jublieegarden

Jimmy Dorrell inspects the Mission Waco/Mission World Urban REAP greenhouse, part of a biblically inspired endeavor that will yield organic vegetables, hybrid striped bass, crawfish, high-quality compost and flowers. The greenhouse’s grand opening is 10 a.m., Tuesday, Aug. 22.

Staff photo — Jerry Larson

One of our many visitors to Mission Waco’s new Urban REAP (renewable energy and agriculture project) was quite obviously impressed with this project promoting sustainability through aquaponics, solar, rainwater catchment and commercial composting. “But what,” he asked, “does this have to do with your mission to confront poverty in Waco and the world?”

Everything.

The biblical story of Creation ends with, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning — the sixth day.” (Genesis 1:31). But it is not all so good these days.

With more than 7.3 billion inhabitants on planet Earth, global environmental issues continue to grow and the impact of our poor stewardship of these resources is already affecting millions, especially the poor. Food supply, clean water, pollution, climate change, deforestation, lack of fossil fuels, carbon emissions, growing trash, rising sea levels, plant growth cycles and other concerns will continue to affect our quality of life.

In what is often termed the “cultural mandate” (Genesis 1:28), God gave humans the responsibility to take care of what He gave us. At least from a Christian worldview, “creation care” is intrinsically related to God’s purposes. Yet statistically, Western Christians have been some of the most unresponsive of our world’s inhabitants to these issues, another reminder that we are missing the mark.

In the early 1900s, a major split erupted between the more liberal and more conservative church factions. Although historically many Christians had understood that both social action and evangelism were symbiotically integrated as part of the good news of God’s story, what became known as “The Great Reversal” spurred a division of the church’s role in culture. It lasted till the 1930s with lingering impact even today.

The more liberal church faction embraced a social gospel with little focus on God’s redemptive purpose. The conservative church, skewed by post-Enlightenment presuppositions and rugged individualism, ramped up preaching against personal sin but took less interest in systemic sin. One significant outcome: Many Western evangelical Christians began to blame the poor for their own poverty and felt little responsibility to address issues that undeniably exacerbated growing hunger and global decline of basic resources. Such thinking eventually impacted the church’s role in society and bolstered a growing political atmosphere that rejects a common cultural responsibility to address human need as a part of God’s kingdom.

Fortunately, some of the faulty principles of modernity have faded in a post-modern culture that recognizes the reintegration of faith and works in the marketplace. Planting gardens, creating jobs, drilling water wells, offering micro-loans and even fighting injustices such as predatory lending, sex trafficking, lack of living wages and the rights of women have moved to the forefront for many Christians as part of the Gospel. Yet from a global perspective, the American church, richest in the world, is still trapped in a dualistic theology that gives only a fraction of its money to the needs of local and global poor while spending most donations on its collective self.

Mission Waco/Mission World embraces the holistic Gospel that believes God cares for the whole person, mentally, physically and spiritually. We remind our peers that the message of 8th-century prophets was one of warning that pious religious activity in the face of the hungry and poor was an “abomination” that ultimately was a factor in Israel’s demise. We recognize that “to whom much is given, much will be required” (Luke 12:48). We believe God calls us not only to proclaim good news of a loving god who cares sacrificially for us and his creation but to show this good news through community development and “rebuilding walls and restoring streets with dwellings” (Isaiah 58:12) on Earth as it is in heaven.

Transforming food waste into rich, organic compost for better crops; using the sun to power buildings instead of fossil fuels; growing more and healthier food in an aquaponics ecosystem; and using rainwater instead of incurring the expense of elaborate city-filter systems may be little things in a world where millions die from a lack of basic human needs. But it’s a beginning. Changing our self-destructive patterns will help others as well as us, “for if it prospers, you will prosper too” (Jeremiah 29:7). We welcome you to visit our new Urban REAP site at 1505 N. 15th St. in Waco to learn more and consider changes you can make to sustain God’s incredible world.

Jimmy Dorrell is executive director of Mission Waco/Mission World and pastor of Church Under the Bridge. He helped spearhead efforts to combat Waco’s chronic poverty, including the ongoing Prosper Waco initiative.