God communicates with people through the written word and through nature, said a Florida megachurch pastor on the eve of Earth Day.
Pastor Joel Hunter of Northland, a Church Distributed, in Longwood, Fla., cited Romans 1:20 Wednesday evening at the Hope for Creation event. He said like the Bible verse, which says God’s invisible qualities can be seen through creation, God allows people to understand Him through nature.
“The word of God is really both nature and Scripture but in Scripture it commands us to do exactly what we are doing tonight, and that is to guard God’s creation,” said Hunter, who co-hosted the Hope for Creation event with Dr. Matthew Sleeth, the founder of Blessed Earth and the visionary behind the event.
Tens of thousands of people from some 40 countries attended the first-ever global simulcast for a church-based creation care event. The townhall-style conversation about creation care was broadcast online from Northland Church.
“This is a historic event. A conversation of global consequences and what I believe can be the tipping point for the church to take the lead that says today we stop the generational sin of pollution,” said Hunter. “Today we stop making the future generation sick because we have misused the great gift of God’s creation.”
During the event, Sleeth fielded questions sent in by people watching online and those in the audience at Northland Church.
He told those who wonder why creation care is important to being a follower of Jesus that the first job assignment God gave humans was to care for the Earth. Sleeth also gave a 90-second sermon on trees in which he highlighted that in the Bible trees usually symbolize God, such as the tree of life, the burning bush, and the vine. And he noted that Jesus’ father was a carpenter and worked with trees, Jesus died on a tree, and Mary mistakes Jesus as a gardener.
Sleeth stated that trees appear more in the Bible than any other living thing except humans.
“As followers of Christ we can’t go out into the world and make disciples while simultaneously destroying the water and air and creatures that God loves,” Sleeth said. “If we don’t respect the world around us we are missing a major part that God commanded us to do. Simply put the Great Commission is a green Commission. It is time for the church to take a leadership role in what God tells us to do.”
Sleeth left his job as a director of an emergency room after realizing that the biggest problem the world is facing today is that the world is dying. Around the time he realized this problem he also became a Christian.
The ER doctor-turned-creation-care minister encourages Christians to make simple lifestyle changes that include recycling, using energy efficient light bulbs, and purchasing sustainable products.
“We are a country of churches and together tonight we are gathered with a church (simulcast) that extends around the planet,” said Sleeth. “It’s my prayer, and it has been my fervent prayer, that tonight would be a beginning of our church working together in the United States and around the world in understanding the influence, power and responsibility we have to be part of this conversation and part of the solution.”
Hunter shared that in an effort to be better stewards of the earth his church has carried out waste, water and energy audits in order to set benchmarks to measure against. Though not mentioned, Northland also hosted the first-ever Creation Care Conference (C3) in 2008 and participated in a “green day of recycling” in January 2009. During the green day of recycling, congregants brought old items to the church where they were donated to charity or properly recycled.
“This (creation care) should be our subject,” Hunter said emphatically. “But people are all freaked out when you start talking about the environment. You got to defuse the whole thing and put it back in a biblical context. This is a matter of obedience.”
Blessed Earth, as described by the Sleeths, is an educational non-profit that helps churches and schools learn what the Bible says about caring for the Earth. The ministry serves as a “bridge” between those who love the Creator but do not know about creation care and those that love creation but do not know the Creator.