A number of years ago I was invited to be a part of a “caring for creation” conference at the Vineyard Church in Boise, Idaho. Though I’ve spoken to small groups at colleges and churches for several years on the theology of nature and care of creation, the numbers have always been small and the institutions primarily in a discovery mode about these issues. Boise Vineyard, however, was different. Here was a church already committed to “good earthkeeping,” and I’m sure I learned more from the church than the conference attendees learned from me.
Within the church were several recycling locations—including stations for recycling cell phones and printer cartridges. The church bookstore had all the latest publications on the biblical rationale to care for creation. Outside the church at the edge of the parking lot was a large set of dumpsters for separated trash collection—with steps to permit youngsters to get high enough to assist in the recycling. The church, in fact, challenged the people in the congregation to “bring your trash to church.”
Most impressive to me, however, was the garden. On a plot less than an acre the people of the church had developed an extremely productive garden with much of the produce growing in raised beds and tended by volunteers. Along the fence that kept out four-footed creatures drawn by the abundance, a natural buffer of red-raspberry vines was growing. Their “garden of feedin’” yields over 20,000 pounds of produce annually, helping to feed more than 1300 local families.
This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the LORD God made the earth and the heavens. Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the LORD God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground. . . . Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. . . . The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it (Selections from Genesis 2:4-15).
All of this came about after the pastor and his wife, Tri and Nancy Robinson, felt a clear call from God (with assistance from their two children who demanded to know why the church seemed to have time for everything else but caring for creation!) to challenge the church to earth stewardship. [Read about the Robinson's personal homestead here.]
Coming to know Tri and Nancy has been a privilege for me. To go on with the amazing story of what has happened at the church would make this post far too long. But let me include here a part of what Boise Vineyard Church has challenged itself to accomplish:
We will advance in humility, not pretending to have all the answers for the complexity of the issues we will face. We will continually seek God’s face in prayer so that we might grasp His heart in these difficult matters.
We will repent of our wrong ways, bad attitudes and habits that have caused us to be poor examples of environmental stewardship. We will believe that God will honor us as we change our ways and in the end, He will “heal our land.”
Environmental stewardship will become an important ministry within our church. Much like our missions, benevolence or outreach ministries, environmental stewardship will become a regular part of the life of our church. We will teach these values to our children, youth, and adults with the expectation of true-life changes.
Any type of stewardship requires servant-hood. As Christians, we will serve our community and the State of Idaho through volunteer work. We will clean up state campgrounds, reconstruct and maintain backcountry trails, clean up rivers, participate in wildlife inventories, and join other activities where service is needed to improve our environment.
We’re about a month away from Earth Day on April 22. Consider sharing this post with your pastor and other church leaders so they might consider how following the lead of the Robinsons could empower your church and give your congregation opportunities to present the “whole Gospel” that they never dreamed of.
[The Robinson's story was told by Bill Moyers in a TV special "Is God Green?" that can be seen here.]