As the famous Disney character said – ‘Let your conscience be your guide.’ It pretty much goes without saying that conscience steers action. Perhaps it does not always go without saying that this phenomenon rises beyond the personal level. In my case, at least, my conscience has steered a lot of the ministry of Indian Run Christian Church. The recycling ministry is a case in point.
Several years ago, I was cornered by a reporter at the Stark County fair who asked how much I recycled. I replied honestly, ‘Well, not very much.’ The reporter then asked me why. I formulated the answer in my usual slow, methodical way (many people lack the patience for a real conversation with me) and with not nearly enough consciousness that I was talking to a reporter! ‘I guess, if I’m honest with myself, it’s just so much easier to put it all in bags by the road knowing it will all go away.’ When my name and that quote appeared in the paper, I was much dissatisfied. But, I was being honest! I determined to do better and I think I have. However, my life is ministry and I also feel strongly that it is part of any Christian congregation’s obligation to address the ills of the community.
In case you didn’t know, Stark County, Ohio is famous/infamous for our landfills. Yay us!? This post would grow too long if I went into the details – suffice it to say I perceive certain ‘problems’ with our landfill situation. Others, perceiving the same problems, launch law-suits or pursue legal reforms. I do not disagree in principle with such efforts. I’m just not wired that way. My game is always on the ground in front of me. For all these reasons, my determination to do better at recycling enlarged into a recycling ministry for the congregation I lead.
As I am also slightly compulsive about goal setting and record keeping, I can tell you that since launching the recycling ministry in 2012, we have recycled 654,446 pounds of metal and 390,013 pounds of paper*; meaning that 2020 is the year we exceeded 1,000,000 pounds of material kept out of the landfills and injected back into the economy in more useful forms. As the recycling numbers have grown over time (other consciences aligning with mine) I suspect (Lord willing) it will not take eight years to recycle a second million pounds. In 2012 we recycled 27,605 pounds of metal and 17,875 pounds of paper. In 2019 we recycled over 105,000 pounds of metal and over 80,000 pounds of paper.
My main reason for writing this post is to encourage you to look around. IRCC is not unique. Thousands of local congregations have conscience driven ministries that benefit their community in concrete ways. The church is more than you think and the church is good for the world! It is also true in my experience that the local church accomplishes these things on a budget that is CONSIDERABLY less than government or corporate programs would require. And I bet your conscience aligns with some of these ministries. Let your conscience steer your actions. If recycling isn’t your ‘thing’ find out what ‘things’ other local congregations are doing. Though I suspect any local congregation would welcome you as a full-time member, that probably isn’t necessary for you to pitch in. Get involved!
*I personally recycle plastic but have not yet found a good way to expand that practice to a congregational ministry level.
** Full disclosure: IRCC receives money for metal and paper recycled. I can assure you the dollars received divided by the volunteer hours invested would not rise to minimum wage – not counting fuel, cutting blades, and other necessary investments. It is a ministry in the truest sense. The money that does come in is turned into food to feed the hungry – it doesn’t pay our light bills, insurance, etc.
***We also grow food for the hungry. Over the same time period (2012-to present) we have grown or gleaned 270,000 pounds of fresh produce for the various feeding ministries in Stark County.
Pastor and Author Terry Bailey, Senior Minister of Indian Run Christian Church