Monday, April 21, 2008

(Guest Writer – Rand Clark, CO) I begin with a confession… I am not a brilliant theologian, but I try my best to understand. I am not a scientist, nor to do I begin to suggest that I understand half of what they tell me. I am not a significant pastor and I really have no desire to be such, except maybe to those who God has allowed me to touch. I am a church planter and most days it is all I can do to rely on the Holy Spirit to live as He would have me to live

In recent days, the issue of environmentalism and creation care has again been brought to the table for discussion within the SBC. I was asked to consider the SBE&CI prior to its release a few weeks ago. I reviewed it but chose not sign it for my own reasons, even though I continue to be in support of the debate and dialogue it has sparked.

This issue is important to me and many others like me. Even this morning, sitting in a coffee shop writing down my thoughts I have had conversations with five others about the environment and my faith—some consider themselves followers of Jesus and others do not.

I am not in a position to make broad statements about these issues and their implications within our denomination. I can only share from my experiences and tell you the story of how the church I lead engages in this dialogue.

In our community context, the environment holds a position of high importance. We did a very unscientific survey, but went to 60 homes (2%) in our neighborhood and asked them on a scale of one to five how important was taking care of the environment. We were not shocked when the data showed the average response to be just over four.

They are not the “tree huggers” that live in the bush to protest expansion. They are soccer moms who recycle and use compact fluorescent light bulbs. They spend their free time in the mountains, at the park, fishing, skiing, camping, biking, hiking, etc. In fact, in our community we often say that the biggest barrier to God is His creation. They love creation but have no relationship with the Creator.

Because of this, we have not found the environment to be a distraction from the Gospel but the exact opposite. It has been a platform for the Gospel! It connects to a value within our community and affords us the opportunity to share Jesus.

I frequent a local coffee shop to use their internet and spend time with people. Last week I was waiting for my coffee and talking with one of the baristas. I don’t even really know how it came up but I had an opportunity to share with her about an environmental project our church was promoting. It was simple, global event that encouraged people to turn off their lights for one hour that Saturday night.

Her first question after I shared about the event was, “Why are you promoting this?” I told her that my church was interested in helping people take care of God’s creation so we involve ourselves in activities like this and encourage others to join us. Her response… “Wow, I didn’t know churches did that sort of thing.” That sparked about a 10-minute conversation about faith in which I was able to share with her about Jesus Christ. Since then, we have continued the conversation about both the environment and faith in Jesus.

For the same event, we used our connections at the local Chamber of Commerce to connect with businesses in our community. I had a similar discussion and reaction from one of the staff members at the Chamber. I have never had a spiritual conversation before with her, but because this event connected to one of her values, I was able to have an extended conversation about my church and why we champion God’s creation. Again and again people’s response is the same: “I never thought the church or Christians cared about this stuff.”

Last year, we passed out 1,000 environmentally friendly light bulbs to our community. I was stopped a few weeks later by a young couple regarding the light bulbs and our church. The wife told me that she liked what we were doing so much that she took the bulb to her church, a Mormon congregation, down the street. This led to a 45-minute conversation about the differences in our faith. Because we share a common value—concern for the environment—I got to share about Jesus.

For me and my congregation, the issue of faith and the environment is not a political issue (although I fear that for too long it has been made into one, thereby damaging our witness in the culture). It is not even a scientific one, for “experts” cannot agree on what the science is telling us about our impact on the world. For me, it is singularly a Biblical issue. God is the Creator of everything, and He has asked us to be good stewards of it.

In a culture that relies upon humanistic “good works” to carry them into the next life, taking care of the environment is topping the list of “do’s and don’ts” that they believe they will be judged against. I see people that are on wife number four but wouldn’t be caught dead driving anything other than their beloved Prius. This provides a perfect opportunity to connect with people and share our faith.

Ask someone why they recycle, drive a hybrid, clean up trash along a trail, or use energy efficient light bulbs or appliances and tell you it is the right thing to do, they want to reduce their carbon footprint, it saves them money, etc. If you are doing it with them, I bet they will ask you the same question. My response to them is, “I worship the God that created all of this. Because I have a relationship with Him through His Son Jesus, I take joy in being able to help take care of what He created.”
Rand Clark is the Pastor of Genesis Church, a church plant in Castle Rock, CO. A graduate of UCLA ('95) and Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary ('08), he has been in ministry since 1995. Genesis Church uses the platform of community transformation and creation care to effectively build networks for evangelism.

1 comment:

Shane "George" Lambert said...


Great article. Thanks for sharing it on your blog.

Sometimes I fear that my skepticism over the man-made global warming hysteria might be mistaken for a lack of concern over the environment.

I, like yourself and the author of this article, believe we have a responsibility as Christians to be good stewards of all that God has blessed us with; and that includes this wonderful world.

And I like the idea of using the environment as a springboard for witnessing. What an incredible opportunity to share with someone the joys of worshipping the creator rather than the creation.

Good stuff!