Stewardship of energy can be an evolving concern
By Steve Madsen
Cornerstone Fellowship, Livermore, CA, turns to solar power for savings — and as a good community citizen.
My wife and I opened our Livermore, CA home for a Bible study in 1992 and 25 people began meeting weekly. That little group grew to become Cornerstone Fellowship, where 18 years later we minister to more than 5,500 people each weekend on two campuses.
Over the past several years, with the growth of our church, we became much more visible in our community. With that visibility came a growing responsibility: the responsibility of leading as an example to our local residents.
I grew up in a pastor’s home, and now 53 years old, I’ve been in full-time ministry for more than 30 years. But it was only in the last few years, thanks to the next generation, that I began to care at all about the local church’s responsibility to the environment.
Change of heart
I have to be honest: Not too long ago I viewed environmentally-conscious Christians as progressives (read “liberals”) who were probably missing the point of the Gospel. That attitude in me had to change. And the difference, both in me and in Cornerstone, is my story.
Over the years, I have heard quite a bit of “stewardship” preaching: biblical messages that taught me to be diligent in the management of any and all resources available to me. Resources such as time, money, possessions and talents were always listed in this preaching. We have been duly warned not to squander these things.
But I honestly cannot believe how long it took me to grasp this truth: that the greatest resource available to us, the biggest resource for us to be good stewards of, is the Earth itself. And, as the scales have fallen from my eyes, I have begun to see all that we were wasting as a local church. In short, I began to see our local church’s approach to natural resources as a stewardship issue.
When we were a smaller church, our resource-consumption was of little consequence. But our numbers grew, and so did our sense of responsibility to lead in our community. So we have taken a good hard look at our wasteful habits, and have made some changes.
First, we began recycling anything and everything that we could. Cardboard, paper, bottles, cans, florescent tubes, batteries, and ink cartridges were all easily collected and recycled. It was painless. Recycling containers were placed next to every garbage can. This cost us next to nothing and it felt good to do.
A contractor in our church dug bio-swales on the perimeter of our parking lot. These small trenches collect and filter run-off water, allowing it to be cleaned and reused for other purposes on our property.
Energy use an issue
We knew that, in a 110,000-square-foot building, our energy consumption was an issue, so we established a team to begin searching for low-cost ways to counter our energy use.
- Skylights eliminated the need to turn on lighting in a large portion of our building during the daytime. Outdated light bulbs were changed for minimal energy consumption.
- Windows were coated with UV film to reflect heat and reduce energy use.
- Motion sensors and timers were utilized to effectively shut off internal and external lighting and HVAC when not needed.
Then we took a big step. We teamed up with Solar City, the nation’s leading installer of rooftop solar panels, to bring solar energy to Cornerstone.
By installing a solar panel system on the roof of our building, we began producing 43 percent of the electrical power being used on our main campus. This system works rain or shine during daylight hours. Since installing the 1,232-panel system in 2008, we have produced nearly $136,000 worth of electricity.
Thanks to solar power, a sizeable portion of our energy comes from a clean, renewable source; and as an added perk, we’re able to redirect the money we would’ve spent on energy, and put it towards ministry in our community.
I share this because I want you to do what I did and pray about whether the church you lead cares enough about these things to warrant making a change. This issue is important, and it is something I believe every church staff should consider.
I believe that together we can responsibly conserve valuable resources, saving money that would be better spent on ministry, and all while demonstrating to our local friends that we also care about the environment we share.
I often meet people who tell me that their attraction to Cornerstone increased when they saw our solar panels or observed our green practices. Some of these people did not even know Christ when they finally came into this building. They came because they could now relate to a common vision for the earth itself. Soon, we had the opportunity to introduce them to the creator of the earth. And that made us pretty happy!
Steve Madsen is lead pastor of Cornerstone Fellowship, Livermore, CA. www.Cornerstoneweb.org