Sunday, February 06, 2011

Bellevue Lo♥es Soda Cans!

This morning Steve Gaines announced that Bellevue has spent $3000 on a trailer to place on the church parking lot which will be used to collect aluminum cans. The proceeds from recycling the cans will be given to Life Choices, a local crisis pregnancy center. Now, that's a commendable goal which I cannot criticize.

However, did anyone really think this through before they dropped $3000 on what appears to be the type of flatbed, mesh-sided trailer landscaping companies use? Seriously? I mean, surely in those big outbuildings somewhere on the lush, manicured Bellevue "campus" there is already a fleet of trailers. We've seen the "Bellevue Lo♥es Memphis" trailer.

If nothing else and if you really want to recycle, tear down some of those old SCT, MPP, or VBS sets which will never be used again and have some volunteers build a big, secure recycling box.

Instead, the church, in their infinite lack of wisdom with their seemingly bottomless coffers, chose to spend $3000 on a brand new trailer. Oh, but wait! There's a catch. Life Choices will see no immediate benefit from this project. Rather, Steve says in the video clip that after the trailer is paid for all money collected from future recycling will be donated to Life Choices.

He did strongly hint that someone or perhaps a Sunday School class (or whatever they're calling SS now, I can't keep up) could dig into their own pockets and pay for the trailer immediately, but assuming that doesn't happen, let's consider just how many aluminum cans it's going to take simply to recoup the cost of the trailer.

A little research reveals that it takes about 32 of today's aluminum cans to equal one pound. It used to be around 24-25, but today's cans are lighter.

It varies, but from what I can tell, the going rate in this area for aluminum cans right now is about 30 cents a pound. Therefore, just to break even on the cost of the trailer and not factoring in the cost of getting the cans to the recycling center, it's going to take about 10,000 pounds (5 tons) of aluminum cans to recover $3000. That translates into 320,000 individual cans.

Put another way, the 13,333 cases of cans (24 cans/case) it takes to equal 320,000 cans would measure about 14,867 square feet or roughly 1/4 the size of a football field (if you include the end zones) if they were to be laid side by side in a single layer. Or if you were to stack all those cases in a single pile they'd reach a height of 5278 feet. One mile = 5280 feet.

Petty? Maybe. What's $3000 out of an annual budget of almost $20 million? If you're one of the many families that doesn't even make $3000 in a whole month, it might be very significant.

Today was "Prove the Tithe" Sunday at Bellevue. Yesterday every Bellevue family received an automated, pre-recorded phone call from Brother Steve saying (paraphrased but close), "Tomorrow is 'Prove the Tithe' Sunday at Bellevue Baptist Church. God says, 'Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,' says the LORD of hosts, 'if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.' Whether you already tithe or not, we're asking you to take one-tenth of what you make in one week and give that to our church in the form of a tithe. Blah blah blah."

That sounds awfully Benny Hinnish to me. Proof-texting one verse of scripture from the Old Testament to convince people they must give "one-tenth of your income, undesignated, to the budget of the local church" if they want to be blessed by God is not the generous, cheerful (i.e. without compulsion) giving taught in the New Testament.

If you're giving a tenth or more to Bellevue Baptist Church in an undesignated fashion and doing so cheerfully believing it's all going to do the work of the Lord, that's great. Keep giving. Give even more! I would think, though, that a prudent person would expect the church to be good stewards of that money, and I'm not convinced this example is one of good stewardship.

I find it ironic that Bellevue continues to pressure people to give more while every few weeks Steve Gaines is gallivanting around the country and even overseas to speak at conferences, lead Holy Land trips, and I've lost track of the weeks of vacation. (Time off for recent knee surgery is certainly legitimate.)

Barely a year ago they extended the platform in the auditorium, and now they plan to tear all that out and completely redo the platform and choir loft. (See the Vision 2010 Plan and the Love Offering 2010 mailing for artist conceptions.) They bought an expensive new center IMAG screen and projector year before last. Now they plan to replace all three IMAG screens.

Later this month Steve and four staff members from the church, David Coombs, Drew Tucker, Steve Marcum, and Russ Quinn, will be traveling to Gardendale, Alabama to lead "sessions" at the 2011 Alabama State Evangelism Conference, funded by Alabama Baptists.

Does it strike anyone else as a bit ironic that David Coombs is leading a session called Adding Water to the Soup (Budgets, Buildings and Adjusting to a New Normal)? It's described as a "hard look at how to survive and adjust in this new economy." I guess that means "spending money today like it's water because you might not have it tomorrow." Reminds me of the federal government. In fact, "nickels and noses" seems to be the common thread throughout the session topics at what is being called an evangelism conference. In a 20-page PDF file the name of Jesus is mentioned twice.

So guzzle those Diet Cokes everybody, and Life Choices, y'all hang in there. The check will be in the mail as soon as the members of Bellevue have collectively drunk a mile-high stack of cases of Diet Coke and the trailer is paid for in full.

Will they accept Bud Light cans?