You Are An Apostle! Rediscover Your Creative Calling to Change Culture
By Simon Mason
Culture is a bit like food. Wherever you go you’re creating culture and consuming culture. In your workplace, how you act and treat people helps contribute to a workplace culture. At home participating in traditions and your family’s pattern of relationship you’re creating culture. When you visit someone else’s house you’re consuming and experiencing their family culture.
When we logon to twitter or watch television, you’ve become a consumer of media culture.
When you post on Instagram; you’re created a small piece of culture (or a meme, a cultural analogue to a gene).
Our lives are a constant participation in the ebb and flow of culture in various spheres of influence. This is because culture is made up of our values. Every act we make is culturally influenced because every act we make is influenced by either our values or the values of the surrounding culture.
Whether you know it or not, you’re being affected by someone else’s culture and they’re being affected by yours.
One of the biggest determinants of our culture is the thing we have faith in.
When your view of God changes, the way you live your life always changes. When your beliefs shift you’ll begin to hold a different set of values. And every time your values change, your culture changes as well.
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If you have faith in wealth alone, then your culture will ultimately express that faith. You’ll write songs about getting rich and invest your energy into it. Culture always flows from belief.
We can see the progression from belief to culture change in the way Jesus modelled the value of honor. He honored the outcasts, the marginalized and the least of his society. He never blamed them nor de-valued them for their condition but empowered them.
This stemmed form the belief that Father honoured people no matter what their station in life was. This was Jesus’ core belief and out of that belief chose to live in a manner that honored others. He placed honor as a core value in his life. Consequently, when people started spending time with Jesus, they also picked His culture and started treating people the same manner.
Jesus wasn’t the first culture creator. But He was the first heavenly culture creator.
If you gather a community of people together who are all committed to protecting a new and different value, then you’ve created a new culture.
When Jesus said to his disciples, “You are my apostles”, He was borrowing a term from the Roman empire.
The term was ‘apostolos’ and meant; “sent one”.
The reason was because although the Romans had success conquering other provinces. They struggled to make them culturally “Roman” and consequentially struggled to consolidate their victories. It took changing these provinces to become Roman to ensure they remained a part of the empire. This mean changing the roads, instituting Roman law, upgrading the hygiene practices and prevent tribes from warring with each other.
An apostle was a form of general that was sent to change the target culture to be like the culture of his origin.
So when you read “Apostle” you may as well read “cultural change agents.”
An apostle is really just the first person in the room with a new set of values.
Jesus was the first Apostle, not just because He was sent but because He was the first to influence the world to follow heaven’s culture.
You are an apostle because you carry a different culture. Christ is within you. This is an intrinsic part of the calling of every believer.
If you prophecy, you are a (small ‘p’) prophet. If you teach, you are a (small ‘t’) teacher. And if you change culture, you are an (small ‘a’) apostle.
You might not oversee a thousand churches in Africa, but if you’re changing culture you’re an apostle.
We’ve all got influence.
No matter where you find yourself, if you’re in relationship with another person then you have a measure of influence.
But here’s the thing, our actions will either point to the existence of a different culture. Or our actions will reflect the culture that is surrounding us. We're either using our influence to impact the world, or using our influence to agree with it.
Jesus called us “salt and light” and this speaks of the two ways we are called to witness to the reality of heaven’s culture.
The point of being light is that you shine truth in places where truth isn’t seen. Fair enough. Traditionally the church has understood this component well.
Yet the point of being salt is that it is added to something. If we are called to be salt, the question then arises, to what existing “food” are we being added?
The church is the salt that is added to the “food” of the culture we find ourselves in.
Yet salt doesn’t just act to preserve. It emphasises the good flavours and (historically) covers over the poor flavours. To be salt to the world is to transform culture by empowering the good flavours and minimising the distasteful elements of culture.
If salt loses its flavour, then it’s really lost its capacity to impact the world.
We are light when we reveal Christ, but we are salt when we change culture. One component holds the standard of truth, the other component empowers the world to be transformed.
The world is ready for a different culture.
To be an apostle and a cultural change agent is to recognise that we’re called to change culture. Whether we realise or not, we’ll either be affecting culture or affected by it.
I'd say the church is in the midst of a generational shift in how it sees its mission.
This past generation wondered if it were called to impact the world, the present generation is convinced of it.
We once were concerned about how our doctrine was phrased; now we know that unless we feed the poor and release the oppressed, our doctrine's irrelevant. This coming generation isn't waiting for "green-lights" to be significant, it's waiting for the right tools.
Take hope. You're about to see lasting transformation by a generation of Kingdom entrepreneurs and social justice change-agents who rediscover and embrace their calling to be apostles.
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