The Cart before the Horse
Throughout history, believers have given themselves to making an impact on the world with the message of salvation. Without a doubt, salvation is the greatest miracle of all— the forgiveness of sin and the transformation of a life. It is also the greatest need of humanity. In the process of discipleship that follows, we work to instill the values God has for us in all areas of our everyday lives. Embracing and displaying these values in a godly lifestyle reveals in many ways whether we are following Jesus or just attending church.
The goal of most believers is not only to convert people to Jesus Christ, but also to influence how life is lived in their homes, and also in their cities. The impact of the Church on the value system of our cities has been strong at some times, and seemingly nonexistent at other times. We must find out why and embrace the principles that foster change and transformation in the world around us. This is part of the reason we are here. True disciples are governed by common values. For example, every group of believers wants to see healthy family life, with children growing up to become contributors to society.
We also hate the abuse we have seen of women and children, and we are desperate to see that abomination removed from society. Another thing we greatly value is seeing businesses succeed. They influence the culture and identity of their city by giving place to the rise of genuine city fathers and mothers. There is a hunger in a Kingdom culture for success to come without the pride and arrogance that often accompany wealth.
Real success enables people to serve their community more effectively, and we ache for such values to permeate our culture. As believers, we all want to see honest politicians elected who represent us well, and more importantly, who represent a biblically mandated value system.
It would be wonderful to experience an admiration for leaders again instead of feeling as though we are electing the lesser of two evils.
We long, as well, to see members of the media shaped by personal integrity and driven by a value for the truth. The bent toward prostituting the reputation of others for the sake of fame or income has to stop.
There is also a great hunger among us to see the medical community thrive with excellence, while its workers maintain the heart of a servant. It would be a dream come true if we found that this great part of every community had discovered the connection between spirit, soul and body. Part of that dream would be seeing them provide healthcare to the whole person through divine wisdom. Many of us love entertainment, but we are tired of seeing the reprobate ideas of one person put on the screen in the name of art. God is the ultimate entertainer, causing us all to wonder at His works.
He displays His phenomena for our edification, education and delight. We long for creative people to learn from the Creator and be empowered to take their necessary place in society. This list of values is really endless as we dream of what the ultimate community and nation would look like. The solution is not for the Church to take control of these realms. Historically, it has never helped us when we fight for control, nor has it helped our influence in society. It is much better for us to accept promotion when it comes, but to focus on embracing our influence as servants. Seeing a Kingdom culture established on earth is the dream of God, and it must become the dream of His people. Abraham, the father of faith, illustrated its importance, as he, too, longed for a city whose builder and maker is God (see Hebrews 11: 10). Perhaps this is the way of faith. When Jesus brought correction to the religious leaders of His day, He told them to prove their identity through “doing the deeds of Abraham” (see John 8: 39). Is it possible that Abraham’s dream of that city influenced how he expressed his faith? I think so. It would be nearly impossible to separate the two. My story of visiting the Netherlands illustrates the greenhouse effect on how life is lived around us. Culture is made up of the attitudes, values and priorities of a particular nation, city, social group or organization. All cultures enable the development of social norms, both good and bad. If the culture is right, it enables the desired plants to grow easily.
(The plants, of course, are Kingdom values, attitudes and priorities.) The mistake that we have made is to target the goals we want to realize without giving attention to shaping culture. In other words, we try to grow tulips in freezing weather. For example, we try to build healthy families without addressing the atmosphere in our community that enables that “plant” to grow easily. It is not either/ or. It is both/ and. Should we be successful in shaping culture, you can imagine what it would look like to see the right “plants” grow easily. Successfully shaping culture makes healthy families the norm. When we try to influence family values, however, we are viewed as people with an agenda, people who use religion as the basis to take over a society to accomplish their own goals.
But society views servants completely differently. When we are seen as servants who have no agenda except to love, we are given access to the heart of the community.