Next month, many will convene for the 2021 UN Climate Summit in Glasgow, Scotland, in an effort to find international, collaborative solutions to climate change issues around the globe. It’s not just for governments. Christian groups, who have become increasingly involved in supporting legislation to combat climate change, will also be there.
It’s important for Christians to participate in these impactful conversations about climate change, because our call to earthcare is one of the highest. Can you imagine God not wanting His people involved in shaping policy and protection for His created world? We should be on the front lines—this is God’s work.
The Christian Climate Observer’s Program (CCOP) is one of the Christian groups attending the UN Summit. A non-denominational, Christian organization, CCOP will send selected representatives to the summit to help in training them to view climate from a “missional perspective.” So, how exactly do “missional” and “environmental policy” go together? The shared goals of preserving the earth well and empowering vulnerable citizens within affected areas make it so.
“Environmental mission takes that gospel preaching, disciple-making, church planting model of missions,” said Christain environmental activist Lowell Bliss, “and combines it with environmental development.”
It’s a view that has taken root more deeply within the Christian community recently. A spate of organizations, including Young Evangelicals for Climate Action (YECA), the Evangelical Environmental Network and Christians Concerned About Climate Change, have gained popularity in recent years—largely due to a significant shift in care for the issue of climate change.
Young Christians, particularly, care deeply about it and want to see the Church doing more. Barna found that Millennials and Gen Z specifically list it as a top issue of concern, far more than their older counterparts.
The younger generation heeds the vital call to care for the earth more effectively than others. They are onto something and there are a few reasons all Christians should jump on board.
Firstly, we are called to be stewards of the earth. When God planted Adam in the Garden and instructed him to “work it and keep it” in Genesis 2, our human duty to follow suit was settled. Policies that protect the planet and “keep it” well are worth supporting—both because they honor the land and empower those who live on it.
Secondly, earthcare is humancare –and we are in the neighbor-loving business. While we certainly look forward to a heavenly future, the effects of pollution, limited resources and poverty affect many of our neighbors today.
The reality is that impoverished communities are the most affected by climate change and insufficient environmental policy. They are often the most exposed to hazardous toxins, experience more health conditions with the least access to healthcare and are hardest hit when disaster strikes. In 2017, some residents of Puerto Rico waited over 300 days for their utilities to be restored. The same populations are usually under-prepared for environmental disasters and perpetually affected by the availability of safe, clean drinking water.
Thirdly, we have an incredible opportunity to showcase our care for the earth and people in the name of our faith. As we work with others towards common goals, we help restore communities and share God’s love with them at the same time.
Fostering solutions for both climate change and mission work simultaneously will naturally lead to benefits for people and their communities. As Christians disperse to “the nations” –whether that’s the Philippines or New Orleans—they can do so with environmental infrastructure and earth-friendly technological developments in mind.
When environmental policy encourages innovation and economic empowerment through entrepreneurship, so much good can result. Water4 is a Christian organization bringing water pumps to countries across Africa. They teach locals to build, use and maintain the pumps—creating jobs and offering the communities long-term access to the water they need to work, live and grow their families well.
Such goals and the work of organizations like Water4 can help forge new connections and provide discipleship opportunities within the context of physical work and long-term relationship building.
And while climate change and environmental policy are often tinged with partisanship, it doesn’t have to be that way. We may not all come to the same conclusions on which policies are best, but there are God-honoring solutions available for everyone to support, those that keep us in obedience to God and striving for compassion.