Pastor's Pen - October 2019
“The Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”
- Luke 19:10 -
It’s not the kind of mission statement you would expect to hear from a for-profit company. Patagonia, the popular maker of outdoor clothing and gear for sports ranging from rock-climbing to fly-fishing, describes the purpose and mission of their business by saying: “We’re in business to save our home planet.” Not “we’re in business to maximize profit.” Not “we’re in business to please our shareholders.” But “We’re in business to save our home planet.”
This clearly articulated mission informs everything about the way the company does business. They donate one percent of their profits to organizations that care for the environment. They tie their advertising to similar forms of activism. They use recycled material in their products, design their facilities with green building practices, and they monitor the other companies in their supply chains to ensure that their workers are treated fairly. And these practices have led to increasingly positive results in business terms. Over the past ten years, their profits have quadrupled. In 2017 they had revenue over one billion dollars.
So, what can the Church learn from Patagonia? Obviously, Patagonia’s mission is tied to care for the environment, and I do believe Christians are called to steward wisely the creation God has entrusted to us. But the lesson here for the Church goes beyond good environmental stewardship. Patagonia’s business model has been framed as a response to a crisis – the destruction of the earth – and both their employees and their customers feel an urgent calling to bring healing in the face of that crisis. The company conducts its business with that mission in mind and their customers willingly pay higher prices to support that mission. This begs the following questions: What sort of crisis does the Church see in the world? Do we feel an urgent need to respond? How much are we willing to give to support healing work?
The crisis which the New Testament sees affecting humanity and all of creation is slavery to sin and death. To paraphrase Patagonia’s mission statement for the Church, Jesus is the business of delivering the planet from such slavery. As he said in Luke 19:10, “The Son of Man came to seek out and save the lost.” In a similar statement in Mark 10:45, Jesus said, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” As the Body of Christ on earth, the Church’s business ought to be seeking and saving the lost, ransoming those who are enslaved, and proclaiming the Kingdom of God.
Like the mission of a for-profit business, the mission of Church requires material resources. As in past years for us, and as at many other churches like ours, the month of October doubles as “stewardship season” for our congregation. Our leaders are praying about next year’s budget. Friends and members of the church have received letters inviting them to pledge financial support for First Presbyterian Church of Berthoud in 2020. On Sunday October 20, we’ll offer these pledges to God together in worship.
Too often annual stewardship campaigns come across as though we’ve forgotten the larger mission of Jesus and the Church. When we talk about church budgets, some hear the Church’s mission statement as “we’re in business to maintain our church building” or “we’re in business to maintain our traditions” or “we’re in business to pay our staff.” These things may matter, but only to the extent that they facilitate the Church’s true business of proclaiming Christ’s deliverance of the world from slavery to sin. If we remember our true mission and let that inform everything about the way the Church does business, then every dollar given to the Church will serve to “seek and save the lost.” Our purpose in all things ought to be to proclaim and show the crucified Christ as the Savior of the world.
Patagonia recently stepped up the intensity of its activism and advertising with a new social media campaign suggesting that humanity is “facing extinction.” It’s interesting that a culture that so strongly rejects “fire and brimstone” religious preaching is motivated to change by news of the world’s impending destruction. Perhaps our ability to see and enjoy the beautiful creation around us leaves us more in touch with what’s at stake in our care for the environment.
Do we as the Church grasp what’s at stake when we proclaim the Gospel? From a biblical point of view, the dire situation in which the world finds itself is nothing new. We, and all of creation, are in “bondage to decay” (Romans 8:21). In the face of ailments like addiction and cancer, sins like greed and lust, and injustices like human trafficking and racism, we cry out with the Apostle Paul, “Who will rescue from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24). Only Jesus, who came to seek and save those who are lost. The Church’s mission is to proclaim the crucified and risen Christ as the Savior of the world. Let’s be clear about that mission, let’s consider all we do in light of that mission, and let us give generously to support it as well.
Grace and Peace,