Preaching and Pollution

B. G. Echols
Poughkeepsie, N. Y.

Dr. John B. Patton, Indiana State Geologist, recently made some very pertinent remarks about our environmental conditions. His thesis was that most people are prepared to do more talking against pollution than acting against it. Hence the title of his article was "Conservation or Conversation?" Many of his statements can just as effectively be applied to our efforts in preaching the gospel. We want to quote Dr. Patton (in italics) on pollution and apply his remarks to preaching.

Dr. Patton claims that our pollution problem came because we are characterized by an extravagance with few parallels in history! Who can challenge this? Is the same extravagance on a personal level the reason more funds are not available for preaching? Is it a desire for personal extravagance or personal wishes that makes it virtually impossible to find men to enter needy fields to proclaim Jesus?

I am not interested in passing judgment on any building by saying it is extravagant. I would not begrudge any church adequate facilities. It is difficult to say at what point these and our private possessions become extravagant, but it does seem that the wealth we now have, which was undreamed of a quarter of a century ago, is not being used in saving souls as it should.

"An order of priorities must then be set up for expenditure of energy and use of nonrenewable materials. Every commodity must be evaluated critically. Inevitably certain activities and products, and the industries that produce them must be phased out.

I hope we can see a similar need to evaluate our expenditures as individuals and churches in order to put first the preaching of Christ. "The longer we wait to make these evaluations, the more severe the economic dislocations will be."

The difficulty in any undertaking that requires sacrifice is convincing people of its value so as to promote action. "The reward from such enforced economies is that we would selvage that most sacred of all amenities-time, both for the individual in his personal life and for Mankind in terms Of survival."

If salvaging the scarce item of time by fighting pollution is worth sacrifice, how much more valuable is the saving of an even more valuable item, the soul (Matt. 16:26)?

"Pollution is like sin; nearly everyone is against it and hardly anyone is willing to give it up. Everyone is saying 'stop pollution, but no one realizes it means walking to work. Even the substitution of an efficient public transportation system for hordes of privately-operated vehicles will meet massive opposition from the lovers of clean air and those who wish to conserve our natural resources."

Everyone is in favor of preaching the gospel, but few are willing to give up what must be given up to see the preaching done When plans are submitted, massive o; position comes from those who say they love the Lord and want souls added to Him. It is not just the people in the pews. Preachers are hesitant to move out of their home areas. Brethren in northern areas have gone for years, not only without a preacher to help them, but without even an expression of interest by a preacher.

I know many are interested and they will discuss the needs among themselves. "Few of the people who attend a program on the environment and its salvation would be present if they had to make the trip on foot or by mass transit." So it is in taking the gospel to those in darkness. Brethren talk of it at length. "The surface of the earth presents a dismal aspect in many places, but few of them will be improved by a covering layer of handbills. The environment needs more people doing things that will save or improve it, not more people talking about it or issuing junk mail." You can make these statements of Dr. Patton apply to evangelistic efforts. What we need is action.

"I believe, in fact, that much of the approach to environmental preservation and pollution abatement shows little promise of results, or even understanding of the needs by its advocates . . . To reverse the ominous trends, or even to slow it appreciably, two actions would be necessary: (1) Reduce the population. (2) Lower the standard of living for the developed nations . . . Population control and constant or decreasing per capita demand (are) inevitable requirements for our finite earth ... Are we sufficiently concerned for the next generation and succeeding ones to accept smaller dwellings, Less air travel, public instead of private transportation, and fewer possessions?" Are we sufficiently concerned about the Lord's work to accept a lower standard of living to see that every person in the U.S. and the world hears at least one gospel lesson?

I am not too optimistic about cleaning up our environment through voluntary efforts. Man is too selfish to care whether there is anything left for the next generation. We have too much evidence of man's prodigality to expect him to change until force is applied either by law or by death staring him in the face. Dr. Patton asks, "If individuals prove unable or unwilling to accept such a life voluntarily, will society decide that government, which already has the Legal right to regulate life in many ways, should have added powers in the interest of survival?"

Brethren, if we do not use our talents and blessings to spread the gospel in these opulent times, no federal legislation will be passed against us. We may live out our life without interference, but there will be a judgment of how we use our blessings. This and future generations may die without hearing of Jesus Christ, but in eternity. We will not be free of blame. "We shall never run out of an adequate supply of granite to keep us all in tombstones."

God has intervened in human history and has used what appeared to be tragedies to earth and His people to get His work done. Let us preach the word. Let us use our material blessings in His service before they are gone. While we still have air to breathe, let us be about God's business.

TRUTH MAGAZINE, XV: 20, pp. 8-9
March 25, 1971