As Christians, we are called to be ministers in whatever our vocation and ambassadors of Christ in a sin-damaged world. Whether we choose a career in business and marketing, nursing or counseling, we’re called to integrate faith into our work and disciple others wherever we are.
This mandate is evident throughout Scripture, as the Bible frequently addresses the priesthood of all believers: "You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ … But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:5-9).
Yet, Christians are also called to be counter-cultural; on the eve of His crucifixion, Jesus prays to his Father in John 17:14–19, “I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”
But proclaiming the name of Christ in a largely anti-Christian culture is no small task. Espousing a biblical view of hot-button issues like abortion and sexuality is, at best, seen as antiquated — at worst, bigoted and hateful. Abiding by the moral framework outlined in the Bible in a society obsessed with pleasure and self-fulfillment makes us susceptible to ridicule. It’s not surprising, then, that Christians sometimes choose to remain in a protective bubble, safe from patronizing stares and snide comments.
Why, exactly, does the world need godly men and women in positions of cultural leadership? And how do we boldly live out our Christian faith while influencing a post-modern world?
We Were Created to Glorify God
It’s important to understand that we were created to, first and foremost, to glorify God; 1 Corinthians 10:31 tells us, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” Similarly, in Ephesians 1:11–12, Paul reminds us that we work for a purpose greater than ourselves: “In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of His glory.”
In other words, God calls His people to become united with Himself in every aspect of life, both personally and professionally. The purpose of our work, then, is not to gain popularity, power, or financial status; rather, it’s to make God look great and serve others.
Pastor Jimmy Evans, Senior Pastor at Gateway Church and author of I Changed My Mind: Journey Toward Spiritual Maturity, argues that before Christians can properly influence culture, they must first reject the world’s misguided view of success.
“The number one way that the world would say that you’re successful is how much money you have, how much popularity you have, how much power and influence you have,” he said. “But, the Bible tells us that Jesus is the ultimate example of success — even though He was far from successful in the world’s eyes. Jesus didn’t have money, status, or power, yet He stewarded His life before God and served others. This is God’s view of success. When we understand this, we are able to positively influence those around us and further the Kingdom of God.”
Christian Leadership in the Age of Uncertainty
There’s no denying we live in an age of confusion and uncertainty. In two national surveys conducted by Barna Research, one among adults and one among teenagers, people were asked if they believe that there are unchanging moral absolutes or that moral truth is relative to the circumstances. By a 3-to-1 margin (64% vs. 22%) adults said truth is always relative to the person and the situation. The disparity was even larger among teenagers: 83% said moral truth depends on the circumstances, and only 6% said moral truth is absolute.
These statistics are sobering — and strongly indicate that now more than ever before, the world needs Christians in positions of cultural leadership. As absolute truth becomes a thing of the past, our society needs biblically-minded men and women who will lead with courage and clarity. Leaders whose mindset, tactics, and ethics are influenced by the Gospel are able to effectively engage culture while serving with excellence (Colossians 3:23).
As religious freedom continues to come under attack, Christians are needed in the political world to ensure our God-given rights are protected. As sanctity of life issues — from conception to end-of-life — continue to make headlines, Christians who believe all life is sacred are desperately needed in the medical field. And, as sexuality continues to be redefined, Christians are needed in the education and entertainment arenas to remind culture of the Judeo-Christian principles our nation was founded upon.
The way we engage culture as Christ followers matters. Because we serve a Heavenly boss, we are called to carry out our work with enthusiasm, dependent faith, and excellence. This means working hard to understand what it is we are trying to communicate to a watching world. By furthering our education — whether we earn a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree — we become informed, respected experts on issues relevant to the Christian community. In a culture hostile to biblical principles, addressing issues with grace, truth, and clarity is of the utmost importance.
In But Not Of The World
Throughout the Bible, the lines are clearly drawn between the secular world and the children of God. In John 17:14–19, Jesus says He does not want His followers to be “of the world,” as He Himself is “not of the world,” and His disciples are “not of the world.” Similarly, the Bible says in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world,” and James 4:4 reads, “Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
Yet, Jesus also prays, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.” In other words, Jesus is not asking His Father for His disciples to be entirely taken out of the world. Rather, He is praying for His followers as they are “sent into” the world.
Because we were created to glorify God, our mission must not be isolate ourselves from the world, but to be active participants in it. Matthew 5:14-16 reads, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
God has placed us in the world on mission to minister to the people around us. Jesus Himself ate with publicans, tax collectors, outcasts, and sinners (Mark 2:16), yet maintained a distinctive kingdom character. Similarly, we are called to love, minister to, and positively impact those who don’t yet know Jesus while faithfully adhering to biblical principles.
Andy Crouch, author of Culture Making: Recovering our Creative Calling, writes: “The beginning of culture and the beginning of humanity are one and the same because culture is what we were made to do. There is no withdrawing from culture. Culture is inescapable. And that’s a good thing.”
When engaging with culture, the Bible tells us to expect opposition from the world. Faithfully abiding by biblical principles invites persecution, opposition, and criticism from an antagonistic culture. Yet, the Bible teaches that we are not to be discouraged by this hatred; in fact, we are to “count it all joy” and consider it evidence that we are identified with Christ. Jesus said, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven” (Matthew 5:11-12).
It’s clear that the world needs Christians in positions of leadership — and we don't need to be employed by a church, faith-based group, or mission organization to do the work of the ministry. Rather, we can serve as ambassadors of Christ in whatever our vocation, from business and aviation to cyber-security and nursing.
As we engage with culture while adhering to a counter-cultural Gospel, let’s strive to honor Christ and courageously live out our faith while loving those who think differently. In this way, we are able to glorify God in every sphere while advancing the Kingdom of Heaven.
Crouch writes, “So do you want to make culture? Find a community, a small group who can lovingly fuel your dreams and puncture your illusions. Find friends and form a family who are willing to see grace at work in one another's lives, who can discern together which gifts and which crosses each has been called to bear. Find people who have a holy respect for power and a holy willingness to spend their power alongside the powerless. Find some partners in the wild and wonderful world beyond church doors. And then, together, make something of the world.”