Standing before kings. – How Christian excellence can influence cultural mountains
Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men. – Proverbs 22:29
When did Christianity stop being known for excellence? How is it possible that people who have the Creator of the universe living inside them are not setting the standard for excellence and culture in our world?
In 1975 Loren Cunningham, the founder of Youth with a mission, felt that God was leading him to teach Christians the importance of holding prominent positions in seven key areas of society. This message was solidified in his heart when he learned that Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ and Frances Schaeffer, the founder of the L’Abri fellowship were also preaching the same message. Three prominent Christian leaders with the same message from God, “Influence the kings of the earth!” The following list shows the seven cultural spheres or “mountains” that these leaders felt God was encouraging His people to influence.
7 Cultural Mountains of Society
- School and Education
- Media and Public Communication (Printed & Electronic)
- Celebration (Arts & Entertainment)
- Economy (Innovation, Productivity, Sales, Service)
In his teachings on “Macro based” missions, Dr. William Wagner, Director of Olivet Institute for Global Strategic Studies adds three additional spheres to consider.
- Technology (Science)
The Christian leaders mentioned above have made invaluable contributions to the cause of Christ, and we do well to heed their advice. Are we listening? It is now 40 years since this objective was introduced. Have we gone in and taken this land or are we still rambling around in a desert of mediocrity. As you read the list above, can you name the prominent Christian voice that is a major player and influencer in any of these cultural mountains? Why have we not taken the land?
Perhaps the answer to the foregoing question is that we have become weak in our pursuit of excellence. We have not worked as hard or as diligently as those living for this world. The Christian church needs a culture shift if we are going to begin standing before the kings of the earth?
The Scriptural template for excellence
In Exodus 31, while Moses is standing on Mount Sanai receiving instructions for the law and the Ten Commandments, he is also given instructions for building the tabernacle. Every child in Sunday school hears about Moses and the 10 Commandments, but there is another important story in this same passage that is almost always left out, the call of two craftsman, Bezaleel and Aholiab.
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, See, I have called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, To devise cunning works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, And in cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of timber, to work in all manner of workmanship. And I, behold, I have given with him Aholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan: and in the hearts of all that are wise hearted I have put wisdom, that they may make all that I have commanded thee;– Exodus 31:1-6
Bezaleel was the grandson of Hur, one of the two men who assisted Moses by holding up his arms in the Children of Israel’s battle with the Amalekites. God had a special calling for Bezaleel, a calling that required excellence. Bezaleel was appointed to build a place where God’s presence would make Himself manifest.
To understate the importance of this call, the Bible mentions Bezaleel and Aholiab again in Exodus 35. This time Moses adds a key element in addition to craftsmanship; these two leaders were equipped to teach.
And Moses said unto the children of Israel, See, the LORD hath called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; And he hath filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship; And to devise curious works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, And in the cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of wood, to make any manner of cunning work. And he hath put in his heart that he may teach, both he, and Aholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. – Exodus 35:30-34
There are five characteristics in these passages of the craftsman given a mantle for excellence. If we are going to climb out of the desert of mediocrity, stand before kings, and influence our culture, then we must embrace these five areas.
The Five Areas of Christian Excellence.
- Filled with the Spirit of God
Filled with the Spirit of God
The very first time the phrase filled with the Spirit of God appears in the Bible is Exodus 31. The Bible does not mention Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, or even Moses as being filled with the Spirit of God. The first man mentioned as being filled with the Spirit was a construction superintendent named Bezaleel. The tabernacle was so important to God that He wanted to personally assist in the project. He placed His own Spirit, that Spirit that hovered over the void of darkness and created the world inside of a man! When a Christian has invited God into his life, he now has a new capacity for creativity and excellence. Instead of being fueled by our own strength, we are able to put on God’s strength.
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies. – 1 Peter 4:10-11a ESV
Have we asked God to fill us with His Spirit? Are we operating in the strength that God supplies, or relying on our own strength? I believe that one of the primary reasons we have not taken the 10 cultural mountains is that we have not become filled with the Spirit of God in our work.
How does one become filled with the Spirit? First, he must empty himself. Then he must ask. It is impossible to fill a cup with oil that is half full of dirt. We must empty ourselves of non-kingdom personal ambition. We must stop relying on our own strength and ask God to fill us with His. If we have so ignored God in our lives that everything we do is accomplished in our own strength, we will never know the level of excellence that God can provide through us.
Wisdom is seeing things from God’s point of view. It is the understanding that ideas have consequences. The book of Proverbs chapter 3 defines wisdom as a tree of life that continually brings fruit and blessing.
Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed. – Proverbs 3:13-18
Wisdom has a source. The New Testament book of James tells us how to tap into the wisdom of God.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. – James 1:5
I believe another reason we have not taken the 10 cultural mountains is that we have not looked for wisdom in the right place. We quickly turn to TED talks, business Guru’s and the latest scientific research without simply getting on our knees and asking God what to do. Prayer for wisdom is a fundamental requirement for bringing excellence to our world. Are we asking?
Under-standing: Knowing what stands under. On our honeymoon, my wife and I stayed at a lovely bed and breakfast in Tennessee. Each morning as we came to breakfast, we were astounded by the incredible meals that were presented. Each meal had a perfect balance of flavor. After several gourmet meals, we asked or host about the secret behind her incredible cooking. Her answer surprised us. Apparently our cook had spent a considerable amount of her career as a chemist. She had a fascination with matching food at a molecular level. She did not simply read the recipe and follow instructions but rather considered how each ingredient in her meal would interact with the other. The result of this understanding was a truly excellent meal, a meal that my wife and I or anyone would pay handsomely for.
If we are going to create excellence in our society, we need to be able to make recipes not just read them. We need to dig down to the core fundamentals of our products and services in order that we might develop better and more efficient solutions. We need to spend countless hours researching and understanding our craft to be a true expert in our field. Do you truly under-stand your business or ministry? What a critical need for producing excellence.
Knowledge is personal experience. We can only learn so much about our world from reading a book and listening to others. I can learn about the importance of sanding before I change the color of the front door, but I can’t comprehend how hard it is to paint until I actually do the work.
Where are all the apprentices? Where are the Rabbis teaching their flock? Why do we expect young men and women to come directly out of school and be able to produce excellence for the kingdom? Sometimes I think that book learning has a major flaw; it’s too easy to win! Getting an A+ on a paper is not the same thing as creating a product for the market or getting paid from a job. Often times “real world” results require real world practice. Do we have enough experience in our job to create excellence? Are we willing to go against the grain and spend less time watching movies and playing video games so that we can gain the experience of producing excellence. I feel like we are much too content to sit in front of screens playing games, feeling like we’ve accomplished heroic tasks without actually getting our hands dirty in real world experience and knowledge.
Management Guru Albert Deming once said, “it’s not enough to do your best, you must know what to do and then do your best!” What is the best way to learn how to do the right thing? Repeated failure without giving up! The core of training is giving a pupil permission to fail. The foreman on a construction site doesn’t expect a newbie to hammer with precision. Many start-ups fail up because they are waiting for absolute perfection before they engage in activity. We need to try, fail, learn, and repeat if we are going to bring excellence to this world.
The original language for the word craftsmanship in Exodus 31 and 35 can be defined as “providing a work that creates a wage.”
One of the key indicators of value in our society is cost. The children of Israel took up an offering so they could build the Tabernacle and an astounding thing happened. In fact it was so astounding that I don’t believe it has ever happened since. The people gave so much money that there was excess, and the craftsman told the people to stop giving. Have you ever heard of a church telling it’s people to stop giving because they had too much money?
And Moses called Bezalel and Oholiab and every craftsman in whose mind the LORD had put skill, everyone whose heart stirred him up to come to do the work. And they received from Moses all the contribution that the people of Israel had brought for doing the work on the sanctuary. They still kept bringing him freewill offerings every morning, so that all the craftsmen who were doing every sort of task on the sanctuary came, each from the task that he was doing, and said to Moses, “The people bring much more than enough for doing the work that the LORD has commanded us to do.” So Moses gave command, and word was proclaimed throughout the camp, “Let no man or woman do anything more for the contribution for the sanctuary.” So the people were restrained from bringing, for the material they had was sufficient to do all the work, and more. – Exodus 36:2-7
The term “starving artist” did not come from the Bible. Excellence in our work allows us to charge for our work. Bezaleel and Aholiab didn’t work without getting paid. If we are not fully committed to excellence we will not be creating a good wage for ourselves, our ministries or our businesses. People pay for excellence and we need to be comfortable finding out if what we are offering is actually worth a fee.
Now is the time.
It has been 40 years since Loren Cunningham, Bill Bright and Frances Schaeffer introduced the concept of winning the cultural mountains for Christ. My prayer is that you will join me in a pursuit of excellence so that we can take this land.
In my next article I will be sharing seven key steps to “coming out of a desert” and taking the land.
This article is designed to help you grow a creative, sustainable and impactful organization. I hope you find it helpful. If you want even better wisdom for your business, remember that wisdom has a source. James 1:5
Joshua MacLeod is the executive director of both River Birch Industries (LLC) and Watermelon Ministries (501c3). Joshua created the How to Plant a Business curriculum and provides strategic coaching and consultation for Christian business owners around the world. Joshua is an active member at Christ Church Nashville where he teaches the Let the River Run Entrepreneurial Class. He lives in Nashville TN with his wife Sarah and seven children. Hannah, Rebecca, Caleb, John, Luke, Joshua and Elizabeth.