Posted by Tim on 17th December 2012
We live in a broken world. Humanity is now consuming the earth’s resources at a rate that would require 1.6 planet earths to be sustainable (WWF Living Planet Report 2012). This is expected to increase much further because global population is projected to grow from 7 billion now to between 9 and 10 billion by mid-century, and because of the understandable aspirations of millions in the developing world to share in this unsustainable level of consumption.
This will add significantly to global energy demand. Our growing use of carbon-based fuels has become a major factor behind climate change. In September, Arctic ice reached a record low, 18% below the previous record low in 2007; in recent years we have also seen unprecedented weather events across the globe – drought, flooding and storm – that have caused loss of life, of homes, crops and fresh water; acidification of the oceans, disease, no-choice migration and family and community break-up. But this is just the beginning of what might happen if we don’t change our ways.
The increasing acidification of the oceans is causing severe stress in coral-based eco-systems; this and excessive and destructive fishing practices are threatening the survival of many marine fisheries; and dam building, pollution and soil erosion are having a similar effect on fresh-water fisheries. Our relentless destruction of tropical forests and other ecosystems is also threatening our sustainable future.
What has all this got to do with mission? In OMF we have a long tradition of responding whole-heartedly to crisis events such as famines, earthquakes and tsunamis; we have also seen the Lord blessing medical mission in Thailand and elsewhere. This work continues; should we see creation care in a similar light? The Lord is calling people into mission with gifts and skills that until recently may not have been recognised as having ‘mission potential’ – water and electrical engineers; specialists in agriculture, animal husbandry, waste management and marine biology; town planners; educators, researchers and missional business people. How can their work contribute to OMF’s vision of seeing indigenous, biblical church movements in each of the people groups of East Asia? And how can this vision be realised among ecological migrants and in the megacities of the future?
As we explore integral mission in these challenging contexts we also need to figure out what it means to ‘walk the talk’. Our methodology of mission is just as important as its outcomes. Simply as a matter of survival and loving our neighbours as ourselves, the way we live affects everyone else – we live in a single, closed world system. How can we reduce our own consumption and ecological footprints to sustainable levels?
The prophet Joel speaks directly into our situation: ‘listen, all who live in the land: has anything like this ever happened in your days, or in the days of your forefathers?’ (Joel 1:2). Joel was responding to locust invasions of the land; he calls us not to despair or to deny what is happening, but to repentance and trust in the Lord for both the immediate future (2:18-27) and the distant future (2:28-32).
So is creation care just another ‘issue’ – an ‘enthusiasm’ for some of us that the rest can ignore? Or is it foundational to our life of hopeful worship, service, mission, good enjoyment and Sabbath rest? A helpful book is ‘Salvation Means Creation Healed’ by Howard Snyder; this explores ‘the divorce between heaven and earth’ in much of our theology; the effects of sin on our relationships with God, with each other, the rest of creation and with ourselves; the healing mission of God; and the church as healing community.
Other helps include:
‘Climate Prayer’ and ‘environmentguardian’ on Facebook
Dave Bookless, Planetwise: Dare to Care for God’s World
Calvin B. DeWitt, Earthwise: A guide to Hopeful Creation Care
Based in Singapore, David’s responsibilities include reminding OMF fields that creation care is part of Jesus’ commandment to preach good news to ‘all creation’ (Mark 16:15) and helping them develop strategies for realising this mandate. Please feel free to contact him with any comments or queries at Int.CreationCare@omfmail.com