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Why Political Activism in the Pulpit is Part of the Gospel of the Kingdom

by Rich Carey on September 16, 2011

By Joseph Mattera

Again, another excellent article, reprinted in full from Joseph Mattera’s website.  Here, Joe offers some very relevant commentary on why we must learn to be governmental in the church if we are going to bring transformation to our culture.  There is a reason for the moral decline in our nation, and this identifies the strategy to turn things around.  Keep up the good work, Joe!

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There is a seismic shift taking place today in the marketplace and the church. We need to understand how to respond if we are going to bring systemic transformation. This article deals with how the church should apply the gospel in response to cultural shifts.

First of all, it is a mistake to believe that the culture will shift because of a church revival or a societal awakening. Often, we as believers think the key to societal transformation is to convert masses of people. But the truth is that everyone is led by the decisions of the approximately 3-5% of people who make up the cultural elite in a society. Thus the only way to affect cultural change is to convert the elite who formulate culture in every sphere of society.

Second, it is a mistake to think that political victories will bring transformation. For example, abortion was legalized in 1973 yet the fight still rages on; same-sex marriage has been legalized in several states in the Northeast but the battle will never stop; homosexuality has been normalized by art, media and entertainment yet the rank and file of America still reject it.

The truth is that politics is only one expression of societal power. We need to influence the other mind-molding sectors of society if we are going to dictate the direction of culture. For example, we need to influence the Ivy League universities—especially Harvard, Yale, and Princeton—to change public policy, education, science, views on economics, etc. We need to influence major news outlets like the New York Times, CNN, MTV, etc. and not write only for Christian newspapers and appear only on Christian television stations like TBN.

Hence, we need to train the ekklesia to take the lead, not only in church but by actually being professors, board members and chief executives of leading elite entities in art, music, entertainment, education, media and public policy (for example, the Hoover Institute and the Manhattan Institute).

Having famous athletes and entertainers getting saved and giving testimonies is not nearly enough. We need revivals and multigenerational strategies to place our leading thinkers and practitioners in the highest levels of highbrow culture—like God did with Daniel and the three Hebrew youths in Babylon—if we are going to see societal change (read Daniel chapter 1).

Third, we need to nurture and/or convert those who are part of the emerging “creative class” who comprise between 12-30% of the population but have by far the most wealth producers and will drive the economy for generations to come (read Richard Florida’s book The Rise of the Creative Class). Those in the creative class used to be considered mavericks and non-conformists but are now part of the mainstream and part of a movement that has radically shifted the future of business and culture! Some of the characteristics of this new creative class-driven economy are:

• Businesses are moving towards creative urban centers such as New York City and San Francisco. Thus geography is essential because it is moving from corporate driven to people driven; companies are moving to where the most creative people live, not just where there are tax incentives and highways.

• Typical hierarchical structures are fast becoming a thing of the past. New companies accommodate creative people who like to be self-managed, set their own hours, and are free to think, create, and dress informally. Autonomy, diversity and self-identity are valued more than conformity, conservatism, and group think. These people like to play at work and work at play; the lines between work and leisure are becoming fuzzier.

• Top-down autocratic leadership, which expects people to just follow orders and not think on their own, is no longer effective. Companies are now encouraging creative people to join their ranks who are semi-autonomous and self-managed with leverage to set their own hours.

• A person being loyal to one community and one company for the rest of his or her life is a thing of the past. People are now moving from company to company every several years based on new opportunities to accommodate their interests, increased skills, need to meet new friends, creativity, and desire for change and advancement. (Because of the information age we are in, there are now also virtual communities with much information changing and being exchanged every day. This is making it harder to have cohesive communities and set societal norms which results in fragmentation and postmodernism.)

• Diversity is in; conservative values are respected but not the norm. Only 23% of the families in the United States are nuclear families. Alternate family structures are now becoming the norm.

How should the church respond?

• The church should build authentic communities to model the city of God before we attempt to transform the city of man. We have to honor unity, family, and kingdom unity with churches in our regions before we can transform the pagan systems and cultures around us.

• World-changers need to experience creativity, leadership, covenant, unity, purpose and kingdom power in the church community (ekklesia) so they can be adequately discipled to recreate these things in the secular arenas to which they are called.

• We need to start investing a good portion of our monies towards educating and cultivating the most creative people in our churches and place them in every leadership sphere of society starting with the Ivy League schools.

• We have to understand that prayer, fasting and revival among masses of people will not shift the culture, similar to how the 1857 Prayer Revival, the Azusa Street Revival in 1906, and the numerous Voice of Healing, Toronto Blessing and Pensacola revivals have not shifted culture. Only when revivals affect cultural thinkers who prove influential like Marx, Lenin, Freud, Darwin, and Gates will culture shift.  (This is not to say that prayer, fasting and revival are not important. Of course, reaching and renewing masses of people and Christians is important. In this article we are discussing how to truly experience societal transformation.)

Even as we examine the Scriptures we see that God has used people that were already in high places of authority and/or culture before a nation was transformed. (I will deal with this more in a forthcoming article.) As we do a quick review, we find that Moses already was a prince in Egypt before he was called to confront Egypt and deliver the people of God out of slavery; Daniel was serving as a top political advisor to the King of Babylon (Nebuchadnezzar) and later as a prime minister in Persia which positioned him to speak truth to power and transform culture; Nehemiah was the cup bearer of the King of Persia which enabled him to receive the favor necessary to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem; Samuel was the first in a line of great Jewish prophets who also served as the political judge of the nation; David his protégé may have been a great psalmist but he also became a king. Finally, all the great prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Elijah, Elisha, Micaiah, Ahijah, Amos, etc.) did not just prophesy to small crowds of people in the temple or synagogue; they had access to political and cultural elites, even to the highest political office of the land.

Even church history reiterates this. For example, it took the conversion of Roman Emperor Constantine to legalize Christianity, placing it in a position to transform the whole empire. St. Augustine was first the professor of rhetoric for the imperial court, the most visible academic position in the Latin world, before converting and becoming the Bishop of Hippo, which platformed him to become the greatest theologian and thinker of his age. In 800 AD it was Christian Emperor Charlemagne who laid the groundwork for the first cathedral universities, which were the forerunners for all modern universities. Both primary leaders of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther and John Calvin, received educations that included vast knowledge of the classics, not only the Bible. (Calvin at one point actually considered becoming a lawyer.) The two leaders of the First Great Awakening (which saved England from the destruction that France suffered later in their revolution, and was also the impetus for the American Revolution), John Wesley and George Whitefield, not only knew the Scriptures but graduated from Oxford. Thus they were already positioned to have the respect of the top decision makers of society.  Furthermore, Whitefield’s American counterpart Jonathan Edwards was a graduate of Princeton and later became the president of Princeton. The abolition of slavery in the British Empire was affected by the Clapham Sect which included William Wilberforce, who was a parliamentarian and a close friend of William Pitt the Prime Minister of England and many other cultural and political leaders. The Second Great Awakening in the United States was led by Charles Finney, a capable lawyer whose preaching was able to relate to many lawyers, judges and top decision makers in culture. He affected the course of our nation which led to the abolition of slavery, the implementation of child labor laws, women’s suffrage and many other things.

As we have already stated, the Azusa Street Revival and other 20th century revivals did not have significant cultural impact because they primarily converted masses of people without touching the cultural elite and top decision makers of society.

• We must understand the delicate balance between infiltrating and engaging the cultural elites and highbrows of society without losing our souls and becoming elites in heart and purpose. The “Be Attitudes” of Matthew 5-7 teach us how to interface with others in our communities.

• The church needs to learn how to avoid the extremes of the Christian Right, Christian Left, and the pietists who avoid cultural engagement altogether.

The Christian Right thinks the answer is only political. This approach clothes the gospel of Christ with a particular political party and pits us against people in the world who we are trying to save. This results in us trying to exert power and control people through legal means and changing laws. Although I believe the laws of a state should be based on the Ten Commandments, and that the law is a school master that brings conviction of sin (and is an emblem of what a particular society values), that in and of itself the law is a very weak line of defense because of the vicissitudes of democratic elections.

This approach also smacks of Constantinianism. Although Christianity became the favorite religion of the Roman Empire in the 4th century, this resulted in weakening the church from within because unconverted pagans joined the Christian community without abandoning their lifestyles and core beliefs.

The Christian Left only accommodates the gospel to the prevailing culture which results in losing the biblical distinctions of salt and light. A church that recognizes same-sex marriage and values the environment more than the Ten Commandments has already lost its soul and reason for existing as a Christian community.

The pietists or Anabaptists take the approach that the church should only build alternative sub-cultures that don’t engage or affirm the prevailing culture.

The kingdom alternative is to take the approach of the Celtic Church in the 6th to 8th centuries. They incorporated the Anabaptist strategy of building an alternative community that was a model for the pagan communities they lived among. However they also recognized God’s favor upon His created order (God blessed His creation and called it good) which many theologians refer to as common grace. Thus their communities of faith embraced the non-believing communities, loved them, and won them to Christ by demonstrating the gospel in everyday life.

The church is called to build what James Davison Hunter, in his book To Change the World, describes as communities of faith that both affirm the good in their surrounding societal structures (hospitals, art, police, transportation, commerce, music, science, education, etc.) while also demonstrating the antithesis against that which is sinful and corrupt, not necessarily only in word but how we live our lives as Christ followers. Davidson also calls this approach having a “faithful presence” and bases it on what God prophesied to the Jewish exiles in Babylon and Persia in Jeremiah 29:4-7. In that passage God told the exiles to build houses, build families, settle down and live normal lives, seek the welfare of the city they lived in, and pray to the Lord for those around them, because as the city was blessed they would be blessed.

• The church must also maintain a balance between honoring the traditions of the church and relating to contemporary culture. We are also called to model the power and blessing of the traditional nuclear family and marriage if we are going to be the antithesis to the fragmentation and curse of the alternate family structures of the present pagan world system.

In summary: If we are going to transform culture we need to engage and shift the influencers toward biblical values at the highest levels in every major sphere of society. We cannot only reach masses of people and change political elections. If we don’t reach the 3-5% who are the decision makers, then we will never reach our goals of societal transformation.

As we think about the Scripture in Jeremiah 29:4-7 we realize the most important thing we are called to do is to live exemplary lives that are good witnesses to our surrounding communities. We need to embrace, serve and love our cities and communities, while at the same time train our children and those with the greatest potential in our churches to take the lead at the gates of every sphere of society.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

trev June 30, 2012 at 2:01 pm

I read the article and found it to be of a post modern way of thinking which call to re-create the Gospel to accommodate the needs of our social environment in a subtle way. Having such an approach will suffer more of a consequence of changing the Gospel to accommodate oppose to changing the world due to the Gospel. But then again we as Christian are not called to change the world, its values, culture or system simply because this world order is already in the hands of the prince of the air, the Devil.

He mentioned that the gospel should respond to cultural shift. The gospel should not respond to cultural shift, if anything cultural shift should occur due to the Gospel. When the Gospel respond to cultural shift, the gospel will runs the risk of changing its actual message which is more then apparent in today’s society.

He also mentions that “Thus the only way to affect cultural change is to convert the elite who formulate culture in every sphere of society.” Which is true but the elite is not driven by God’s standard but by greed, control, self seeking, obtain more by whatever means necessary on the back of the poor and this is this is satanic by nature which reflects their father the Devil.

He also mentions “We have to honor unity, family, and kingdom unity with churches in our regions before we can transform the pagan systems and cultures around us”….where in the bible has anyone transformed a pagan system?…..before Israel entered the promised land, God told them to destroy everyone….not go live among them, be a good example and transform their ways. Sin is so powerful that if you don’t cut it off immediately, it will infest itself on you and transform your godly ways to a sinful way and draw you away from God which is all over the Old Testament in Jewish history. Why are orthodox Jews so secluded? Because they learned this lesson a long time ago.

Lastly, he also mentions “We need to start investing a good portion of our monies towards educating and cultivating the most creative people in our churches and place them in every leadership sphere of society starting with the Ivy League schools” Who is to decide who are the most creative and who are not the creative?…what standard will be used and who creates those standards?…..this is re-doing what has been done in the past and all is does is lead to prejudices acts once again leading to conflict and social misbalance as though that has not been done and tried before…this is not thinking outside the box. This country is lead by the most prominent, elite groups of our society and look where it has leaded us today. There is a spiritual force leading the direction of this nation which s not Godly but in all, God has control and will eventually lead it to fulfill His prophecies towards the end times.

If we as Christians believe that we are in the end times today, then we must also believe that even the churches and has been lead away to apostasy. If none were speared in Revelations to the seven churches, what makes anyone think that our present day generation and its churches are immune? Like I said before, prosperity preachers are telling people that we a blessed, highly favored, virtuous, and called to wealth and health, when in reality they should be calling everyone to repentance and falling on our knees to seek God for our sinful money seeking, self pleasuring, me myself and I seeking generation. We are so far from God, that churches are busy looking for strategies to increase the number of members when we should be seeking forgiveness and God’s mercy on this country and its churches for becoming defiles and adulterated with the things of this world.

We are not called to transform a pagan system or its culture. We are called to preach the Gospel. We are destined to hell and condemnation but Jesus came and changed that thru His death and resurrection and for those who will believe will be saved and those who will not will be condemned. More could be said but I will stop here.

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Rich Carey July 2, 2012 at 4:02 am

Trev,

Thanks for taking the time to comment on our blog. You take issue with some of our basic premises and make a lot of assertions here without providing any scriptural evidence to support your claims. Not only that, your claims are unbiblical and contradicted by the words of Christ Himself. I’m very familiar with your theological position, which is based on Dispensationalism. However, what you believe is not in accordance with scripture. I’ll just pick out a few of the bigger errors and see if you would like to defend your position with scripture.

1) You say “we as Christian(s) are not called to change the world, its values, culture or system simply because this world order is already in the hands of the prince of the air, the Devil.”
Where in the Word do you see this taught? This is completely contrary to the Lord’s prayer where He taught us to command “His Kingdom to come and His will to be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.” Why would He teach us to pray like that if it was His will that we leave the world in the control of the evil one? I would suggest that for a Christian to believe this would be deception of the highest order.

What do we do with the Great Commission of Christ to make disciples of all nations, teaching them everything He taught us. If Christians are not called to change the world by teaching the principles and precepts of Christ to others, exactly what are we here for, and what did Jesus mean when He said that?

Also, Jesus said he had given us all authority and power of all the works of the enemy and John states that Jesus came to destroy all the works of the devil and that he was defeated at the Cross. Would this not mean that we are to enforce the victory of the Cross and take back any ground now occupied by the devil? If not, why did Jesus give us all authority and power over the devil?

2) You say “where in the bible has anyone transformed a pagan system?” This is a very strange statement. Since the New Testament was not written, how could it contain any record of the transformation of a nation by the Gospel of the Kingdom? We need only look at history to see many nations that were changed by the spread of Christianity. Just as Jesus promised, the Gospel of the Kingdom has been transforming nations, one heart at a time for centuries. Because there is still sin in the world, we do not yet see any nation in perfect harmony with God’s will. Yet, we see great evils of society confronted and defeated by those who call themselves disciples of Christ. The world is truly a better place because of Christianity’s influence in every culture where it gains a foothold. Conversely, in those areas where Christians are oppressed, we see an increase in injustice and unrighteousness. It is quite illogical to believe that Christianity has no power to transform a culture.

3) You boldly state that we are in the end times and churches are in apostasy. I challenge you to show me biblically why this is true (you can’t).

4) You say we are called to preach the Gospel, which you then define as a “get out of hell” ticket. Where do you see that defined as the Gospel in the Bible? Jesus came preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom. That is what we are preaching as well. If your Gospel does not line up with His, I would submit to you that you are preaching an incomplete gospel at best, and most probably a false gospel. I challenge you to prove me wrong with the Word of God.

Your understanding of what the New Testament teaches is badly flawed, and you should seek some fresh understanding that is based on what the Bible really says instead of what your dispensational teachers are telling you it means because they have led you astray. We are called to transform our culture, have dominion in the earth, destroy all the works of the devil and set the captives free, not only saving them from hell, but leading them into the fullness of blessings on Earth that God has for us as part of the abundant life that He gives. I pray you may come to understand this and enter into a much more joyful and victorious walk with Him.

Peace,
Rich

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daniel adorno July 3, 2012 at 11:01 am

I am a student at Nyack College, in New York City majoring in psychology; enjoyed reading your article about why political activism in the pulpit is part of the gospel of the kingdom.Though I may agree with you that we need more christian leadership in the higher elite part of our society… but they need to be leaders like Daniel, and his crew who did not give into King Nebuchadnezzar and all the trappings of government, power, and prestige, but said “even if He (God) does not delivers us we will not worship or bow down to your gods or rules.” In others words they did not sell their souls to the devil. The apostle Paul was a educated person, but he choose and determined to speak the gospel from the pulpit with the power of God and the wisdom of God, and not with politics and the wisdom of the world. 1Corinthians 2: 1-5.

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Dan Bryan July 24, 2013 at 4:23 pm

If Joe is referring to the world system/view of the pagan Nebuchadnezzar as defined in verse 3-5 as the model we need to emulate in and for the Kingdom of God likening it to the first ’7 mountain mandate’ example, then I see his point, except the church should not adapt pagan principles of compromise and mixture of culture.

One only needs to read further, that if Daniel and the select Hebrew children did in fact effect the change on that culture we would not be evidenced with what occurred with the lion’s den for Daniel and the furnace for the three others. so his reference is mute as there was no evidence of societal change. Why only 4? Where was the faith and belief of the remaining captives of the children of Israel?

The C.Peter Wagner, and his puppets say we are to disciple the nations. There is no scripture verse or group of verses with these two words in this context. Speaking of context lets look at the word ‘nations’.

Found in the great commission for nations is:
????? , ethnos, nationality groups
1) a multitude (whether of men or of beasts) associated or living together
a) a company, troop, swarm
2) a multitude of individuals of the same nature or genus
a) the human family
3) a tribe, nation, people group
4) in the OT, foreign nations not worshiping the true God, pagans, Gentiles
5) Paul uses the term for Gentile Christians

So we see C. Peter Wagner, apply the word ‘nations’ with today’s meaning of countries or governments. The true exegesis of this term from the period in which it was written it means nationality groups. Nations were not the definition used for governance, but were called Kingdoms, so, the word is taken out of it’s original context and applied to modern governments in a ploy to enhance his theorem.

Here are some difficult scriptures avoided by the 7M theory-oligists, as it does not fit their mandate.

The kingdom cannot be observed, it is not of the natural world as one that we would eat or drink in. Nor something to contend and fight for, in the political or natural arena. The Kingdom of God is inherited not something we create or co-create with God.

Luke 17:20 “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed;
Romans 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,
John 18:36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight……
Col 1:12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light…

So Bishop Mattera’s conclusion is that: “If we don’t reach the 3-5% who are the decision makers, then we will never reach our goals of societal transformation.”
Where do we have an example of Jesus attempting this? We need to save the saviors?

Reply

Rich Carey July 24, 2013 at 7:41 pm

Thank you for your comments, Dan. Obviously you disagree with the 7 Mountains mandate of cultural transformation. If you are willing to continue the dialog, I’d like your perspective on a few points related to the 7 Mountain strategy:

1) What did Jesus mean when he said “make disciples of all nations” if he did not mean national transformation? Do you believe this is simply leading people to salvation and ignoring the bigger issues of justice and righteousness in the centers of cultural influence?

2) What did Jesus mean by “seek first the Kingdom of God” and “pray then in this way…thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven?” How do you think believers are to walk this out in everyday life?

3) Do you not see the obedience of believers seeking to bring the justice and righteousness of God to the marketplace, or more appropriately, their failure herein as a having a cause and effect relative to the moral decay we now see in our nation?

I look forward to your response.

Peace,
Rich

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