In a recent interview with Outcomes magazine, Gregory Thornbury, president of The King’s College in New York City, was asked what advice he had for Christian leaders seeking to influence today’s culture for Christ.
Thornbury gives a three-pronged response:
Learn from the Experience and Wisdom of Previous Generations of Believers
Thornbury tells Outcomes,
If we want to influence the culture for Christ, we must attend to the disciplines that helped previous generations of believers do the same.
“We are legatees of a great intellectual and spiritual inheritance,” he adds, exhorting Christians to study philosophy, church history, and the issues facing society. In learning from past generations, we’ll find that they faced the same difficulties. We can learn from how they handled these challenges.
Practice the Spiritual Disciplines
Hand in hand with attending the disciplines Thornbury lists above is practicing the spiritual disciplines. Making his case for their importance, Thornbury says of spiritual disciplines,
If we are not regularly praying, fasting, devoting ourselves to Scripture and being quiet before God, we might totally miss what God is doing in our time.
Thornbury argues that these disciplines help us keep an eye out for what’s developing in the church today.
Here Thornbury makes the case for on-the-job and in-the-culture excellence. He offers two examples: Christian musician and songwriter Larry Norman, and the lives Daniel and his friends found in the Old Testament.
Norman was an artist signed to major labels like Capitol Records, worked with Beatles producer George Martin, and, according to Thornbury, counted Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan among his fans. Speaking of Norman’s legacy, Thornbury says,
We need to get back to that: work that people at the top of their game respect.
A much older example can be seen in the life of Daniel and his friends. Thornbury tells Outcomes,
If you look at a passage like Daniel 1:4, you see something that isn’t talked about as much in our circles. The text says that these young men became competent to stand in the king’s palace because they acquired all of the wisdom and knowledge of the Babylonians…. We forget that Scripture tells us that the exiles from Israel flourished and succeeded in this seemingly hostile work environment. Daniel and his companions became the ministers of finance, culture and the government not for their generation but for generations to come.
Of course, developing competency and doing excellent work can’t be done in a vacuum. Thornbury argues these things must be paired with the cultivation of intellectual, theological, and ethical virtues if Christians hope to have long-term influence on today’s culture.
As Thornbury declares at the end of the interview, “Integrity is everything.”
What thoughts do you have for Christians seeking to influence today’s culture?