What is culture? We talk a lot about changing it – but what is it we’re trying so hard to change?
Theologian Donald Bloesch writes that culture “is the task appointed to humans to realize their destiny in the world in service to the glory of God.”
The Cultural Mandate calls us to fill the world with the images of God (evangelism) and to take dominion (redeeming culture); it is not either/or but both/and.
As Tim Keller often writes,
If you lose the emphasis on conversion, you will lose the power of the gospel for personal transformation. If you lose the emphasis on the corporate—on the kingdom—you lose the power of the gospel for cultural transformation.
Gabe Lyons captures the heart of many Christians when he says in one essay that,
I can’t imagine anything more important or significant in our lifetime, than to be a part of the church recapturing its role in shaping culture. When we do this, the life-giving message of Jesus Christ will go forward in ways unprecedented throughout the 21st century.
Motivated by the Cultural Mandate and inspired by the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we have the opportunity to transform our communities, our nation, and the world through our vocations. Our effectiveness provides a catalyst for sustained cultural renewal. Richard Doster correctly writes:
Through business, God’s people can harness mankind’s creativity, and with it nurture His creation, developing products that make the world more satisfying. Through the economic power of commerce, Christians can make the world safer and healthier. The members of Christ’s Church, distributed in offices around the world, can transform greed into good stewardship… with an eye toward the consummation of Christ’s kingdom, we also create wealth in order to create new and satisfying jobs, which offer the hope (and perhaps a glimpse) of a coming world where there is no poverty.
If we can restore the Biblical doctrine of work, Christianity can once again bring its powerful influence to bear on our culture. Professor John Frame writes in his book, The Doctrine of the Christian Life,
As God’s Spirit penetrates people’s hearts through the gospel, those people become new creatures. They take their faith into every sphere of life, including the workplace, politics, economics, education, and the arts. And in all these realms, they seek to glorify God…their incipient obedience leads to significant changes in society.
Andy Crouch in his book Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling, suggests a number of practical ways to creatively make a powerful impact on our current culture by inspiring people to reshape their world:
- Stay closely connected to God through spiritual disciplines.
- Engage the culture and influence it in positive ways.
- Don’t separate your faith from the rest of your life; instead, integrate it into everything you do.
- Embrace your calling; understand that God want you to make a difference.
- Cultivate culture by taking good care of the excellence that already exists.
- Dare to take risks; be willing to do things that make the world a better place.
- Tap into the Gospel’s power to transform culture.
- Be specific in identifying what God is calling you to do, trusting Him to accomplish something great through your creative efforts.
- Notice where God is already at work, and join Him there.
- Use your creative power well, and maximize all that God has given you.
- Work with other people you know and trust, with whom you share passion and conviction and commitment.
- Sustain hope when you fail and celebrate your successes.
As Christians, our call to shape culture is not a fool’s errand. We have already discussed many historical examples. And as we will see in our next post, one very recent example may give us considerable insight into quickly impacting the culture around us.
How can you creatively make an impact on the culture you find yourself in?