In order to understand what the Bible says about culture and how Christians are to relate to the culture, we must start at the beginning. God's original intent was for man to rule and reign over the earth, together with Him, by the authority entrusted to them. "The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord's; but the earth He has given to the children of men."1 God blessed them and said, "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth."2
God extended His ownership over everything He created and over the people who lived on the earth. "The earth is the Lord's, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein."3
This is why Jesus prayed that whatever was in heaven would be manifested on the earth. He was wanting to restore all that had been lost. His desire for His values and people to be represented
in every sphere of society, not because His people are better than others, but because He wants to reveal His love in every human being in every aspect of society. He told the people of Israel this in Deuteronomy 28:13-14:
And the Lord will make you the head and not the tail; you shall be
above only, and not be beneath, if you heed the commandments of
the Lord your God, which I command you today, and are careful to
observe them. So you shall not turn aside from any of the words which
I command you this day, to the right hand or to the left, to go after
other gods to serve them.
Notice that God said they would have greater influence as a result of their obedience to His commands. It was a fruit of obedience not a goal to be achieved. The context of this verse was in Israel's relationship to other nations. Israel had a problem with adopting the idols of other nations. God said, "Be faithful to Me, and you will be blessed above all nations."
However, read such words publicly in a pluralistic modern society as today and you might just incite a riot.
I do not believe God's intent is for Christians to rule the earth;
rather, I believe the New Testament calls us to serve the culture.
How do we reconcile these words with the Bible today? Do these words apply today? What is God's intent for man and his relationship to culture? I believe a literal interpretation of the Old Testament account is not God's intent for today. I do not believe God's intent is for Christians to rule the earth; rather, I believe the New Testament calls us to serve the culture. God determines the fruit of our obedience to love Him and others in the culture. We should not make culture change a goal; it can only be fruit. Jesus never tried to use His authority; instead, He served people by solving their problems. He only exercised His authority over demons and principalities that sought to destroy people. Jesus loved all people, even when He disagreed with them.
An important understanding and distinction must be stated at this point. Dominion, or perhaps a better word to use is influence, is a result of our love and obedience to God, not a goal to be achieved. It is a result of serving those in all aspects of culture. It is the fruit of our obedience. Otherwise we begin to use fleshly strategies to exploit and subjugate others to our way of thinking.
Jesus never sought to have dominion; rather,
He encouraged others to love and obey God.
It is better that we avoid the word dominion in our culture today due to the connotation that comes with this word of control and manipulation of others. It also reminds people of a flawed movement in the body of Christ called dominion theology that caused great harm to many.
On August 19th during a CNN Situation Room broadcast with Wolf Blitzer, Jack Cafferty attempted to tie Michelle Bachman and Rick Perry to dominionsim theology. He took their words out of context, yet the very word "dominion" brought out the worst in the secular media for fear that Christians want to rule the world through a right wing political agenda.
In 1975, Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade, and Loren Cunningham, founder of Youth With a Mission, had lunch together in Colorado. God simultaneously gave each of these change agents a message to give to the other. During that same time frame Francis Schaeffer was given a similar message. That message was that if we are to impact any nation for Jesus Christ, then we would have to affect the seven spheres, or mountains of society that are the pillars of any society.
These seven mountains are business, government, media, arts and entertainment, education, the family and religion. There are many subgroups under these main categories. About a month later the Lord showed Francis Schaeffer the same thing. In essence, God was telling these three change agents where the battlefield was. It was here where culture would be won or lost. Their assignment was to raise up change agents to scale the mountains and to help a new generation of change agents understand the larger story.
The seven mountains initiative is not an initiative to establish dominion over all the earth or in governments. It is not an initiative that does not love and serve all people on the earth nor does it seek to alleviate other faith expressions. As followers of Christ, we believe we are called to love all people, regardless of faith, lifestyle or gender orientation. God loves all people. He provides guidelines for living as found in the Holy Scriptures and we support those guidelines as a people called to love and obey His calling upon our lives. Jesus invites all people into this destiny, but not all will come. We are called to model what Christ taught when He prayed that what was in heaven would be manifested on earth through a people known for their love of one another and others. That means His love and grace would be extended to all people.
When we operate from love and service, we will be attractive to the world.
They will desire to follow. We become solution providers to the issues of mankind.
Jesus solved people's problems, which resulted in greater influence in people's
lives. Loren Cunningham once said correctly, "Use your authority and you will lose your influence; use your influence and you will gain authority."
The world is looking for solutions to problems in society. Christians should be about solving problems. Christ's message was to give liberty to the captives, not through control or manipulation, but through a self-less non-condemning love the world had never seen or experienced.
Gabe Lyons explains: "Christ's death and Resurrection were not only
meant to save people from something. He wanted to save Christians to something.
God longs to restore his image in them, and let them loose, freeing them
to pursue his original dreams for the entire world. Here, now, today, tomorrow.
They no longer feel bound to wait for heaven or spend all of their time telling
people what they should believe. Instead, they are participating with God in his
restoration project for the whole world. They recognize that Christ's redemptive
work is not the end or even the goal of our stories; redemption is the beginning
of our participation in God's work of restoration in our lives and in the world.
Understanding that one idea literally changes everything."5
Influence without humility and relationship (with Jesus and others)
means we operate from our individual personal agendas, which is what the evangelical church has done in many instances. Christianity has been guilty of trying to control and manipulate people and culture by many or the same ungodly methods of other groups. Jesus modeled influence while he was on earth by building relationship and solving people's problems by serving them. Jesus said that if you want to be great, you must be servant of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45).
The Samaritan woman is a good case in point. Jesus talked to her. The disciples questioned why Jesus talked to her. Samaritan's were off limits culturally (not the right political party). She was also a woman, another reason for him not to talk to her. However, Jesus spoke into her life. He built a relationship with her. She was deeply impacted by His words. She went into the city to share her experience. Those in the city came to see Jesus and He spent several days in the city as a result. "And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because or the word of the woman who testified," He told me all that I ever did'" (JN 4:39).
Notice that culture did not change through a boycott, a political campaign, or a law requiring a certain belief. The truth is, any group that require you to believe the way they believe is a dominionist. That includes Democrats, Republicans, gay activists, environmentalists, a church denomination, etc. The seven mountain strategy is merely a way to be salt and light among a sphere of influence which most defines values and beliefs in the culture.
Is the 7 mountain strategy from the Holy Spirit?
Historically we know that Loren Cunningham and Bill Bright received a Word from the Lord the same week in 1975 regarding seven mind molders of society having the greatest influence in shaping culture. However, there have been many leaders who are receiving this revelation who never heard of their story. I have personally encountered at least five leaders who had no knowledge of the seven mountains of culture but God revealed it to them.
A secular socialist, Randall Collins, author of The Discovery of Society also cited that there are seven cultural gates that shape the culture through the elites that operate at the top of these gates.
Christ never requires someone to believe. Free will to choose to believe is always extended to everyone. His mandate was to love God with all your heart and love your neighbor. In the meantime, we are called to love those who hold different views than us. We are a society with different political and religious expressions that should be allowed to co-exist. We should treat all people with dignity and respect.
Excerpted from Change Agent, by Os Hillman
1,2. Genesis 1:28.
3. Psalm 24:1.
5. Gabe Lyons, The Next Christians, p 53.