At Work & Public Square

Three Pieces of Advice for Christian Leaders Seeking to Influence Today’s Culture for Christ

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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.

Be Accomplished

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? 

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  • Milton G.

    “…these young men became competent to stand before the king’s palace because they acquire wisdom and knowledge of the Babylonians…” These exiles did not prove themselves to be competent by attending Judah Private Jewish University. They attended Babylonian State University where they proved themselves competent. I am planning to go back to school. I was debating whether to go to a private school or a public school. This article confirmed that the better platform to participate in public conversations and prove myself competent is to go to a public school. I would tell a Christian high school senior who wants to make an impact in culture for Christ that his best place for impact is the public university. The Achilles’s heel for Christians who want to influence culture is their lack of competence or being semi-competent. This topic is something that is missing from the “missional” conversation. The accomplishment of these exiles should be the standard of what a “missional” person should attain. I don’t just want to influence the part-time workers and the hourly workers. I want to influence the CEO, CFO, and board members. Competence is my currency that will get me a sit at the table, the “palace” table.

    • Erik McEntyre

      Well said. I am headed back to school as well. Your comment has helped me with confirmation as well. Best Regards!

  • Inspiring article! 🙂

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