Here’s a song I hate.
I can hear the footsteps of my King
I can hear His heartbeat beckoning
In my darkness He has set me free
And now I hear the Spirit calling me
Wake up child
It’s your time to shine
You were born for such a time as this
I can hear a holy rumbling
I’ve begun to preach another King
Loosing chains and breaking down the walls
I want to hear the Father when He calls
This is the anthem of our generation
Here we are God, shake our nation
All we need is Your love
You captivate me
I am royalty
I have destiny
I have been set free
I’m gonna shape history
~ The Anthem by Jesus Culture.
I hate it because I sang this song and responded at the altar to many songs like it all the way through my youth group years. I hate it because it told me I was going to change the world! (For Jesus of course) The last stanza in the song is what really gets me. (Perhaps It would be acceptable if just the I’s were changed to “we’s.) It raised in me an expectation of what Christian life and pastoral ministry was all about. Bringing tangible, measurable, and epic changes into our fallen world.
And then I accepted my first youth pastorate. With dreams of youth services with packed out gyms and an entire city of teenagers saved for Jesus Christ I walked in with lofty ambition. Reality sunk in pretty quick. I was an OK youth pastor. Some things I did were maybe pretty good, I guess, but overall I think I was just OK. And nowadays I’m OK with that. I suppose this topic of, what it means to change the world, and should it even be our goal, is especially relevant to my generation (The Millenials), who really do believe they can change the world. Considering this context I am coming from, there were a few points that especially stuck out to me from James David Hunter’s book, To Change The World.
- Idealism is not enough
How many times have we heard, “the government is not going to fix all our problems…” “New legislation is not going to fix all our problems…” “more gun laws are not going to fix all our problems…” It seems like after each major national crisis phrases like that are thrown around. Whether its terrorism, gang violence, increase of crime, unbiblical values becoming mainstream, a pastor will remind us on Sunday morning, “it is only Jesus that can change a heart, and its only Jesus that can bring transformation to fix all these problems.”
And so with this idealism many churches take a withdrawn stance and back out of the political issues. They do this under the guise of, “Jesus is really the only thing which will make a lasting impact anyway.” And to be honest I pretty pretty much agree with these comments. Jesus is the only thing. But maybe, to Hunter’s point, that’s not enough for a church to keep bombarding their values into individuals hoping it turn will eventually turn the tide of the culture war.
Hunter’s claim is that this Idealism is not enough. It’s not enough to just stand there as – can I say? – a city on a hill. To see more visible and realistic change the church would need to take more of an active role in the mechanism that slowly shift culture over the decades. From art, legislation, business, there are all major pieces that affect a whole culture, and the church simply trying to show the restored transformed heart has not been incarnational enough.
- Changing the World is not The Goal
But at the same time, Hunter also says that any sort of “Let’s go change the world” language has missed a lot of the point of true Christian Kingdom mentality. Hunter claims that the Kingdom can only extend from God and not our own effort. And therefor our only goal should really just to be to honor him more.
I certainly sense the Anabaptists flavor of theology in this book. To again compare to my tribe, the Pentecostals are a conquest minded, evangelistic bunch. Many pastors give the battle cry, “We must populate heaven and plunder hell.” Greg Gilbert in a his review of the book paraphrases Hunter, “That’s because these phrases imply conquest, take-over, and dominion, which, Hunter is right to say, is precisely not what God has called us as Christians to be about.”
I do see where Hunter is coming from though. I had never thought about the ambition to “change the world” like this. But if the goal of Christianity is to bring about more justice or righteousness, then it makes Christianity simply a means to an end. Then Jesus & God is the means to end, and the real goal is a better quality of living or a higher GDP. The end should simply be, knowing God and honoring Him.
I don’t think inspiring people to change the world, is the wrong message. Simply we should clarify that “WE”, all of us with God, will be the change agent. And we should also clarify what exact change we are looking for, more honor and worship for God.
 Tim Elmore, Generation IY: Our Last Chance to save Their Future (Poet Gardener Publishing, 2010).
James Davison Hunter, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World (New York: Oxford University Press, ©2010),
 “Book Review: To Change the World, by James Davison Hunter,” 9Marks, accessed March 18, 2018, https://www.9marks.org/review/change-world/.