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AN EARTH DAY ENTRY BY A3 MISSIONARY HILARY LYNCH

Those of us involved in ministry know well the challenge of having multiple pressing priorities: sharing our faith, connecting with our communities, discipling new believers, and raising leaders. The thought of adding “creation care” to the list may seem too daunting.

But in this time when so many in our communities are experiencing the effects of extreme weather, pollution, and the hottest year on record, what if we reframed creation care from something others do to something we could integrate into what we are already doing? Naturally, across diverse countries and situations, there is no single approach that is right for everyone. However, let’s consider two simple ways including more awareness of creation could serve your ministries. And the best part? They are free and they could even enhance your ministry.

1. Build Relational Connections

Without a doubt, relationships are foundational to ministry, whether that is inside or outside the church. Many people in both contexts may feel concerned, perhaps because of being directly affected, or may feel confused because they wonder if it is just too big a topic to address. Katharine Hayhoe, a leading global climate expert and evangelical Christian, says the most important thing we can do for the climate is to talk about it.

So here’s the first suggestion: use the topic of creation as a way to build relational connections by simply being curious and asking questions. You can do this with a new acquaintance or a church leader. Ask about their experiences in nature both now and in the past and find out what has been special to them. Ask about their concerns and what, if anything, gives them hope. As appropriate, offer your own thoughts. As you can imagine, these kinds of conversations could be rich with opportunities to connect on a spiritual level.

2. Help People Notice the Stories and Values in Their Stuff

creationcare discipleship 692791290The second suggestion comes around talking to people about their stuff. Many people don’t see a connection between what they buy, use, and throw out to deeper issues, including faith. However, our possessions are one way we tell stories about ourselves and can express deeply held values. For instance, our clothes may relay a message we want to express. The books on our shelves often describe interests we have or had — or hope to have. Hobby equipment may express how much we value time with our family.

Obviously, not everyone in our churches has these kinds of economic choices, but for those who do, when we have conversations and look behind the “what” people own or buy and listen to the “stories” these things tell, we have opportunities to reflect more deeply on issues of discipleship. What does that book or item tell about us? What does it tell about what we feel God is calling us to do in this season? Interestingly, as we reflect on these things, we may realize that many of the things we own don’t have a story and don’t help us do what we are called to in this season. Realizing this can help us become more free to let go of it and let someone else enjoy it.

Too often we fear caring for the environment because we think it is all about getting rid of things. But this view ignores how we are called to steward things well — to care faithfully for what has been entrusted to us to do God’s will.

A Suggestion:

Consider asking others to share about an item they own that is meaningful to them — a favorite sweater, a photo, a dish, etc. — along with its story and why it is significant. Notice with them the heartfelt value this expresses. After you take a turn, share an area of your life you’d like to reflect more of your value of being a good steward of God’s creation. Maybe you are already trying to buy less plastic, maybe you are realizing the damage some cleaning products do, maybe you’d like to buy more in bulk but are struggling.

The key isn’t having all the answers: the key is talking about the journey to becoming more mindful and taking small steps to care well for creation and doing so together!

These two steps of building relationships and helping people notice the stories and values in their stuff can lead to significant conversations about things that matter—both things we can’t see and things we can. And in these conversations, I invite you to keep curiosity and grace as part of your posture. None of us knows all the answers, so we need curiosity; none of us is perfect, so we all need grace. Bit by bit, taken together, these conversations could be an important part of becoming more mindful leaders and churches in our care of creation.

An added bonus? Conversations are free, are pathways to ministry, and something you are already doing!

Hilary Lynch


lynch hilary 2022Lynches 2022Hilary Lynch has served with A3 since 1989. She and her husband, Stu, work in partnership with ReachGlobal (EFCA) in Birmingham, UK, where they serve locally restarting a church in a multi-faith community with many Asian people. Regionally she offers resources and coaching for ministry leaders curious how to care well for people and our environment. She is getting her doctorate in Practical Theology and in her free time she is learning how to garden and hoping she won’t kill her houseplants. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

More Information

  • Photos courtesy Getty Images 
  • Inset: Hilary & Stu Lynch with family (2022) photo courtesy Hilary Lynch

 

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