By Jonathan Merritt
One of the common objections to creation stewardship is that it might distract Christians from spreading the gospel. For pastor Rand Clark, however, creation care and spreading the gospel are inextricably connected. His church in Castle Rock, Colorado has championed creation care since it was planted two years ago, and according to him, it has opened up doors to people who might not otherwise be receptive to the Christian faith.
Genesis Church began meeting in Castle Rock, the southernmost suburb of Metro-Denver, in September 2007. The town is reminiscent of the Wild West, and for the most part its residents are wealthy and politically conservative traditionalists. In distinction to the community, Genesis Church is anything but traditional.
“Unlike some churches, we’ve tried to suggest that our ethos is to care for all of creation,” says Pastor Clark, who says this holistic ministry philosophy means caring for creation as well as people.
While this might sound vague, the church’s ministry programs serve to explain their philosophy. “Spring up the Creek” is an annual event when the congregation mobilizes to clean up a local creek that has become an illegal dumping ground. During “Trash Bash” they pick up garbage along a highway that Genesis Church has adopted. A program called “Alpha Sports” peels people away from the television set and connects them with nature through outdoor activities. Through “Cans for Clean Water,” Genesis partners with neighborhood associations to collect aluminum cans, which are recycled to earn money for a clean water project in Sudan.
“Caring for creation is the right thing to do theologically because we are commanded to do it by God,” says Clark. “But it is also a great platform to share the gospel from.” He says that when the church is participating in one of their ministry programs, people will often ask them why they are doing such things. This, he says, starts great conversations about the gospel.
Because people all across the world are recognizing the dire state of our planet, Clark believes creation care can become a natural connecting point for believers and non-believers. He references the Apostle Paul who, in Acts 17, preached to the Athenians after connecting with their idea of the unknown god. “Paul found a connecting point in the ancient Greek culture, and caring for creation does this in a modern context,” Clark says.
Though Genesis Church doesn’t use creation care as a means to an evangelistic end, Clark has come to realize that obedience to the stewardship mandates replete in Scripture often increase the power of one’s Christian witness. As evangelical theologian Gordon MacDonald has said, creation care is “a unique way of assuring that the fundamental, evangelistic message of the God-who-is-there will be heard as the ‘heavens declare His glory.’”
Over the last two years, the Genesis Church congregation has quadrupled in size and has been able to build bridges to many non-believers. “We now have people who are participating in projects with us even though they don’t know Jesus,” comments Clark. “As our community sees us doing the things we do, it begins to shatter the barriers of what the community thinks the Church is all about.”
Jonathan Merritt is a faith and culture writer and Director of Church Engagement for Flourish. You can connect with him at jonathanmerritt.com.