John Mark Hicks is in the process of posting an excellent series of articles called a “Comprehensive” Perspective on Salvation —
The importance of these posts is that they demonstrate that the biblical view of salvation is about much more than personal salvation. It also includes the restoration of right community and the Creation. He provides this chart —
|Personal||Forgiveness of Sins and Relationship with God (1)||Moral (Inner and Outer) Transformation (2)||Resurrection of the Body (3)|
|Communal||One Body of Christ: One New Society (4)||Reconciliation and Social Transformation (5)||The Fullness of the Kingdom of God (6)|
|Cosmic||Resurrection and Exaltation of Jesus (7)||Redemptive Emergence of New Creation (8)||New Heaven and New Earth (9)|
Now, consider the last two posts on the Floresta tree-planting ministry in light of this perspective. They teach the gospel at a personal level —
Floresta also promotes the gospel as central to any lasting cultural change. It believes that hope in Christ brings a shift in worldview and empowers the poor who subsist outside the globalized economy. It has been Floresta’s experience that without Christian discipleship, some farmers are tempted to squander their new-found profits instead of investing in their communities, farms, or families.
With Floresta’s encouragement, 61 churches in 40 Dominican communities launched 288 Bible studies for Floresta’s program participants in 2008. About 2,000 farmers attended the Floresta Bible studies, and about 500 embraced Christ as their Savior.
“For me this work is a testimony,” said Eracleo Garcia, 73, pastor of the church since he came to faith in 1984 after healing from a kidney ailment. “We can evangelize through these projects.”
They work to build community —
Broadly speaking, the ministry’s strategy is to blend new technologies with intense community networking, relationship-building, and education. Its “high tech, high touch” approach features four areas of focus:
- Agronomy: Farmers are introduced to using genetics, soil science, and meteorology to grow trees and seasonal crops for food, fuel, and industry.
- Multi-sector model: Guided by a shared vision, the government, private enterprises, and churches work together to promote reforestation.
- Best practices: Community models are designed to be sustainable, reproducible, and scalable from the village to the national level.
Floresta’s programs have captured the imaginations of top government leaders. In the late 1990s, Au Sable’s DeWitt, also a professor at the University of Wisconsin, traveled to the Dominican capital of Santo Domingo to address national leaders, including the nation’s vice president. DeWitt’s talk triggered enthusiasm for creation care, resulting in Floresta experts and Dominican lawmakers coordinating to pass landmark legislation in 2000 for a nationwide emphasis on reforestation. Today, the president of Los Arbolitos serves as the nation’s secretary of forestry.
Not only do they work within a village to help farmers cooperate for their mutual benefit, they work with the government to establish policies that allow the farmers to become self-sufficient.
Perhaps most intriguingly, rather than establishing new churches in the communities they serve — and thereby dividing the believing community in that village — they work with the existing churches and encourage new converts to join the church that’s already there — while working with the local church to better serve its community.
And, of course, the impact on the God’s Creation is obvious from the stories previously posted.
Most people likely don’t know of God’s concern for trees —
(Deu 20:19) When you lay siege to a city for a long time, fighting against it to capture it, do not destroy its trees by putting an ax to them, because you can eat their fruit. Do not cut them down. Are the trees of the field people, that you should besiege them?
Deforestation is not a new problem. And, indeed, the trees themselves will celebrate the coming of the Lord at the end of time —
(Psa 96:11-13) Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; 12 let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy; 13 they will sing before the LORD, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his truth.
Of course, we aren’t called to worship nature or trees (or even to hug trees). But mankind has been charged with caring for the Creation —
(Gen 2:15) The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.
Now, American Christians have been highly politicized. We view the world through either Republican or Democratic eyes. Republicans oppose most environmental initiatives and have been trained to sneer at the Democrats’ environmental concerns. Meanwhile, the Democratic-leaning denominations tend to see salvation in terms of relief from poverty while ignoring the spiritual needs of those they benefit. Therefore, it’s rare to find Christian ministry that is both about personal salvation and Creation care and that seeks to balance the commands to work the Creation and to care for the Creation.
And, of course, this means that many Christian organizations work diligently to spread the gospel but leave their converts in poverty and unable to feed themselves. Others spend millions to dig wells and build houses but don’t change hearts.
However, a holistic ministry, build on a better salvation model, can not only bring right relationship with God, it can bring right relationships within the church, within the villages, with the government, and with the Creation. This is big.
This partnership is healing souls as it heals the land. “We are completing the commandment of God to serve our neighbor,” said MI director Castellanos. “We know that as Christians we are the body of Christ. Churches do worship, preaching, and evangelism. MI helps meet people’s physical needs. One hand helps the other hand, and together they complete the integral mission.”