I’VE BEEN BLESSED over the past 18 months to review three very different books on Christian ecology by three guys I would recommend without hesitation as examples for our generation.
- Dr. J. Matthew Sleeth’s "Serve God, Save the Planet" starts with Matt’s trading in his family’s king-size house for the King’s priorities. As he puts it, their new house was "about the same size as their former garage." It’s a great read on how individual Christians and their families can respond to God’s call for environmental stewardship.
- Pastor Tri Robinson’s "Saving God’s Green Earth" is a book every pastor, youth minister and lay leader needs on his or her bookshelf. Better, on the corner of the desk or dresser for ready reference and review. It is what every pastor needs to kickoff and sustain an ecology effort with tons of information on where to turn for help.
- Ed Brown’s new book "Our Father’s World – Mobilizing the Church to Care for Creation" [Cheaper here than at Amazon. ed] is the third.
It’s been said that before the Church was given the Great Commission to reach the lost, we received the First Commission to tend the garden (i.e. the earth). I am convinced our efforts to achieve the First will become a gong show (OK, that dates me) if we do not completely affix it to the Great. Fortunately for us, my fellow eco-blogger brother in Christ gets this: He brings us creation care from the heart of a missionary.
I HAD THE pleasure of meeting Ed at Vineyard Boise last summer after a year of back and forth blog posts and emails. Hearing him relate first-hand his testimony about how God moved him (rather relentlessly) from leadership in a traditional African missions organization to Au Sable Institute to Care of Creation Inc in April 05 was a treat. His including this as a thread throughout the book lends a great deal of credibility, especially for those who wouldn’t think of environmentalism as a Christian mission field.
Which it clearly is. Or at least should be.
Ed outlines his book in the Introduction which I hereby plagiarize in good blogger fashion. The first chapter covers the current environmental crisis "in broad strokes." Chapters 2-6 lays out the Christian response to this as found in Scripture, and "…a discussion of a few of the major doctrines that are important in this regard: Creation, incarnation, sin, redemption and the Church." He avoids eschatology, noting:
The more perceptive reader will note that one doctrine I have not covered is eschatology – end times, the return of Jesus at the end of history. This may seem odd, as one of the arguments sometimes posed against caring for creation is that "it’s all going to burn up anyway." This is hardly a serious point of view, and usually evaporates with a simple analogy [of caring for our bodies even though they are also temporary]….[T]he main reason I’ve skipped this doctrine in this book is that I’m not quite ready to wade into that discussion.
That neither surprises nor bothers me one bit. A missionary’s heart knows Christ may return at any moment, but rather than being distracted by this, the knowledge simply urges him on to the task at hand.
Those tasks he outlines in chapters 7-10, which he calls "the mobilization of the Church in practical terms," from worship and education to facilities and the missions program.
"Remember the term, ‘Mobilization’," he writes. "We want to activate resources that are already in place. Much of what is needed is already present in almost every congregation or church fellowship…" Ecology is a "mix in" he says, applying a gourmet ice cream shop analogy.
The book remindes me of something I think I heard him say in Boise: If we’re reluctant to get ecology into the Church through the pulpit, we can bring it in through the missions committee. In the last chapter Ed appeals to those folks, along with pastors and ministry leaders (and especially students) to begin to do that. He wraps up his introduction this way:
If the Church (uppercase C) is to mobilize, it will only happen if many churches (lower case C) become concerned and active – and this will only happen if individual people decide that this is important enough to do something about. For in the end, a church is what its members are, and a church does what its members decide to do.
- Good bits from congregations doing simple things that yield big effects. He writes for instance about a congregation that started using their own coffee mugs instead of 800 styrofoam cups each Sunday, eliminating 40,000 cups worth of waste each year.
- Enough scripture to make it beefy enough for a Bible study. Covers everything from Romans 3:23 ("the wages of sin is death) to Isaiah 5:8-10 ("woe to you who add house to house and join field to field till no space is left and you live alone in the land…").
- An emphasis on "reconciliation before restoration," recognizing that the hard work of creation care cannot be accomplished with hearts hardened by sin.
- An acknowledgement that it is the Church and the power of the Spirit of Christ working through her that is the engine that will drive change.
That last one is important. I’m prone to forgetting that creation care is a corporate effort, not a collection of individual ones. For others creation care is a national or even global effort. Ed relentlessly keeps the Body of Christ in full view as the way to bring "spiritual power to practical problems."
Two more things. First, Ed has kindly but firmly admonished me in the past that the evidence for global warming and its human cause is overwhelming and demands immediate action. This is apparent throughout the book.
Use of energy from fossil fuels is also the major driving force behind global climate change. Every puff of greenhouse gas that your church pumps into the atmospher adds to the problems being caused by climate change, increasing future damage on God’s creation for your children, your grandchildren, and your Christian brothers and sisters around the world. It is simple to help. All we have to do is reduce the amount of energy we’re using. And at the same time, we can check with our local utility to see if it is possible to purchase green power from sources like wind. Many utilities now offer this as an option.
Manmade or not (or something in between), Ed and I fully agree that our climate is changing and will have consequences to which the Church must respond. And his urgency on greening up our biggest source of corporate church pollution – our worship and education buildings – is spot on. In other words, Ed’s take on climate change isn’t a bone of contention for me here and it shouldn’t be for you, but global warming is a hot topic and I thought you’d want to know about it.
And second, a disclaimer of sorts. We are blessed with a steady stream of Blogad sponsors that help us keep The Evangelical Ecologist on the web. After paying our bills we donate the rest to green Christian organizations. To date that’s been Care of Creation Inc. Like Ed I always try to speak the truth in love, and our association didn’t influence my opinion of the book.
Couldn’t recommend "Our Father’s World" more strongly. In fact, buy a couple and pass the extras on to your missions committee.