Today, as a member of the WBC Eco Church team, I am starting a blog on which I’ve been ruminating for some time. The aim? To educate and inspire my WBC family (and anyone else who happens to be reading this - hi there!) about why the climate emergency should matter to all Christians, and how we can all be part of the solution. But I’m full to bursting with a burden for creation care, and there’s so much to cover! Where to start? Well, I keep coming back to this:
"We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly." – Anne Marie Bonneau
Of course you could substitute “carbon neutral” or “organic” or any other eco action for “zero waste”. It strikes me that this is a really helpful starting point for linking gospel hope and environmentalism. As Paul reminds the early church in Rome, there are no perfect people, not in the church, nor outside it:
"None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." (Romans 3:10-12, ESV, quoting Psalm 14 and Psalm 53)
So we're all rubbish?
No, not intrinsically rubbish - after all God calls his people good, loved, chosen, holy! (even after the Fall: Deuteronomy 7:6, Colossians 3:12, Ephesians 2:10)
But we must admit we're all really pretty “rubbish” about doing the right thing. Since the Fall, sin is second nature. Even when we want to do right we fail, just as Paul says:
"I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing." (Romans 7:18-19, NIV).
All through the Bible we see the human tendency to turn our backs on God, disregard or manipulate his law, make excuses for ourselves, mistreat others and generally make a big mess of things. It's no surprise to God that in 2021 we're facing massive social, political and climatic disasters.
The fatalist might look at those passages (and the news headlines) and say the problem’s too big, we’re too small and too flawed – we won’t fix it completely, so why even try?
The Bible doesn’t allow fatalism
(Not even if you can read a lot of that sort of thinking in parts of Job and Ecclesiastes!) God makes it really clear that:
He made us with special responsibility to steward his creation (Genesis 1-2)
He uses imperfect people (and even their errors) to accomplish his plans (just take a look at Jesus' genealogy in Matthew 1!)
He loves us so much that on the cross he dealt with all of our rubbishness (past, present and future) so we can be motivated by love and thankfulness, not guilt!
He can take a small action and multiply it (Mt 14:19-21, Mark 4:31-32…)
He is with us and will help us (Joshua 1:9, Isaiah 41:10, Matthew 28:20…), and…
Nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37)
And the thing that really gives me heart is that here we have the opportunity to act, not as individuals, but as a body, Christ’s Body. To pool our small seeds, our loaves and fishes, offering them to Jesus, and watch what he will do with them. As an individual I can work myself to the bone trying to go plastic free, carbon neutral, plant trees, make ethical purchases, write to politicians… I’m always looking to make my drop in the ocean a bit bigger, but I sometimes get discouraged about how little impact I have. But if I can work with the Eco Church team, and if this team can inspire the rest of the church family at WBC, think how many more pieces of single use plastic we would refuse to buy! Think how many wildflowers could be planted, how many tonnes of carbon could be saved or offset! Think how many people outside of WBC may be inspired by their friends, relations or colleagues from WBC! This is how revolutions begin – and all over the country churches are starting small and inspiring change.
Now before you start worrying that this all sounds like “works not faith”, (I’ll address that in a separate post...), or that a lot of eco nagging is on the cards, I’m actually planning that many of our suggested eco actions will save you money, give you hope, and enrich your lives. And this time I’m not going to challenge you to do anything, but instead tell you something we’ve already done:
We’ve twinned the church wheelie bins!
Have you heard of Toilet Twinning? Hopefully you’ve seen the toilet twinning certificates in our church loos? Well now you can also twin bins. Globally, 2 billion people are living among mountains of waste because nobody collects it, and a person dies every 30 seconds from a disease caused by plastic pollution or rubbish. Bin Twinning helps fund social enterprise projects in some of the world’s poorest communities – to collect rubbish, dispose of it safely, recycle or upcycle as much as possible, and encourage people to cut down on single-use packaging. All of them create dignified jobs. We have twinned the church bins with two fantastic projects – one in Nepal and the other in Nigeria.
If you are interested to see how many bins have been twinned in your area, check out the map here.
So next time you see the wheelie bins outside church, and spot the colourful twinning stickers on them, I pray that it would remind you, not only how blessed we are to have our waste collected, but more importantly, that Jesus has collected and carried all the rubbish in your past. He loves you no matter how much rubbish your tomorrow generates, and he wants to remake you into something he can use as part of his great recycling plan for this earth.