Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Culture – Creation Continues

Written by: on July 15, 2014

In the beginning…out of nothing…God created.  We, created in the likeness of the Maker who makes all things, are ourselves world-makers.  This is our birthright.  There are those who still actively name this birthright and call us to living into its freedom, joy and responsibility.  The Presbyterian Church USA works toward “renewing the church to transform the world.” The Episcopal Church claims that a “revolution (of justice and peace) is precisely what God’s work, God’s mission, is all about.” The Mission of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America states that “transforming the structures of society, working for justice, and preserving the earth.” And the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops in writing about world-change offer, “Our faith demands it. Our teaching calls us to it. Our nation needs it and others depend on it. We can make a difference.”[1] These are examples of so many more organizations and people that also encourage us into creating and creating well.

This is how James Davison Hunter powerfully begins his book To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility in the Late Modern World.  Sadly, Hunter notes that many see their Christianity as that stereotypical crutch – something to help them deal with the complexities and hardships that come their way.  Too few see their faith as a bolstering, enlivening, power-bequeathing and generative principle.  Yet, there are those who do understand their faith in this manner and we celebrate them the world over – Desmond Tutu, Mother Teresa, Jimmy Carter, and the like.

What I appreciate about Hunter’s text is his emphasis on the need for institutions in order to really be effective at sustainably changing society.  While I do find that he has a bit stronger emphasis on this, at the expense of personal interaction, than I would like, I generally agree that substantive, sustainable change must involve institutions in some form.  Hunter writing from a sociological perspective recognizes that institutions in central societal positions bear most possibility for significant influence and he notes that many in the church occupy comparatively marginal positions.  And thus, he wisely suggests that we stop putting quite so much pressure on people to be “world-changers” writ-large.  Instead, how we should encourage them toward “faithful presence” where they happen to be on any given day at any given place.

I agree…and yet…here we are following in the footsteps – two some centuries on – of a backwater villages Carpenter’s son who gathered some lower-rungs-of-society (overall) companions to him.  He walked around with them, got a lot of people angry and then got himself killed.  Later, many of his companions managed to also get themselves killed even after a previously unheard of resurrection from the dead transpired (you’d think they could have gotten a bit of street cred from that…).  So, while I do agree with Hunter’s analysis overall, I also retain just a bit of wonderment at the beautiful unpredictability of just how God works in the world and remain glad that I am part of that tradition.


[1] Hunter, James Davison, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 3.

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Clint Baldwin

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