How Wolves Change Rivers

When wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in the United States after being absent nearly 70 years, the most remarkable “trophic cascade” occurred. What is a trophic cascade and how exactly do wolves change rivers? George Monbiot explains in this movie remix.

As Christians, we often struggle with the battle of living “in but not of.” In more modern times, research – and personal experience – has found the church to more often then not err on the side of caution, choosing to pursue more of an “us vs. them” strategy that has lead congregants to isolate themselves for fear of falling prey to the temptations of secular society. We justify our isolation with cliché phrases like “I was saved from that,” and we frequent church based activities while forgoing more cultural or secular ones. We listen to Christian sub-genres of music and watch Christian-centric movies… I wonder though… is this actually Biblical? Were we saved from people, places & things, or did Christ come to save us from ourselves? If the latter, were we meant to simply keep this to ourselves? 

As Christians, we believe that we’re called to fulfill the Great Commission – to go forth and make disciples of all nations. We believe that the Good News of the Gospel is for all people and that as we’ve been saved by Christ’s love, we love others by sharing that love. We also believe that when others experience the love of Christ, that their lives and situations, like ours, are irrevocably changed for the better. Successfully achieving these aims becomes problematic however when we continue to see those around us as “others,” and when we isolate ourselves from the communities and environments around us. There’s something of a disconnect here somewhere I think…

This video is an awesome reminder that lasting change to any environment or community comes only through elements or members that exist WITHIN that environment or community. In other words, we can only be catalysts for change if we are in fact active members and participants in the communities or environments we’re looking to impact. In the video, the ecosystem in the national park was decaying for a number of reasons – over-population of deer, their excessive grazing, soil erosion due to the reduced foliage, etc. However, once the wolves were introduced and became active members in the ecosystem, positive change began to happen and the environment eventually began to flourish again.

The Apostle Paul pointed to this in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 when he says, “… I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them…” He continues on to give examples of how he became a citizen of the cultures and communities – the ecosystems – that he found himself in, so that he might become the catalyst for Christ that he was called to be. It was through his active participation and involvement that a “trophic cascade” occurred and these communities were irrevocably changed.

What would happen if we became active agents within the ecosystems that God is calling us to? What would it look like if we skipped one of our 2 small group ministries, and instead used that time to reconnect with the world around us? What would it say about us if our circle of friends expanded to include those who may not wear the same label (Christian) as us? What if…?

One can only guess, but I think that this video reminds us of a critical truth. If we want to be the salt and light of the earth that Christ says that we are… If we want to effectively help others find the hope and life that we’ve found in Jesus… If we want to be agents of change in the communities God is calling us to… We must become active members within the cultures and communities we find ourselves in. Otherwise, we as a Church will continue to see ourselves aggressively pushed out of the very conversations we’re called to inject the love and hope of Christ into.

For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

1 Corinthians 9:19-23