"For me, reason is the natural organ of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning" CS lewis
JR Tolkien was speaking with a well-known atheist of his time, CS lewis. CS would not, could not, believe in nor could he prove the existence of God intellectually, and thus held on to atheism. However Mr. Tolkien saw something more in lewis. One day as they were walking Tolkien encouraged Lewis to approach the idea of Christ first with his imagination and then his rational. JR offered CS a new pathway to God, a means by which to bring together his intuition and reason.
This new pathway was catalytic in his conversion to Christianity. Through Narnia, CS helped readers first imagine a God of outrageous love, a God who relentlessly pursued his people. Lewis provided the theological rationale for the truth of Narnia, imagination first then intellect. CS spoke of his longings of writing as divine arrows of joy being shot at him ever since childhood. They were such overwhelming desires that they forced him to reconsider another reality. (Paraphrased from possible by Stephen Bauman ceo of World Relief).
We must begin to look at missions and creation care (sustainability/energy management) with our imagination rather then our rational, and by doing so we will open up a new pathway to change.
Typically when we think about environmental stewardship, and integral missions we see two different categories.
To most churches there is not a tie between the two. We might put more emphasis on one, while neglecting the other, or we compartmentalize the two. But when we use our imagination we find they are intrinsically tied. According to CS Lewis, "we do not grasp the meaning of a word or concept until we have a clear image that we can connect with it." I was reading a post from a friend this morning. He was having breakfast with his family at a local Austin restaurant when his daughter Ellie began to pray. I think she summed it up beautifully. She said, "thank you Lord for our food and our family and for making stuff the builders need to make eating places and grocery stores and everybody's homes. And thank you for making the earth so pretty so we can see it and play in its beauty, because you could have made it ugly and boring, but you didn't. Thank you Jesus. Amen."
She was not using her rational; she was using her imagination, and by doing so opened up a realm of possibilities. In a simple prayer she prayed about the beauty of God's creation, joy & peace. She did not see church budgets, she did not see financial committees, and she did not see a systematic theological approach, she saw the beauty of God's creation simply using her imagination, and she spoke it out. In a sentence she summed up the beauty and importance of creation and a just society.
I think we can learn something from her.
The truth is stewardship (creation care/energy management) is tied to integral missions in numerous ways; let me give just a few definitions and examples that sit at the intersection of faith-creation care-missions-imagination.
Creation care = evangelical environmentalism or our biblical mandate concerning humanity's role as steward and the subsequent responsibility for the care taking of creation. There are different environmental issues we can focus on, however our most influential impact, in my opinion, is energy management/conservation.
Integral missions = is an understanding of Christian mission which embraces both the proclamation and the demonstration of the gospel; integral mission means "whole" or the whole gospel. Energy management funding missions: imagine church "a" spends $100,000 a year on their energy and maintenance expense budget, and $15,000 a year on their mission's budget. Given the recent Nepal earthquakes the church feels a strong call to serve the area, however they no longer have the budget. The church can ask a special offering from the church, or the church could fund the missional response using energy management strategies (30%=$30,000), which is stewardship. By using their imagination they open up a realm of possibilities.
The second largest budget item at most religious facilities is the cost spent on energy & maintenance. According to the environmental protection agency, 30% of the energy we consume is wasted. This means that 30% of the money spent on utilities today can be recaptured through no cost or low energy saving cost strategies.
Imagine a world where every church, through strong environmental stewardship, was able to free up 20-30% of energy waste to fund holistic missions?
Renewable energy as an enabler =evil exists in the world today at a very prevalent rate. We hear about attrocities in the Middle East and the beheading of innocents, we see the cruelty of human trafficking and how perverted lust feeds the evil, and we find how distorted views of truth destroy communities.
We believe the church has been called to this time to rise up against such injustice and be a light in dark places.
Today we are seeing god's church move in creative ways to combat this evil. For example we are working with a ministry in India, influenceintl.org, that is working with the local church to combat the evil's of christian persecution and human trafficking through holistic missional energy management strategies. We are dreaming of a solar-powered station that will provide energy for their daya homes and jobs for the local community. Imagine the local church using stewardship principals to forward God's kingdom in dark places.
Bi-vocational pastors = we are working with numerous pastors in Asian countries to teach pastors to be bivocational by becoming energy managers/consultants and renewable energy experts. This allows them to continue working to build the church and engage their community.
Imagine: imagine what we could accomplish if every church, seminary and or college saved 30 percent of their energy (electricity, oil, gas, & water) and maintenance budgets?
Imagine the impact this could make on our environment and missions. Imagine what could happen if we invested our time, talent and resources into those in poverty? It does not start with our intellect, it does not start with a sytematic approach, it starts with our imaginations, and it starts with seeing creatively through the eyes of God. We do not have to be a doctor, a mission's pastor, or superman to make a difference. We simply need to meet the world as-is with who we are now. There are CS Lewis's, JR Tolkien's and Ellie Brown's out there ready to awaken the world with their imaginations.
About lit & the author: Colby is a Certified Energy Manager & Pastor. He has performed over 1,500 in-depth energy audits around the world. He started a firm/ngo called LIT, which leverages experience in energy management at churches, seminaries & christian colleges around the world for the express purpose of empowering missions & impacting the environment. He has a MA degree in Integral Missions from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, spent time in Congo DR during Kivu Conflict studying local church's response to injustice (thesis) and a BA in International Business/Spanish from Texas Tech. He has been married to Amanda since 2001 and they have two beautiful sons Carter & Coen. You can reach Colby at COLBY@CONSULTLIT.COM with any questions or visit website for more information WWW.CONSULTLIT.COM.