Archives For Do Something

Ole Hallesby’s book Prayer, first published in 1931, is full of wisdom and insights. It also contains a thought that may stop you in your tracks.

In the chapter of the Norwegian theologian’s book entitled “Problems of Prayer,” Hallesby asks, “Are our intercessions necessary as far as God is concerned and the work He would have accomplished in this world?”

In other words, why pray for God to do things in the world that God was going to do anyway?

Here is Hallesby’s answer:

“We can answer by saying, in the first place, that it is impossible for God to bring the world forward to its goal without humankind.

The attitude which we take is the vital factor in determining whether the world shall attain its goal or not. God has voluntarily bound Himself to us in HIs government of the world. From the very beginning of the history of revelation we see that God has established His kingdom only where He could find people who would voluntarily permit themselves to be used by Him.

It thus becomes evident that God has voluntarily made HImself dependent also upon our prayer. For, after all, prayer is the deciding factor in the life of all who surrender themselves to God to be used by Him.

What we do in God’s kingdom is entirely dependent on what we are. And what we are depends again upon what we receive. And what we receive, depends again upon prayer. This applies not only to the work of God in us, but also to the work of God through us.”

If you’re like me, you’ll read these words of a conservative theologian and then need to read them again. They challenge our conceptions of God’s relationship with the world and with us. This set of ideas actually makes how we live and what we live for even more significant.

Attentive and focused prayer should, consequently, be something we fervently do. It should be a habit. It will shape us and, in mysterious ways, impact the world.

I would, however, take things one step beyond Hollesby. I would urge you to make God’s earth a regular focus of your prayers.

This doesn’t happen at your typical church.

But it should.

Just as human failings and fallenness have led to unimaginable suffering throughout the centuries in people, human failings and sin have corrupted and caused unimaginable violence to the creatures and systems of God’s earth.

You and I should pray and pray hard for God’s earth and its renewal.

I recently read, for example, that surveys are finding that approximately 50 per cent of the corals at the Great Barrier reef off of the coast of Austraila have died due to rising sea temperatures, more acidic conditions in the ocean, and other factors. Because coral reefs are foundational habitat for so much marine life, the dying off of corals at the Great Barrier Reef and other places around the globe is a crisis for ocean life and ultimately for human life as well.

It’s also one more profound and tragic symptom of our spiritual dysfunction.

We should pray, too, for those whose calling in life is to use God’s earth, to steward it, to study it, and to protect it even when doing so puts their lives at risk.

The whole faith church I want to see emerge would make this kind of prayer a regular and serious part of the church community’s life.

Is prayer all we should do?

Absolutely not.

We should act.

In our everyday habits. In being part of larger changes in our community and in how our economy and government work.

And, ironically, our actions are also built on prayer.

You can see that logic in the words of Hallesby I shared earlier in this post. Elsewhere in his book, Hallesby also writes this, “Everyday Christianity cannot be practiced unless we incessantly receive into our lives that supply of spiritual power which is necessary in order to preserve within us that spirit which is willing to deny self, to serve others, to endure wrong and to let others have the last word.”

I would add that God’s Spirit can also give us boldness, tenacity, and intensity to combine with the fruits of the spirit. Does that sound paradoxical? Does that sound unlike your “ideal” Christian?  Then take another look at the life of Jesus. He prayed. He asked his disciples to pray with him.  And during his three years of mission, he led a dynamic, disruptive life that challenged everyone he came in contact with. He knew, too, that what he was doing was putting him on a path to the ultimate sacrifice.

Prayer is a way to be filled with God’s Spirit which will give us the power to act in the world the way God wants us to act.

Being beings of matter in a world that matters because it matters to God means that we, if we listen carefully, are called to sustain God’s earth in the way we act.

Pray today.


P.S. Do you pray for God’s earth? If so, please let me know that you do. And if you have a specific prayer that you’d like to share, please pass it along to me at


Back in mid-August of 2016, I posted a blog entitled Food and the Whole Faith Church. In it I wrote the following:

“A defining feature of a whole faith church will be that this community of believers will be fully committed to demonstrating the proper and attentive relationship between humanity and Creation in its common meals, including communion.

This means that the food of the whole faith church will come as much as is practically possible from farms where the land, water, and animals of God’s earth are stewarded in ways that God would find fitting of a good, loving shepherd and from farm enterprises which support a good quality of life for the farmers and their communities.”

Then in late September, I wrote a follow-up piece that explored some of the practicalities of applying that principle with ten supplementary principles.

Because food is so central to culture and because forming a church with a new culture of food would be radically different from the life of churches most people know, I believe it’s necessary to wrestle with more of the practicalities and concerns this idea presents. Below you’ll find a series of questions that might reasonably be asked about the ideas I’ve proposed followed by my responses:


Isn’t a focus on choosing right foods to eat a new legalism that replaces the Gospel of grace with a gospel of deeds?

No. And an emphatic double no.

It is true that early Christians were concerned about food arguments dividing them and compromising their ability to evangelize diverse groups of people. And I’ve become convinced that church members should not be so focused on food purity that they refuse to eat, if there is no other choice, food they normally wouldn’t eat when it is offered to them in social situations with people who are not members of the church.

But you would have to twist what is in the Bible as a whole to believe that a Christian faith does not express itself in action and in daily decisions. This conviction is one of the pillars of a whole faith church.

Living out the faith and the loving spirit that comes with that faith will compel us to make every detail of our church’s life fit together. The common meals of a whole faith church are the home turf of that church. In those common meals we have the right to express our faith completely and holistically. Not doing so actually hollows out all of the meaning of the Christian faith. How Christian is a community that eats ham, for exactly, that has come from pigs raised in factory farms where thousands are kept inside their whole lives, where fecal particulates fill the air, where local waterways are defiled, where the lives of neighbors are made miserable, and where the pigs are fed a steady stream of antibiotics to promote growth which contributes to antibiotic resistant bacteria that kill people?

Our faith is an incarnational faith. It is not just an abstract assent to abstract doctrines and ideas. It calls for belief in God through Jesus that our actual lives rest on and are rooted in. Jesus showed us what that looks like. Jesus’ earthy parables, like that of the Good Samaritan, rooted ideas and values in paradigm-shifting stories.

Nevertheless, there is nuance in this conversation that must be respected and approached carefully. There is, for example, a whole spectrum of farming methods. And the question of how to balance ideals and practicality is one a thoughtful farmer must wrestle with everyday. I hope all of us are wise enough to know that there are things we don’t know that we don’t know. The whole faith church will need to avoid legalism and harsh judgment. Its members will need to humbly do their best they can to discern what kind of food is fitting for the common meals of the church. They will need to do so with a commitment to truth and also with God’s abiding love and in their hearts.


Won’t this turn away potential members?

Yes. The whole faith church will unapologetically have a tangible, distinctive culture that reveals itself in many aspects of the common life of the church and in how members live out their lives. As a result, there will be many aspects (and not just food choices) of the common life in the whole faith church that will be challenging and countercultural. The degree of commitment asked of members may be too much for people who want a casual commitment to God.

But this approach to food and other elements of a church’s common life together also has the potential to attract people who would otherwise not find church meaningful. Some of the people this approach to food might attract are justice-minded, loving people who would respond to a church’s message if the culture of the church was consistent with the Gospel message.

And we should not underestimate the attractiveness of any group of people who are loving, action-oriented, creative, diverse, and who stand for something in all aspects of their lives.


Isn’t this a case of a social fad or movement influencing the church rather than the other way around?

I don’t think so. What I am proposing is that the culture of the whole faith church to reflect a willingness to actually apply a transformed and remade heart that sees the world the way God sees it and translates those values into actions in everyday life.

But, hypothetically, if there is some truth to the idea that the larger good food movement is having influence on this conception of a whole faith church, then I believe it is a positive influence. The Church has been largely acquiescent in accepting “progress” that has actually been systematically injurious to people and to Creation in many fields. Technological advancement, the application of that technology, and the direction the free market takes our communities are not automatically good or in keeping with Christian principles. And, of course, neither are they automatically bad or not in keeping with Christian principles. The Church and local churches have simply not been paying attention or guiding Christians in moral, nuanced ways. This is because the Church has largely been spiritual in an abstract and has tried to avoid conflict with the powers that be. As a result, all too often the loudest voices of love and hunger for righteousness in our world are not Christian.


Won’t this be expensive?

It’s true that applying Christian values to food choices would mean that the cost of food purchased by the local whole faith church would be higher than it would be buying typical food from a typical grocery store.

But I would make a number of points. First, any church can, if motivated, find a way to afford something that is important to its values. Tradeoffs can be made in other areas.

Second, a whole faith church will think of food and eating choices as part of their community practice of faith, in essence a faith discipline. Food choices in our modern world are not just “food” choices but declarations of what one truly values.

Third, it is far more expensive in the larger context to eat food that has not been raised in ways compatible with a whole faith understanding of the Christian faith. If a faith community supports a food system that is contributing to the diminishment of God’s world, to health issues, and to an agriculture that is not as good as it should be for farmers and their communities, then the faith community is not truly loving its neighbors nor God.  It is not putting its money where its mouth is.

Finally, a church with a dynamic culture that gives purpose, community, and coherence to everything in its members’ lives will be tremendously inspirational and meaningful. People who are members will give generously, perhaps more generously than they would at church where there is more of a lukewarm sense of common commitment.


Would this mean whole faith churches would be vegetarian?

Not necessarily. Each whole faith church would have some latitude in what it deemed to be food choices compatible with the loving heart a Christian will have shaped by God. Respect should be given, within the general commitment to apply a whole faith church’s values to the common meals, to the community context of the church.

I must admit that I’ve come to see the consumption of animals in a more complex, nuanced way over the years. Through the research and teaching I’ve been exposed to through my work, it’s become clear to me that for farms to be truly sustainable, livestock are indispensable. It is very hard, for example, to find a natural ecosystem where there are not animals that eat vegetation and poop and help nutrients stay in the system. What’s more, I’ve now seen and read about a number of pasture-based livestock farms that are very humane and treat the animals with great respect. If we make the sacrificial commitment to treat the animals and the land with great respect and affection at the cost of some commercial success, then asking the livestock to also make a sacrifice as part of whole lives that are generally good and respectful of their natures seems to me the best that can be expected of in this fallen world. That’s a hard sentence for me to write as I was vegetarian for many years.

But I must be clear about one thing – I do believe that there is no place in a church’s common meals, for example, for meat from factory-raised, inhumanely treated animals.


Will the effort and resources needed to do this take away energy and time that would be better used to advance the core mission of the church?

There would certainly be an upfront investment of time and energy to figure out the guidelines for the church’s common meals and to find the new sources of food to implement those guidelines. But once a system and sources were figured out, this would, like other elements of church and family life, become relatively routine. Down the road, members will have a hard time remembering when and why they could have done it any other way.


Won’t this principle antagonize farmers and create an unnecessary divide in the Church?

This is a big, sensitive topic. For an established church in a rural area, it might be too hard to try to adopt this principle because of the controversy and rifts it would create. But I foresee whole faith churches primarily being new churches that spring up to serve people who want to worship and be in communion with other people who share a whole faith vision of what the Christian faith is all about. It will be easier for new churches to establish a new culture since they are starting from scratch.

Of course, ideally, whole faith churches would spring up in rural areas, too. If they do, will farmers whose farming methods wouldn’t meet the whole faith church’s threshold for how a good and loving shepherd would farm feel welcome or harshly judged? Sadly, I think some farmers would feel harshly judged even if that was not the intent.

In light of the sensitivity of this topic for the relationship with farmers, I also wrote Farmers and the Whole Faith Church. Some key points from that piece are: (1) it’s important to recognize what a difficult and challenging calling it is to be a farmer of any kind, (2) paying attention to farming and the impact that our mainstream farming system has on farmers and their communities is actually a pro-farmer orientation, and (3) Proverbs 27:23-27 is a reminder that it is all too easy for all of us to be obsessed with wealth and power and to forget that the foundation of a healthy, prosperous, resilient society and community is an agriculture that is rooted in careful stewardship care of each square foot of land and of each individual animal being raised.

Here’s a paragraph that I believe bears repeating:

We should empathize with farmers who have to live and work here at the tension point between a civilization’s riches and a farmer’s calling to treat God’s earth well and to produce good, healthy food. They are caught in a system. Doctors who cannot give their patients the time and care they need because of our current health care system are also stuck in a similar situation. That is a difficult, stressful place to be.

The whole faith church would in no way judge the character of any farmer but would in fact be warm and welcoming to all people. The whole faith church will have, in fact, special empathy for farmers. By living out its principles, the whole faith church will actually be more pro-farmer and more supportive of rural community life than churches that ignore the values that undergird our current agricultural system.


Will the whole faith church not care what members eat outside of the common meals of the church community?

That’s a good question. I’ve been grappling with that point for a while. The whole faith church will care. I’m convinced that one of the ways the whole faith church will be distinctive is that membership will truly mean something.  People who become members in a whole faith church will not only commit themselves to certain beliefs but also commit themselves to certain ways of living and be accountable in some way. A central tenet of this way of living couldn’t help but be attentiveness to how one’s life habits reflect the God-focused, God-shaped heart one now has.

Will the whole faith church expect members to eat every meal to the level of ethical discernment as the common meals of the church? Probably not, although that would be a good goal for any family. But I would be convinced that members would commit themselves to filtering their food buying and eating choices through their faith.

The whole faith church would need to support their member families in that commitment. What would that look like? I’m thinking of something like David Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. My wife and I have begun taking this class on money management through a local church. It’s a powerful, carefully thought-through curriculum that is having a big impact on how Christians and other people manage their money. It’s already impacting how we think about and manage our money.

Why isn’t there something like this to help Christians think carefully about how they steward God’s earth? Because eating is so important for health, for God’s Creation, and for the kind of agriculture that shapes the lives of farmers and rural communities, Christians should put as much thought into their eating as their use of money. The whole faith church should create a curriculum similar to Financial Peace University that would help Christians live out their values in their food choices. The curriculum would not only provide the thought foundation behind thinking carefully about food and guidance about how to determine whether food is compatible with whole Christian faith values, but also provide practical help. Meal plans. Cooking lessons. Visits to farms (or at least virtual visits through a video presentation). Perhaps even special buying relationships with local and sustainable food farmers that make good, healthy food available to members at a reduced cost?

Dave Ramsey asks in one of his video presentations what would happen to God’s Kingdom if millions of Christians applied good principles of money management (including generous giving) in their daily lives. That’s a powerful question.

An equally powerful question is this – “What would happen if millions of Christians applied good principles of shepherding God’s earth in their daily lives with a special focus on their eating and farming choices?”

I’ve noticed that several people I know who are all about making an impact in the world with their work have been thinking ahead to 2017 for some time. They’re meditating on what ways they want to do what they do better. They’re also thinking of how they can grow in their skills and knowledge.

Are you thinking that way?

Here’s a question I’m posing to myself: when I come to December 31, 2017, what would make me feel like I made the most of the year?

How would you answer that question? Can you create a top five or top ten list of those things? It would be well worth the effort.

When a year comes to an end as it is about to do in a few hours, it’s sad to see how the flow of daily and weekly chores and tasks and obligations have so consumed our attention that the change we wanted to make happen has not happened.

So what will you do for your family, at work, in your community, or just for yourself?

I urge you to write it down. Then, and this is the most important part, figure out how to make the steps necessary to make that change habits of your everyday life. Habits do indeed shape who you really are.

Along those lines, I wanted to share some rough ideas about what I would like to move forward in 2017 with my whole faith pursuit.

First, I want to continue to create two blog posts a month at minimum as a way to continue to explore my thinking about what a whole faith church  would look like with particular focus on the natural imperative to be as good as possible to God’s creation. I have a request for you in this regard. If there’s a related topic you’d like me to cover or address I would love to hear it.

Second, I plan to work on a simple, allegorical novel to explore those same things in a way that is integrated into art and life. This will necessitate simpler and more concise blog posts. I can hear the applause now. 🙂

Third, I have a plan to start a simple campaign with a very simple focus for Christians to begin applying their faith in their life in a way that will benefit people and God’s creation. Look for that in early 2017. I hope you’ll join me.

Fourth, I want to hold a gathering of Christians like yourself to worship, share, and commit to living out a whole Christian faith in how we treat God’s earth.  I don’t know exactly what this will look like nor what exactly I hope to see come out of it.  But I believe it’s something vital to make happen.

Finally, as the  year comes to a close I want to share a bit of good news regarding this earth we are called upon to keep and care for.

The latest issue of The Nature Conservancy’s magazine had an inspiring story (Unleashing Rivers) about the ongoing removal of dams in the Northeast. The Connecticut River, which runs through four states, is just an example of the challenge. It has more than 2,700 documented dams which translates into a dam every 10 miles. These dams prevent fish and other species of life from moving about. They are the ecological equivalent of putting multiple tourniquets on each of your arms and legs.

Non-profits, public agencies, and private landowners are working together to begin removing dams so that the Connecticut River and other waterways in New England can begin flowing freely again. Coordinated efforts to remove dams on the Penobscot River have already dramatically changed that river. Before the strategically focused dam removals began, fish migrating from the ocean to the river system to spawn could only go upstream about 30 miles before being blocked. Thanks to the removal of dams, fish can now access almost 2,000 miles of continuous waterways, including tributaries.

Ironically, the best video on dam removal I could find was not from New England but from Washington where National Geographic did this nice, brief story on the dismantling a huge dam on the Elwha River, the largest project of this type in the U.S.

This, I believe, is a metaphor for what humanity is called to do – to not only repent of the damage we’ve done to God’s earth, but to use all of our creativity and ingenuity to restore the earth’s vitality and beauty.

What rivers will you unleash in 2017? What impact will you make?

Ephesians 2:10 has a something urgent for us to think about: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

What are the good works waiting for you?

How will God fill your heart with a love so deep and pure that you will find yourself hungry to take imaginative steps, whether nearby or on a big scale, to help people and God’s earth?

May 2017 be a year of many blessings and rewarding work for you.

I’ve been trying to write this piece for more than two weeks. But no matter how I revised and reworked it, it didn’t feel right.

I’m beginning to understand why.

I’ve wanted to write a sweeping, harsh, black-and-white piece. I’ve wanted to assert that Christians with whole, living faiths would avoid being part of organizations that consistently use power wrongly and to resist wrong things being done by organizations of which they are part. And I’ve even wanted to spell that all out in pretty detailed terms.

What is giving me mental static is that things are not always black and white. In this fallen world, people and organizations can be contradictory mixes of good and bad. There is complexity and nuance. Our government system allows for many conflicting voices. The free market allows for both wonderful creativity and destructive inventions. And discernment becomes even more difficult when organizations and systems are large and longstanding and produce both good and bad.

What also pulls me back is that Jesus taught us to be careful in judging and accusing others. In fact, Jesus didn’t seem to criticize the Roman centurions he dealt with for being part of an empire built on cruelty.

So I’ve realized I was trying to create a definitive statement that didn’t match the complexity and nuance of the world and of the Bible itself.

Yet, I am 100% convinced that Christians whose hearts are filled with God will not stand passively by when wrong is being done.

The story of Ahab and Jezebel that is told in 1 Kings 21 still has, I believe, something important to teach us.

Ahab was the king of Israel at this time and served as king for 22 years somewhere between 880 and 850 BC. Israel then was not the Israel of today. It was the northern of the two kingdoms that had persisted after King David’s and King Solomon’s unified kingdom had broken up. Ahab had married the king of Phoenicia’s daughter – Jezebel – who brought with her the Baal-worshipping tradition of her people and, we’ll see, a dominating spirit.

King Ahab noticed a vineyard owned by Naboth, a resident of Jezreel, next to his palace in the same town. King Ahab offered Naboth what seemed, on the face of it, a reasonable offer – let me give you a better vineyard in exchange for yours or name the price and I’ll pay it.

Naboth refused. He didn’t do so out of spite. He did so because of the framework through which he saw the world. This framework was based on a God-focused understanding that the land was actually God’s. As a result, each Israelite family understood that they had received only a lease for the land, which was to be their permanent inheritance. It was also understood that God’s people were not to sell or lose this inheritance. It was a law and an orientation towards life that King Ahab didn’t understand and wanted to disregard. He wanted to deal only in terms of real estate, finance, and commerce. (For this insight and others about the context of this situation, this article was helpful.)

Ahab pouted and sulked about Naboth’s refusal to sell until Jezebel found out what the matter was. She upbraided him for not acting like a king. (In the NIV she actually calls him the “king over Israel” which subtly asserts her view that kingship is about domination of one’s subjects rather than serving them and their overall interests before God). She told him not to worry. She would take care of it.

Ahab didn’t ask any questions about how she’ll do that.

Jezebel worked out an elaborate scheme in which Naboth was falsely accused by elders and nobles who lived in Jezreel of cursing God and King Ahab. Those elders and nobles then stoned him to death. They were Naboth’s neighbors.

The Stoning of Naboth (Dirck Coornhert)

The Stoning of Naboth (Dirck Coornhert). 

When King Ahab heard that Naboth was dead (again, no questions), he rushed off to take possession. God consequently commanded Elijah to confront Ahab and to tell him that he will die. (Oddly, Ahab confessed, and God delayed the day when King Ahab and Jezebel did die in brutal fashion.)

This story helps us see key characteristics of people with power who are acting badly. The characteristics of Ahab-Jezebel, Inc. we see are:

Possessed by greed, power, and prestige.

Not seeing people and God’s earth through God’s eyes

Not loving one’s neighbors 

Not accepting limits on the use of power 

Using power and law to get what is illegitimately desired.

Blind to violence inflicted on the vulnerable 

The rule of Ahab-Jezebel, Inc. in this world and even in our country is not new. It has actually been the norm of this fallen world for millennia.

We’ve seen this most recently at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation with Energy Transfer Partners and the Army Corps of Engineers ready to threaten the Standing Rock Reservation’s water supply and to destroy sites sacred to the tribe. Balancing human creativity and enterprise with humility and love appears more challenging to humanity than devising a perpetual motion machine.

So how would a person who is a follower of Jesus in this life, especially in a democracy and in a country in which we can choose who to work for, choose to act when faced with an order from Ahab-Jezebel, Inc.?

It’s unsettling to me that God ultimately calls Ahab and Jezebel to account for what they’ve done but God doesn’t seem to do so with the elders and nobles. Nothing seems to happen them for doing something so clearly wrong. Does God not care if we are like the elders and nobles who take part in using official power and twisted legal strategies?

I believe, however, that God does care. We are morally responsible before God for how we act in this world as individuals.

So this raises the question of whether we can go along when we work for a company or agency that is systematically following the values of Ahab-Jezebel, Inc. rather than the values of the god we know through Jesus and the Bible?

We’d probably all agree that a Christian couldn’t rightly work for a company making pornographic films. How about a factory farm? From what I’ve read and heard, the factory farm is pretty close on the moral scale. How about a company carrying out mountaintop mining?

Things can get dicier when a company or government agency fills some legitimate roles but also, in particular cases, is right in line with Ahab and Jezebel. Could a Christian work for Energy Transfer Partners? Or Monsanto?

Again, I believe we face nuance. Picking and choosing who to work for is not a luxury many people have. And it’s so easy to point out the speck in one’s neighbor’s eye and ignore the timber in one’s own.

Yet, if Christians don’t wrestle with these questions, Christianity ends up standing for nothing.

Our tendency is to put our faith in the religion/doctrine silo and to only let it influence other elements of our life where it is safe to do so and where that won’t cost us comfort, convenience, and security.

I believe Jesus wants our whole life dedicated to him and wholly filled with his love, joy, and peace that are expressed with strength and conviction. A good church would encourage each of its members to live out a whole faith in all aspects of life and would help its members make tough decisions about when to resist, when to try to change, and when to accept. A living church would even ask hard questions of each other in truth and love and passionately support those who who do not go along with Ahab-Jezebel, Inc.

And following Jesus would be far more appealing if people saw Christians living out values of love and a hunger for virtue and justice in every part of their lives.

It’s time, more than ever, for that to become the norm.

It’s relatively easy to create a vision for something new at the 30,000-foot level. Working out some of the practical details is a whole different matter.

For that reason, I want to follow up on my piece in mid-August – Food and the Whole Faith Church – with some thoughts about how a whole faith church would actually implement one of the essential characteristics of a whole faith church presented in that post:

A defining feature of a whole faith church will be that this community of believers will be fully committed to demonstrating the proper and attentive relationship between humanity and Creation in its common meals, including communion.

This means that the food of the whole faith church will come as much as is practically possible from farms where the land, water, and animals of God’s earth are stewarded in ways that God would find fitting of a good, loving shepherd and from farm enterprises which support a good quality of life for the farmers and their communities.

Here are 10 principles I would offer as a starting point.

1. Form a Food and Faith Committee: Because of the complexity of the world of food and farming, the church will need dedicated and concentrated attention to continually learn about the topic, tackle difficult dimensions of application, and help the church’s approach to food evolve and mature over time. The committee should, ideally, be made up of 10 people or less for effectiveness and cohesiveness. These people should be widely recognized as thoughtful, compassionate, and yet practical people. Ideally, there would be at least one person on the committee who had farming experience or who has easy access to farmers of all kinds. The committee should visit farms on a regular basis. It should also regularly share what it has learned with the congregation.

2. The holier and more communally important the meal, the more attention should be given to how the food was farmed and made: The first order of priority would be to delve deep into the sourcing of wine (or grape juice) as well as the bread for holy communion. Following shortly after would be attention to other church-wide communal meals that the church enjoys together and that the church is the lead organizer and purchaser of. Eventually, attention would move down to smaller group meals the church organized.

3. Guidelines and plans for the food the whole faith church will choose and provide will be made a year at a time (at least): Based on a recommendation from the Food and Faith Committee, the whole church should agree to the practical details to be implemented for a particular year period (or more) before that period begins. In other words, the guidelines and plans for how food matters will be managed will be set for decently long period of time. Stability and predictability help people adjust to new habits.

4. The reasons why the church is being careful and deliberate in its food choices should be frequently explained and remembered: This could come in the form of sermons, special events, and sometimes simply a few words spoken during a service.

5. Whether meat is served and from what kind of farm-to-slaughter-to-market supply chain any meat that is served came from should receive particularly close attention: The raising of animals is an area where the worship of mammon and efficiency have overwhelmed kind and thoughtful shepherding ethics in particularly awful ways. Meat that has come from animals that have been systematically treated in ways that are cruel and don’t allow the animals to exhibit their natural behaviors should simply not be served. But there are varying degrees of humane and Creation-friendly livestock raising practices to be looked into. Tasty vegetarian options should always be provided to accommodate people whose compassion for animals is so great that any taking of animal life is an ethical problem for them.

6. On a regular basis, the church should share information about the farmers and their practices of farming for foods the church has committed to using: It would be ideal to bring farmers, especially Christian farmers, to the church (or the church to the farmers) as part of this effort.

7. The primary filter for choosing food sources for food the church will eat together will be the fruits of the spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23: A whole faith church will ask of food it is considering eating to what degree the farming methods reflect love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control applied to God’s soil, water, animals, wildlife, and local, rural communities. Yet, the whole faith church will also recognize the practicalities and struggles of applying God’s values in any sphere of life in this fallen world.

8. The whole faith church will make a special effort to treat all farmers with respect in words and deeds and to offer tangible help to local farmers who want to farm with the fruits of the spirit: How would you feel if your local church scrutinized the ethics and morality of every decision you made in your job as a teacher or accountant or salesperson or IT consultant? Not very comfortable. Probably defensive. That’s how many farmers feel who have been working within the conventional food system for decades and whose family’s livelihood and culture are based on that system. The whole faith church needs to be loving and respectful to all farmers even as the whole faith church seeks to live out Christian values as they relate to farming and food in truth and love. The whole faith church should also seek out ways to help any farmer who desires to move in a significant way toward farming with stewardship and affection for God’s earth as a prominent goal.

9. Within the general principles laid about above, each local whole faith church will naturally have some latitude and freedom: Perfection will not be possible, and the intention is not to create food Puritans.

10. The whole faith church will frequently celebrate food as a provision of God, God’s beautiful earth, and God’s creative, gifted people: The efforts the whole faith church invests in making the common food of the church more in keeping with the values of God should be complemented by warm and lively celebration of the blessing of food in prayer, music, storytelling, and other creative ways.

If I’ve learned anything in my life it’s that planning is important but being able to adjust one’s plans and ideas when they make contact with reality is just as critical. I hope you find these ten points thought-provoking and helpful. I’d welcome your comments and feedback.