Counting The Cost: What Happens When You Talk About Climate?

There may be no issue more polarizing than climate. 

Many ministries avoid the issue altogether, for fear of offending donors, seeming too political, attracting the wrong allies, or drifting from their original mission. 

I want to be frank and honest about why we are tackling the climate issue at Tearfund USA. We’re talking about climate because a core value for us is listening to the people we serve. Our Christian sisters and brothers around the world are laboring to lift themselves out of material poverty, and they have asked us to bring this issue to the North American church. We are responding to their call, and we're inviting you on the journey with us. 

We’ll be sharing stories about how churches around the world, in the poorest countries on earth, are already responding to the challenges of a changing climate. For them, it’s not an environmental issue, a political issue, or part of an ideological agenda. For the poorest people in the world, climate change is an issue of survival. Farmers who faithfully till their fields and plant their seeds find their crops ravaged by droughts and floods. 

Tearfund is helping rural churches in poor countries respond to climate change, and we’re helping farmers learn how to adapt. But we in the North American church have a part to play too, and we invite you to join us in a faithful response. 

With this invitation comes encouragement⏤and a warning: 

If you come on this journey of learning about climate change with us, you’ll find yourself talking about it. There’s a cost to that.

You will encounter pushback, even in (and for many of us, especially in) the church. People will make all sorts of assumptions when you talk about climate. They’ll assume you're following a fad or trying to please friends. Or that you’re trying to stir up trouble. Some will assume that you’re mouthing political slogans. Some will say you care more about polar bears than you do about people! Some will even assume that you’ve abandoned the faith, because they’ve never heard a Bible-believer talk about climate before. I encourage you to listen to them and understand their concerns.

We do need to examine ourselves and our motives. Are we motivated by love for God and his people (including those pushing back)? Do we love our churches and serve faithfully in them? Do we have a reputation as humble listeners? Are we patient and open to learn? Are we willing to let God transform our hearts first, before we share our views with others?

On this journey, you will also find allies, and sadly, not all of them are helpful. For some, climate change actually IS a fad, or an issue they use to beat up their political opponents. Once you speak up about the issue, you may find opinionated and argumentative people, who want to be your new best friend. Resist spending too much time with people who suffer from Climate Obsession Disorder. Don’t let single-issue gadflies draw you into their bubble. 

Caring for creation is certainly one of the marks of healthy Christian discipleship, but it’s not the only one. 

If you feel God has given you a special passion for creation care, and a concern about climate, use that passion the way you would a spiritual gift: for building up the church, for loving others (those close to you, and those far away), and for growing closer to God. A body has many parts, but the parts don’t work in isolation.

Climate change is a huge problem, but in addressing it we must never conform to the polarization and vitriol that we find in the world. God is calling us to sacrifice our egos and to be transformed, not to conform to the patterns of the world (Romans 12:1-2). He’s calling us to be ministers of reconciliation, declaring that God has reconciled us and is reconciling the world to himself, and so we can’t look at anyone with a worldly lens (2 Corinthians 5:11-20). Every encounter, whether with fellow believers or with those outside the faith, is an opportunity to grow and love. This is especially true when it comes to hard and divisive issues like climate change. 

We want to encourage you and learn from your stories as we address this issue. If you want to go on this journey, a great starting place is to pray. 

Partner with us in prayer by downloading this SCRipture-based prayer guide.

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