Q&A with Nancy

This Q&A with Nancy was originally posted September 14, 2011 on Jason Hess’s blog “Ecksermonator: Evolve Your Thinking.” It is reposted with permission. This month I was able to ask Nancy Sleeth, the co-founder of Blessed Earth, a few questions about the organization. With more and more people getting involved in the green movement, environmentalism and creation care efforts I just wanted to take a few moments to introduce you to a nonprofit that is worth your attention. Blessed Earth is a biblically based educational nonprofit that inspires and equips Christians to become better stewards of the earth. Through outreach to churches, campuses, and other organizations, we build bridges that promote measurable environmental change and meaningful spiritual growth.

  1. What makes Blessed Earth unique from other organizations that focus on Creation care?
  2. Blessed Earth’s focus is on the person in the pew, especially those who may not have connected their love for the Creator with caring for his creation. God has opened the door for us to speak to more church audiences than any other creation care group.

    Because we are based in Kentucky, we’ve been able to share the creation care message with conservative churches in the Bible belt. The root of “conservative” is “conserve.” We need to conserve resources so that everyone around the globe can have access to clean water, clean air, and healthy soils to grow healthy foods. The Genesis 2:15 call to tend and protect the garden–this earth–crosses all political, national, and denominational lines.

    Our focus is biblical rather than political. From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is full of wisdom about showing our love for God and our neighbors by caring for His creation. Although we believe that government action and technological innovation will be part of the solution, Blessed Earth’s approach is to share the scriptural call. Once hearts are changed, the actions follow.

  3. Last month on the Blessed Earth website it was announced that after five years of work two new programs, the Seminary Stewardship Alliance and the Church Stewardship Alliance, are taking shape. What impact would you like to see these programs have on the local church?
  4. We expect both to have a powerful ripple effect on the local church. The Seminary Stewardship Alliance will be preparing pastors to model, teach, disciple, and preach good stewardship practices. At the local church level, this can mean significant savings on energy expenditures, freeing up more resources for individuals and the church to use for the Kingdom.

    The Church Alliance will provide ten months of curricula, podcast sermons, and events that the local church can tailor. We want to make it easy for pastors, lay leaders, and “green teams” to dig in deeply and learn what scripture has to say about caring for God’s creation.

    People can learn more about the two programs here:

    Seminary Stewardship Alliance

    Church Stewardship Alliance

  5. What are two or three practical things you would recommend to someone as they begin their own Creation care journey?
  6. First, I would suggest that they begin keeping a Sabbath. Unless we come to rest one day a week, it is very difficult to resist the bombardment of messages that build discontent. If you cannot rest for a full day, start with four hours. Be still and let God be God. Figure out what work is to you, and don’t do it. The Hebrew word for holy is kadosh, which means “set apart.” God established a rhythm of life in which we work six days, and set one day apart for Him. When we break this rhythm, our relationships with God, with our family, and with all of God’s creation suffer.

    Second, I recommend that they follow the advice of Matthew 7. Instead of worrying about the log in your neighbor’s eye, take an accounting of how much energy you use and trash you produce. Then try to cut back at least ten percent each year. Here’s a tool to get you started: http://www.blessedearth.org/resources/energy-audit/

    Third, examine the role of technology in your life. Do you find yourself wasting too much time on the Internet? Are you tethered to your cell phone? Is email ruling your life? As C. S. Lewis said, the most powerful sins are good things that get twisted. Technology is not bad, but if it pulls you away from relationships with God, family, and friends, you might want to take a technology fast. Prayerfully taking a break from technology (on Sundays, for example) can ensure it retains its proper role as our servant, not our master.

  7. How would you respond to someone who says “Taking care of the environment is important; however, it’s not –that– important. After all everything is going to be destroyed, so wouldn’t it be best to direct our effort to spiritual matters instead of physical one?”
  8. Jesus often taught with questions, and so does my husband: “If you believe in an all powerful, all knowing God—as I do—and getting to heaven is the only thing that matters, why weren’t we just born in heaven?” You quickly come to the conclusion that this earth and this life matters.

    God gave us the Genesis 2:15 task to tend and protect the planet. Dominion implies tremendous responsibility, not license to do whatever we want with no regard for the needs of our global neighbors, future generations or the rest of God’s creation.

    God is in the life business. He wants us to partner in His plan for redeeming creation. God cares when a single sparrow falls from the sky. Imagine how He feels when we obliterate entire species, like the billions (yes, billion with a “b”) of passenger pigeons that we hunted to extinction.

    Martin Luther once gave an “end times” sermon, urging his congregation to care for the homeless and feed the poor. Afterwards, his parish found him planting a tree. The people asked him why he was planting a tree if it was all going to end any way? His response, “I am doing exactly what I want my Father to find me doing.”

    Jesus warned us that even He does not know when the end times will come. Until then we are to go about caring for His Kingdom, here on earth, as it is in heaven.

    Physical and spiritual matters are interdependent. If we don’t have a viable stage–this earth–upon which we can share the love of Jesus, then how can we bring souls to Christ?

    If you would like to learn more about how you can respond to common objections surrounding caring for God’s creation, listen to Matthew’s sermon at the National Cathedral.

  9. Currently does Blessed Earth have any plans for future books and or videos?
  10. We are always looking ahead! Right now, my husband Matthew is working on two projects—a book called 24/6 on Sabbath rest, and The Green Gospel, which is the Book of Luke with creation care commentary. The Green Gospel is intended to build bridges in two directions: for people who love the Creator but have not connected that with loving his creation, and for people who love the creation but have not connected that with the Creator.

    I’m just now finishing a book called Almost Amish, which focuses on my quest for a simpler, slower, more sustainable life. Almost Amish is coming out next spring. And I love the cover!

    Our daughter, Emma, wrote a terrific book called It’s Easy Being Green that was released in 2008. Zondervan is planning a big re-launch for the book next spring, with about 50 percent new material from Emma. Emma recently graduated from Asbury and is ready to go on the road to share the creation care message with youth groups and college chapels. People can book her by clicking HERE.

    As for video, we hope to be filming a creation care series for TV broadcast. Beginning in fall 2012, we’re doing a whole year of creation care study at the National Cathedral in DC, with renowned national and international speakers. It would be amazing to capture Matthew having conversations with these guests on the beautiful Cathedral grounds— “the spiritual home for the nation.” Stay tuned!

  11. Last question. In our social media-driven society, if someone asked you to explain Blessed Earth in 140 characters (i.e. a “Tweet”) what would you say?
  12. The title of my husband’s first book says it best: Serve God, Save the Planet: A Christian Call to Action.

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. It’s my hope that this brief question and answer will inspire and empower others to begin walking the path of creation care.