DR. JIM DENISON, PRESIDENT
OCTOBER 20, 2011
How to change the world
We’ve been considering the ten most important spiritual truths I’ve learned over the years, starting with the earliest and continuing to the most recent.
This morning we come to #2: Changed people change the world.
I consider James Davison Hunter the most important Christian voice on American culture today. The University of Virginia sociology professor serves as founding director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture. His magnum opus is titled, To Change the World. When I read it recently, his thesis transformed the way I serve God.
How does culture change? Dr. Hunter begins with ways it does not. Culture does not change by winning elections. Though I am convinced that God is calling more Christians into public service than are answering his call, electing them to office is not enough by itself to change culture. For instance, divorce rates escalated during the Reagan Administration; gay marriage made significant inroads during the presidency of George W. Bush. Neither development was their fault, of course, but they illustrate the fact that elected officials cannot change culture by themselves.
Culture does not change by evangelism and church attendance. We should be winning people to Jesus and building the church, of course, but large churches by themselves cannot transform our nation. More than 80% of Americans are identified with some faith community, yet our culture is intensely secularistic and materialistic. By contrast, the Jewish community has never comprised more than 3.5% of our population, yet its contributions to science, literature, art, music, film, and architecture have been remarkable. At least 180 Jews have been awarded the Nobel Prize, constituting 36% of all American recipients.
How can we change our culture? Dr. Hunter calls us to “manifest faithful presence.” When we achieve our highest level of influence in society and live there as committed Christians, our witness makes a transforming impact on others. Society resists organized political movements, but it has no defense against believers who lead their culture for Christ.
In response to Dr. Hunter’s thesis, our ministry seeks more intentionally than ever before to join God in building a global movement of culture-changing Christians. How could your life make its largest impact on our society? Pay the price to achieve that level of cultural significance and live there as salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16). It doesn’t take much salt to flavor a meal or much light to illumine the dark.
Would those who know you say they are closer to God because of you?