The Culture of Christ is the Culture of the Kingdom of God

“There is no justification for a leadership that has strayed into the profane of its culture!”

 

Before we start developing today’s  topic, it is important to mention that the English version of this article has been translated from the Spanish version of Towards Excellence (https://hacialaexcelencia.org/2022/12/11/la-cultura-de-cristo-es-la-cultura-del-reino-de-dios/); not necessarily from the original texts and works of authors here cited.

JOversetreet-valoresReino-ENGJane Overstreet, the author to whom we have referred in previous articles, mentions that after working for more than twenty years with Christian leaders around the world, she has observed that their leadership style is more like the culture in which each leader lives, than really the culture and values ​​of the Kingdom of God.[1]  And she emphatically points out:

“Each culture puts a slightly different mask on those leadership qualities it cherishes, and all our cultures are terribly broken. Perhaps some are significantly worse than others, but none of them accurately reflect God’s values. The values ​​of the kingdom of God are countercultural to every earthly culture. (Overstreet 2011)

Along these lines and for the purposes of this research, we had the opportunity to interview Tope Popoola, a prominent Nigerian leader and author, who regularly gives lectures and consultancies on topics related to leadership, management, marketing, and entrepreneurship in various countries around the world. For Popoola, when asked, what should a Christian leader do so that the culture of Christ prevails in his actions instead of the culture around him. This is what he replied to us:

“The culture of Christ is the culture of the Kingdom of God. Our call is to make Christ known in all spheres of human existence… We are called to bring heaven to earth, not earth to heaven. When we ask ourselves before taking any action, ‘How would Jesus handle this issue?’ and go ahead to do what He would do, regardless of what may be popular or trending, we enforce the culture of Christ. Whoever does it must necessarily die to himself and die towards popular public opinion. The kingdom of God is not a popularity contest! Those who can’t stand something will fall for anything…I’ve had to oppose my culture regarding various traditions. At first it wasn’t easy, but they came to respect me for my decisions.” (Popoola, Interview on Christian Leadership 2020)

Parallel to this important challenge; and in the same way, for the purposes of this research we also carried out a random survey aimed at the Christian public. 118 people participated, from 21 countries, representing the 5 continents.

By asking them, in one of the questions, to rank in priority the characteristics of a “servant leader” that Christian leaders need to put into practice so that they truly reflect the excellence of Christ; the voting system yielded the following results, among 10 proposed characteristics: “practice spiritual disciplines: pray, fast, read the Bible”, in the first place; and, “act with integrity”, in second place. According to the voting system, these were the characteristics with the highest score and consequently those considered to be a priority for those surveyed.

And these results point to the heart of the problem. If Christian leaders do not walk in intimate communion with God, it will be obvious that we are more likely to walk reflecting our own culture, a culture broken by sin, and not the culture of the Kingdom of God.

As Christian leaders, as sons and daughters of God, whom do we represent? Well, the Word has given us the title of “Ambassadors of Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20). Therefore, our actions must reflect such title; if we represent Christ Jesus, the image of the invisible God, the Creator God of heaven and earth, of the entire universe. What a tremendous privilege! And what an enormous responsibility to be ambassadors of the Kingdom of God! Certainly, it would be far from us to act like those ambassadors of the world, who have often been involved in corruption scandals.

It truly causes shame, frustration, and great pain when we see the Church not acting up to Christ; a leadership that has accommodated itself to the culture of its environment, losing sight of the culture of the Kingdom of God.

We live in a postmodern culture, which has sadly compromised its values, has become involved in the profane. As Miguel Núñez says, when we live in a culture like this, if we do not try at all costs to avoid it, its effects will end up contaminating us and then the profane will become normal in our lives.[2]

Today more than ever we need a leadership that turns to the SOURCE, as Popoola says, so that we can recover the values of the Kingdom. This is not evangelical jargon, which is so common at least in Latin America. We think that if we treat ourselves as “brothers”, we say: “Glory to God”, “Amen”, “Hallelujah”, “Blessings”; we are already Christians. But it’s not like that. There is a world that observes and judges us severely and in front of which we have dishonored the Name of excellence of our Triune Creator God, the Name of our Savior.

If indeed one day we have come to Christ, only by turning to His Word and maintaining an intimate communion with Him, we will be confronted and we will achieve that His mark of excellence shines in and through us and allows us to truly be the salt and light that this world needs.

Hands holding Holy Bible over grey background. Sharing the Gospel with youth. Copy space. Christian concept

This is consistent with the Word:

“Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you…Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:3-5)

And this is complemented by the clear challenge from our God:

 

“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:14-16)

Only the Word and an intimate communion with Christ, will transform our mind so that consequently we are channels of transformation in our environment.

In closing, we will quote an extraordinary reflection by Dr. Núñez, which will certainly touch the hearts of readers as it has touched the author of this blog:

“…Perhaps one of the highlights of his [Jesus’] life of service, especially considering that He is the Creator of the world, and yet he set out to serve the creature. When one thinks that the God of the universe, the One who sustains everything with the Word of His power (Hebrews 1:3), was capable of kneeling down to wash the feet of His disciples, this is something that goes beyond what that the human mind and heart can assimilate”. (Núñez, Jesus – the man who challenged the world and confronts your life 2018)

There is no greater example of excellence than this! There is no justification for a leadership that has strayed into the profane of its culture!

 

[1] Jane Overstreet, UnLeader: The Surprising Qualities of a Valuable Leader (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011), 3.

[2] Miguel Núñez, Vivir con Integridad y Sabiduría: Persigue los valores que la sociedad ha perdido (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2016), 40.

Tope Popoola, Interview on Leadership, 2020.

 

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