Premise A: Oil is a limited commodity.

Premise B: The world is dependant on it.

World oil consumption is definitely on the rise. As India, China and others join the gas guzzling contest, what happens when the pumps run dry?

Could we see a world of $5.00 per gallon gas. $10.00? $50.00? How would sky high prices effect air travel? Would the freeways of America become empty save a few necessary vehicles such a fire, ambulance and police? Would the world basically come to a stop?

How would this effect our mission to take the gospel to the nations?

What do you think?

See you in the mystic…


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8 responses to “Mission and Oil”

  1. john Avatar

    perhaps it might mean that less money is spent on buildings where people have to drive to get to for only an hour a week and have people “worship” where they live by living redemptively to benefit others, where they are.

  2. John L Avatar

    Alex: After studying the issue of “Peak Oil” in great detail over the last 4 years, I’ve come to the conclusion that energy depletion is one of the two most important social issues of our era – the other being population. Actually the population explosion from 1850 to today (1 billion to 6.5 billion) is a direct result of our harnessing fossil fuels (Green Revolution, etc.), so the two metrics are really two sides of the same coin.

    I wrote a summary of our 2005 Lisbon peak oil conference for the Energy Bulletin. You can read it here:

    Click to access JLASPO2005Summary.pdf

    $5 per gallon gas? Count on it by 2010, perhaps sooner. And that will look like a bargain in 2015. Energy is the world’s largest business, and is the heart and soul of our global-industrial economy. As it becomes more expensive (less plentiful), economic growth will slow down, along with all other activities, including travel and “non-virtual, faith-related” mission.

    There will come a point (2020-2025?) where, unless we’ve discovered some new source of cheap, plentiful, concentrated, transportable energy, the global economy will reach an inversion / tipping point / plateau / stasis resulting from an inability to source affordable energy.

    It’s a massively complex issue. We could talk for months about this (!) Maybe I should come to your conference 🙂 Kind wishes.

  3. Alex Avatar

    John L, Indeed. We are in an energy war that few recognize. On one front, China and others (including the USA) are contractually seizing oil deep into the century. Everyone wants to make sure they get theirs but there isn’t enough to go around. On the other front, who will make the needed break through innovation with regard to energy? My understanding is that given projected consumption of energy, even if we did everything currently possible, we will still have an energy disaster. Whoever innovates in this area, wins. This may in fact be THE presenting issue of our time.


    Yes, it would drive ministry local. But what about our duty to take the gospel to the nations? Interestingly, societies less dependent on oil may fare better than civilizations like ours that require it.

    Thanks to both of you for your input.

  4. Dan Wilburn Avatar

    Alex, so glad to hear you bring this up. You’ll get no disagreement out out me, and all who commented. I add this: Affluence destroys the soul. Consumerism makes us animals as much as war. My favorite monk, Thomas Merton, said at the outbreak of WWII that he believed he was as much responsible for the war as Hitler! Why? He had drove a car. Oil, man. I write this sitting at the Toyota dealer’s service lounge drinking Starbucks. If that ain’t bankrupt.

  5. Alex Avatar

    Andy, It is not possible to focus on being a follower of Jesus and not be on mission. You pointed that out in your next paragraph.

    Wow. Greenspan said that? I’ve got to google for that quote. He’s absolutely right. In fact, we are in that fight already.

    Yes, yes, yes on your final question.

  6. Andy Avatar

    We are already near $5 per gallon in Japan. It will have to be a lot higher to stop people from driving (esp. in the USA). I’d say the demand curve for gasoline is extremely steep.

    The price of air travel is already affected. To fly from Japan to Cambodia I have to pay about $600 for the ticket plus $200 for taxes, fuel surcharge, etc. Our last trip to the States cost a fortune. But it’s still a world of difference from the days when people traveled by boat. The cost in time traveling by boat dwarfs the cost in money. It hurts (don’t get me wrong), but people will still be saying, “It’s only money.”

    About the last part, though, mission becoming local… The barrier to mission being local is inside of people IMO. External factors are one thing, but aren’t there more direct ways to get at the issue. How about fasting for six months from doing mission AND going to church and just focus on being followers of Jesus?

    (Fasting from just one or the other is pointless IMO.)

    Of course, a fast like that would be awkward, but why not? Of course, people would feel like they’re starving, but actually they wouldn’t be. Maybe they’d learn how to live in the Vine, reconnect with their neighbors, do some volunteer work, etc. That’s just a start. Maybe they’d have to sink or swim; live in a new way; reconnect with each other because they really want to; and finally be a people who attract others to journey with them.

    But like you say, many things happening in the world today revolve around oil. It fuels our cars, provides an endless number of consumer products, fertilizes our fields, and even becomes life saving medicine. In the end, we’ll fight for oil (as Alan Greenspan let slip).

    What about church programs, staff salaries (seminary debts), funding mission, buildings, etc.?

    What is the oil in our own closets?

  7. Andy Avatar

    In his recently published memoir Greenspan wrote that: “I’m saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: The Iraq war is largely about oil.”

    Since then he has backtracked and said that going to war to secure the oil supply was common sense in his opinion, but that was not necessarily the motive of the decider(s).

  8. andrew preston Avatar
    andrew preston

    This may sound a little naive, but I rather suspect that running out of oil, because of our current dependency on it, won’t be as scary as touted. Current pressure to develop alternative fuel sources will eventually be greater than the temptation to remain with existing oil infrastructure. When the balance is reached, alternative fuel competition with oil will become economically viable, and we will merrily vote with our pockets. Will we squabble expensively over the remaining dribbles of oil, or prudently invest in new technology? Probably both, when have we ever been sensible? :O)

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