as a society continue to pour dollar after dollar into social programs and building parks and programs. How much money has been poured into the North Greenwood area of Clearwater? Yet the problem comes right back to the volunteer-driven and volunteer-financed doorsteps of the local church.

If you want the church to make a difference, you must make church a different thing in your life. You must support the church in a more positive way than in the past.

What would happen if the money we put into the social programs went instead to the church to hire staff and create programs and facilities geared to meet these needs based on the biblical model? What would the response of the St. Petersburg Times be? Would it make the front page? What would you write about a publicly financed, government-backed, Bible-based reaction to the morass? I think it might make a page a bit closer to the front of the particular edition at least.

The responsibility does indeed lie with the church. It must also be said that the church does indeed have the answers to the problems. Further, the church has a biblical mandate to maintain relevance within the community.

Perhaps the reason that the churches hesitate to be more involved is that we have been relegated to the role of safe haven for those who are weary of the morass you mention. Church is the last bastion of common sense and moralistic teaching, and it should be the first place we turn. The fortress mentality is not what the Lord intended for his church, but it is a natural reaction to the attacks that seem to come from every corner.

My question to you is this: What will you do to support the church in this work? How far will you go in using your influence and your public voice in promoting what you ask the churches to do?

If you don't do these things, who will? Who will?

Dr. Kenneth C. Link, senior pastor, Lakeview Baptist Church, Clearwater

Re: Churches obligated to help communities

Kudos for shining spotlight on issue

Thanks for reminding us (me) that we are our brothers' keeper. It is strange that in today's society it takes a politician and a law enforcement officer to be the "preachers."

I do know that I am going to take this up with my church leaders (we are a large downtown church, not Scientologist) and see what we can do. It is refreshing to see the media not afraid to tackle and bring to light, and expose, influential leaders and their lack of vision.

Thanks again and keep up the work that is necessary.

Donald R. "Doc" Hill, Clearwater

Re: Churches asked to do more | story, March 7

Heal lives first, then the souls

I think Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard and the police have the right idea as to pastors helping to reduce crime by coming out from the pulpit and letting people know there is help. And if not from God's leaders, who else?

Speaking about soul-saving, as one pastor says that's his role and he doesn't want to deviate from that, what if no new people ever came to his church? Whose soul would he save? Christ never had a church with walls, and yet he saved millions, as that was his job as his father's son to save mankind from whatever kind of sin had touched their lives.

Helping those who have become addicted to drugs and alcohol is no different from helping a person with a terminal illness. Any God-fearing pastor would certainly visit such sick people, and drugs and alcohol addiction are also a sickness. If we can rid the community of these problems, just think how many souls could be saved in the process.

Can you imagine how much worse crime would be right here in Clearwater if we didn't have places like food banks, Helping Hands, soup kitchens and churches whose members donate their time to serve at these different places? Many of these people have been into drugs and alcohol, and many can't find work, so they'd be back on the streets committing crimes if not for these different charities.

All pastors should be willing to help in any way they can if they are true followers of Christ, as he left us the example to follow.

You save them from a life of crime first and then save their souls. If you refuse to leave your church, how can you see the need?

Fran Glaros-Sharp, Clearwater

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Pinellas letters: How much more should churches do? 03/22/08 [Last modified: Monday, March 24, 2008 1:35pm]
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