Despite it being left out of most secular accounts, Christianity decisively shaped Western Civilization. But Christians have neglected their calling to continue to shape culture. Today, steeped in an egocentric culture that glorifies many forms of sin, it is more critical than ever that Christians hear and follow God’s call to cultivate culture for His glory.
This is precisely what Hugh Whelchel, Executive Director of the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics, argues in his article Evangelism Is Not Enough to Change the World. Whelchel makes the excellent point that evangelism is not the only component of Christian mission. God’s purposes are more all-encompassing:
God gives Adam and Eve their job description in Genesis 1:28. He tells them they were created to fill the earth with his images and subdue it, making it useful for the benefit and enjoyment of humans. The gospel of Jesus Christ redeems us, empowers us, and calls us back to this original calling.
It is important to understand both parts of this calling and see the difference between them. The church has been faithful to the first part of this calling to fill the earth with God’s (redeemed) images. This is evangelism and discipleship. These are vital activities.
But the church has forgotten to subdue the earth. Carrying out this second responsibility changes culture. Shaping, changing, and directing culture results from the work of our hands. It is not what we believe but what we do that transforms our institutions, communities, and families.
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The work of Christians down through the ages has built the great architectural structures of the West, constructed hospitals, founded schools and universities, abolished slavery, created great inventions, and written and painted and composed the incredible works of art civilization has enjoyed for centuries. These Christians saw all this work as part of subduing the earth.
Evangelism and discipleship are vitally important. Nothing we build matters without a personal relationship with the One who built the universe. But once we know him, everything we do is filled with a special purpose, a calling to use our work to glorify him, serve the common good, and further his kingdom. In other words, to radically impact our surrounding culture through the work of our hands.
No matter how dire the state of the world, God will never abandon us. As we go out into the world to be witnesses to Him, we must understand that we have work to do that requires evangelism and hard work with our own hands. Changing culture won’t be easy, but with God’s grace, it isn’t impossible. And it is definitely worth it.
May 3, 2016
What it Takes to Change the World
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