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

Networking for change

Written by: on April 4, 2014

Hunter’s work, To Change the World, attempts to explain why so few Christians have had significant influence for the Kingdom of God upon society in late modern times. Coming from a different and more pragmatic view than that of Douthat, Hunter believes that the means to changing the current anaemic Christian climate in America is more than simply getting back to our orthodox theological roots. Although Douthat is quite correct in that there is a need to expunge the church from heresy in the quest to cultural change, Hunter takes the reader further by providing a practical model based on the dynamics of power structures, backed up through his recounting of numerous significant historical examples.

According to Hunter, cultural change happens from the top down, not merely through clever individuals, ideas, or grass root endeavours, but rather through established networks, educational institutions and structures, coupled with the provision of resources to finance this work. Changing the hearts of individuals is not enough. Hunter believes that if we fail to influence important power structures such as the fields of academia, politics, and so on, we will make no impact on the culture no matter how many people in other strata of society embrace the Christian world view.  He cites various statistics, including how although evangelicals make up 40% or so of the population, they have no representatives on the Supreme Court. Whereas Jews, on the other hand, who make up just 3% of the population, have three out of nine seats.

Cultural change then occurs through utilising important and influential power structures, essentially elite leaders, educational establishments and frameworks, coupled with the backing and support of the affluent and influential. Citing the example of the Carolingian renaissance, he writes, “In the end, the good that was produced did not come about through literary, textual, musical, and artistic genius alone. Not was it the result of brilliant administrative initiative. By the same token, neither was it a creation of the extraordinary wealth and patronage of the nobility. It was, of course, a result of the coming together of all three at once.” [i]

Hunter is optimistic, proving to the reader than cultural change has happened before (in both religious and secular fields) and that it most surely can happen again: “[C]ultures can and do change in the most profound ways over time.” [ii] I found Hunter’s strategy most helpful for my current focus on the need for a renewal of discipleship in the Wales, UK. How is it possible to educate a nation, even churches, on the importance and methods of discipleship? How can we turn the tide spiritually in this culture? Is it even possible? According to Hunter, it most certainly is and he provides an interesting solution: establish key relationships with influential people who carry the same concern; create avenues of education and promotion for discipleship; influence the media, and secure support: “The alternative view of cultural change that assigns roles not only to ideas but also to elites, networks, technology, and new institutions, provides a much better account of the growth in plausibility and popularity of these important cultural developments.” [iii]

In summary, whether he is entirely correct in his approach or not, I found in Hunter both hope and a practical framework and strategy within which a dream for a discipleship drive may be possible here in Wales. I have been inspired by the many examples cited in Hunter’s book and am encouraged to believe that such positive cultural change can happen again, even in this season of spiritual famine.

[i] James D. Hunter, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2010), 64

[ii] Hunter, ibid., 78

[iii] Hunter, ibid., 76

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Liz Linssen

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