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Caring for Creation

How a charismatic church is embracing environmental stewardship.
The senior pastor of one of the largest churches in Boise, Idaho, is on a crusade to get his congregation to “tend the garden” in their homes, community and state. This past spring, senior pastor Tri Robinson launched an environmental-stewardship program at the 2,500-strong Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Boise.

“The story of mankind in the Bible begins in a garden and ends in a restored garden,” Robinson told Ministries Today. “The first commission to God’s people is to be caretakers of the gift of creation.”

“We pridefully and selfishly assume that creation exists for our own consumption,” he adds. “It is the responsibility of every true Christian to take stewardship seriously and that includes environmental stewardship.”

Robinson, 57, was passionate about the subject even before he entered the ministry in 1980. In college, he majored in recreation and minored in biology, spending an entire winter doing ecological fieldwork in the desert of Baja, California. He did his master’s thesis in part on the ecology of the Northwest. Additionally, Robinson taught science for junior high and high school for 12 years, and he worked on building the Pacific Crest Trail.

Nevertheless, Robinson was cautious in introducing his environmental program. He went to several influential pastors in Boise, including leaders of Baptist, Calvary Chapel and Pentecostal congregations.

“I was expecting a little conflict and I haven’t had any,” Robinson recalls. “Every single one of them all praised me and they were for it.”

Despite the positive response from fellow ministers, Robinson says he was “pretty nervous” with sharing his vision with his flock.

“I know how Christians perceive [environmentalism],” explains Robinson, who planted Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Boise in 1989 with 12 families. “But the morning I shared [about environmentalism] in two services, I had a standing ovation. I don’t think I’ve ever had a standing ovation after preaching a message.”

Church member Susan Mansfield was excited to hear Robinson’s message.

“My husband and I owned a reforestation hydroseeding company for many years,” she says. “We were like undercover conservative Christians in an environmental world of liberals. Now we can stand up and speak out with a passion about environmental stewardship.”

Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Boise began airing a TV commercial locally to spotlight Robinson’s four-week message on environmental stewardship.

“We have experienced church growth because of this,” says Robinson, noting that the topic drew some 200 new people to Vineyard.

In April 2005, the church started a four-week workshop, featuring environmental experts who discussed a myriad of subjects, including recycling, hybrid vehicles, Arbor Day activities and how to be a nonpartisan lobbyist. Robinson anticipated about 100 people for the first seminar but more than 200 came.

Robinson said environmental stewardship will become a regular ministry of his church, with numerous projects planned to get the fellowship involved.

So how can the typical church do something for the environment?

“They can get involved in an Adopt-A-Highway program,” he says. “They can contact the forest service or the local parks department and say ‘we want to help out and do something positive.’ The minute they say ‘we’re free labor,’ no one should turn them down.”

Robinson wants churches nationwide to join his church “in bridging the gap between conservatives and liberals” regarding the environment.

“I’m praying that the Lord will use us,” he says. “If we can show that it is a means of evangelism, good stewardship and that it’s biblically sound, then other churches will join in.”

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