Is Your Church Creation Care Aware?

Green is not the latest fashion color – it’s about becoming creation care aware.

I spent the day yesterday at the “Greening America’s Congregations” conference co-sponsored by the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and the Environmental Protection Agency. It was a stimulating, emotional, and deeply moving day.

The day began with a welcome by Joshua DuBois, Special Assistant to the President and Executive Director of the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Panel presentations throughout the day were made by representatives of the Christian, Jewish, and Islam faith traditions as well as Administration officials and faith-based environmental groups. The panel topics included:

  • Documenting Stewardship Achievements
  • Motivating Change Through Campaigns and Pledges
  • Stewardship in Our Faith Traditions

The closing call to action was given by Heather Zichal, Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change and Mara Vanderslice Kelly, Senior Policy Advisor and Deputy Director, White House Office for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

The call to action has three components:

  1. Initiate benchmarking for energy usage as a baseline measurement for efficiency improvements
  2. Reduce energy consumption by 20%
  3. Become an Energy Star Certified Congregation

These are challenging – but achievable goals. What’s your incentive as a church? Here’s just one example:

With congregations in the U.S. numbering over 370,000, and energy costs associated with these congregations estimated to be over 3 billion dollars, it only takes simple math to see that over $600 million dollars could be redirected to mission efforts in the communities if the 20% goal could be met.

Probably the most significant first step for any size congregation to take is to raise awareness of the possibilities. And there is not better place to begin than with the EPA’s Congregations division. Go to their website here for a wealth of information on how you can lead your congregation to become a “green church.”

For me, being green starts with a foundation of stewardship – being responsible for all the resources God has blessed us with. As a church consultant, I am committed to helping churches maximize their resources for the greatest ministry impact they can possibly have in their community. I believe that an important part of this challenge is to know how you can immediately improve your existing facilities to make them more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly. I also know that as you think about planning your next facility expansion, there are many benefits to thinking green.

Why should Your Church go Green?

  • Churches are community examples – people look to their houses of worship and their spiritual centers for guidance. What happens in these places can have a positive ripple effect across the region as homeowners, businesspeople, government workers and others help their own buildings to emulate the ethical example set by the local church.
  • All churches are good candidates for improvements – Most sanctuaries are large spaces used only periodically throughout the week. Something as simple as a programmable thermostat can save hundreds of dollars a year in utility bills. Most church offices are high-traffic, well-used areas where even small changes like weather stripping, Energy Star appliances, or compact fluorescent bulbs would make a huge difference.
  • Church buildings stand for something – Your building was built to the glory of God, the service of humanity, and the potential of the spirit. Inside these buildings we celebrate Creator and His creation. We build a community, the Church. We should be good stewards of all Creation, caring for the earth and one another.

Bottom line? If your church can be more EFFICIENT in its use of resources, then it will be more EFFECTIVE in its ministry endeavors. I encourage you to enter the dialogue about how your church can become a community leader in environmental issues. It really is getting easier to be green!

Greening America’s Congregations

Today I am in Washington DC, participating in a conference entitled “Greening America’s Congregations. It is being held at the White House and is jointly hosted by the White House office of Faith Based Programs and the Environmental Protection agency.

During this event, senior administration officials will call on faith-based organizations across the country to save energy and strengthen stewardship of the environment by improving the energy efficiency of their houses of worship with help from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR program.

The event will also feature discussions among Administration officials and leaders of the faith community about how congregations across America are already achieving significant carbon emission reductions by incorporating energy efficiency into their broader mission. The first worship facilities that have achieved ENERGY STAR certification will be recognized and special attention will be paid to interfaith, state, and local initiatives, and the role of stewardship in faith traditions.

Jerry Lawson, director of the EPA’s Congregational Division, is a long-time friend and a wealth of knowledge for churches who want to know more about how they can benefit from the services of the Energy Star program. I have known Jerry for many years, and he works tirelessly to get the message of environmental stewardship out to churches. I highly recommend that your leadership team look into what his department has to offer.

I became involved in the “green church” movement in the spring of 2005 when I made a presentation to the Virginia Baptist Church Building Conference. Later that year, I expanded the presentation at the first WFX Conference and Expo. Since that time, I have been privileged to speak over a dozen times in national platforms, write several articles on the topic, and provide consultation to several churches who were interested in “going green.”

Even though my current role at Auxano is not directly related to the green church, I maintain a high level of interest in it.

I will do a follow-up report at the end of the event – in the meantime, look for some reposts of previous “green church” writings I have done.

 

Biblical Principles for Creation Care

When we begin to honor God as Creator, Creation Care becomes part and parcel of everything we do. We begin to look at everything through a new lens.

Calvin B. DeWitt, author of “Earth-Wise: A Biblical Response to Environmental Issues, 2nd Ed.” gives the following eight biblical principles for creation care:

  1. The Earthkeeping Principle – As the Lord keeps and sustains us, so must we keep and sustain our Lord’s creation.
  2. The Fruitfulness Principle – We should enjoy but not destroy creation’s fruitfulness.
  3. The Sabbath Principle – We must provide for creation’s Sabbath rests.
  4. The Discipleship Principle – We must be disciples of Christ – the Creator, Sustainer, and Reconciler of all things.
  5. The Kingdom Priority Principle – WE must seek first the kingdom of God.
  6. The Contentment Principle – We must seek true contentment.
  7. The Praxis Principle – We must practice what we believe.
  8. The Conservation Principle – We must return creation’s service to us with service of our own.

Maybe it’s time to reread the Scriptures in a new light, searching for insights on God as Creator and how we can rightly live on earth.

 

Serve the Creator…

…don’t worship the creation.

I recently completed an intensive consultation with a church wanting to know more about becoming creation care aware. One of the first questions asked at the beginning of the consultation was “What exactly does ‘creation care’ mean?”

It’s a great question, but not an easy answer! Creation care is sometimes used as a synonym for sustainable initiatives, environmental stewardship, green church, or eco-justice or something similar. These are all good words in their own right, but they seem to be just a little to trendy for my taste. I prefer creation care because it helps me focus on the right direction – the Creator, not the creation.

Jonathan Merritt (Green Like God) says it well:

The biggest reason I reject pop environmentalism is because it cheapens the issue. We have deeper reasons to go green. We serve the Creator of the planet that green living preserves. He created this earth and took the time to tell us His plan for it. The God of this universe has given us the great task of caring for our planet.

Why should we be consumed with a “trendy cause” when we have been given a sacred task? The story of God throughout the Scriptures is about a creative, eternal Being – who is committed to the preservation and redemption of everything.

In the creation narrative of Genesis, we find that every demonstration of power (and God said let there be…) is followed by a statement about God’s passion for the planet (and it was good).

After He was finished, He looks back over everything: “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good: (Genesis 1:31).

“The Beginning” was just the beginning – now we have a responsibility to “work it and take care of it.” The charge for Adam to care for the world is really a charge to us all. Nowhere in Scripture is it ever revoked.

Unfortunately, most Americans have forgotten that charge – they have more important things to do.

 

In the beginning…

Any conversation about the green church must start at the beginning – literally.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…

The seven days of creation (yes, God “created” the concept of rest with the Sabbath) found in Genesis 1:1-31; 2:1-4 tell us that God made all things and declared them good.

In Genesis 2:15 we find that “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.” Those few words have a literal world of meaning. They convey a teaching that Adam is expected by God to serve the garden and keep it. God expected Adam and his descendents to meet the needs of the garden of creation so that it would persist and flourish.

In the same way, we are to keep the garden. The Hebrew word for keep (shamar) is also found in Numbers 6:24: “The Lord bless you and keep you.” When we think in those terms, it is not an inactive state of being, but rather a vital, living concept.

Is it too much of a stretch to think that the same kind of “keeping” is required of us in relation to God’s creation? Do we have a mandate from God to keep His creation, nourishing and maintaining it so it can continue to flourish?

How are we doing?

 

The Green Church

Green is not the latest fashion color – it’s about becoming creation care aware.

For me, being green starts with a foundation of stewardship – being responsible for all the resources God has blessed us with. As a church development consultant, I am committed to helping churches maximize their resources for the greatest ministry impact they can possibly have in their community. I believe that an important part of this challenge is to know how you can immediately improve your existing facilities to make them more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly. I also know that as you think about planning your next facility expansion, there are many benefits to thinking green.

Why should Your Church go Green?

  • Churches are community examples – people look to their houses of worship and their spiritual centers for guidance. What happens in these places can have a positive ripple effect across the region as homeowners, businesspeople, government workers and others help their own buildings to emulate the ethical example set by the local church.
  • All churches are good candidates for improvements – Most sanctuaries are large spaces used only periodically throughout the week. Something as simple as a programmable thermostat can save hundreds of dollars a year in utility bills. Most church offices are high-traffic, well-used areas where even small changes like weather stripping, Energy Star appliances, or compact fluorescent bulbs would make a huge difference.
  • Church buildings stand for something – Your building was built to the glory of God, the service of humanity, and the potential of the spirit. Inside these buildings we celebrate Creator and His creation. We build a community, the Church. We should be good stewards of all Creation, caring for the earth and one another.

Bottom line? If your church can be more EFFICIENT in its use of resources, then it will be more EFFECTIVE in its ministry endeavors. I encourage you to enter the dialogue about how your church can become a community leader in environmental issues. It really is getting easier to be green!

I am presently consulting with a church in Atlanta as they begin a deliberate path toward becoming a green church. Look for more posts this week coming out of the preparation and consultation with Destiny Metropolitan Worship Church.