How do we create culture? The question is far too broad and deep to thoroughly address in a blog post (or even a series of posts). Brilliant men and women spend their lives studying culture. As leaders, we need to continually challenge ourselves; therefore, it is a worthwhile endeavor to spend time thinking, reading, and praying about culture. In a previous post, I presented the premise that the best way to impact culture is to create new culture. Today, I invite you to consider the question ‘How do we create culture?’
I once heard Ken Myers (Former NPR Arts & Humanity Editor of Morning Edition, current resident of Mars Hill Audio) speak at an “Institute on Contemporary Culture” at my church. He challenged us to think about our doctrine of creation – not creation vs. evolution; rather, Myers spoke about a theology built around the following idea: since we are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27), and God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1), we are inherently creators. According to Genesis, all of creation was good prior to the Fall since God deemed it so. Adam and Eve were contributors of creativity.
Think for a moment about the last time you created something. Perhaps nothing comes to mind immediately so consider the following: Have you ever upgraded landscape around your home? Built a stool, desk, table or cabinet? Have you written a poem, song, or short story? Taken a photograph or painted a picture? Perhaps as a little league coach you created a plan for the season. Our understanding of the doctrine of creation impacts us in many ways. Myers points out that folks often pray “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” yet they are either unaware of their God-given ability to help bring heaven to earth or they chose not to attempt to do so. (Find the blog post here). When we realize we are created in the image of the Creator, we begin to understand our potential as creators.
A second crucial factor in creating culture is recognizing that culture is cumulative. We have all been given culture and cultural artifacts with which to work (i.e. we have been placed into situations where “our little world” exists already). Only God began ex nihilo (out of nothing – He is the uncreated Creator). In Every Good Endeavor, authors Tim Keller and Katherine Leary Alsdorf explore the notion that what we make of culture is simply rearranging what has already been handed to us. Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden and told to name animals (Adam), work the fields, and create family; in short they were working with that which they were given (& given responsibility over). Mankind has been working with, recreating and remixing the starting blocks ever since.
Consider your job. What have you been given charge over, and what have you made of it? Have you created any teams, a repeating calendar of events, a system for training and retaining talent? Have you created a marketing plan or crafted a 5/10 year business plan? Perhaps you have created traditions for your family? I used to relish the satisfaction felt when I finished a project. In dismissing this feeling as simply completing a task, I minimized part of what I was created to do. Have you felt a similar satisfaction with your work? This is the work of creating culture.