How can one be of influence to this society? It is by providing solutions to the problem, says a Chinese-American pastor at a conference in Silicon Valley aimed at making an impact on both a global and local scale.
What is the problem? The culture in America is slowly drifting away from the fundamental principles upon which this nation was founded – the word of God.
Pastor Liu Tong, founder and lead pastor at River of Life Christian Church in Santa Clara, Calif., identified the reasons why the Christian church is no longer dominating the cultural influence and offered four strategies to reverse this trend at the church’s first “Global Impact Conference.” The four strategies are building a platform, recreating the culture, collaborating with others and uniting all resources, and living out the brand of Christians.
Liu and his wife said in a statement, “Much like the yeast in Jesus’ parable, church should become the same catalyst that introduces Kingdom transformation in all strategic areas of culture and society.”
Building a platform
The church has traditionally considers media as secular, and, as a result, did not devote resources to develop this platform and talents. However, the media has enormous influence and reach.
Last month, Liu delivered a message through SAT-7, the largest Christian satellite television network broadcasting company operating in the Middle East and North Africa. The TV station director told him that over 50,000 people in Iran have come to Christ through their programs. Although the Iranian government has outlawed any broadcasting of Christian contents, almost every household in Iran has a satellite dish.
Besides how a platform can enhance the reach into this world with the gospel of Jesus Christ, those in the right positions can directly impact the generation. Liu said that when voter-enacted Proposition 8 was ruled as unconstitutional and rejected by a judge in San Francisco, he was “really shocked.”
Although Prop. 8 legal supporters brought the appeal to the Supreme Court, their petition was ruled as invalid by the justices in U.S. Supreme Court, because only the governor, lieutenant governor, or the attorney general of California can defend the bill.
Thus, Liu emphasized the importance of being in the right position on both the global, national, and local scales.
Recreating the Culture
The second step to bring about influence is to recreate the culture, he said. Culture directly affects the way people live. Under Christian culture influence, non-Christians will even behave like Christians. Even in schools, when everyone is praying, non-Christians would accept it as a norm and follow.
Sometimes people wonder why Christians are no longer dictate the systems in which we live, such as in the education and government sector. Liu said it is because the churches used to be confined in just protesting and not getting involved in the community.
He said that the gay communities used to adopt the protesting approaches, but have shifted their strategies in the last two decades to “participating in every single area that bring influence and show excellent performance.” As a result, young people today readily accept gays because those who they know are gays are excellent in their fields.
Some time ago, the state’s education board has proposed to insert gay materials into the education curriculums for students, which drew massive outrage from the churches. Liu said the problem isn’t that no one is protesting, but it is that no Christians are involved in the education committee to propose curriculums defined by Christian principles. He said that Texas education board would not have this problem, because the decision-makers there are mostly Christians.
Liu urged believers not to be discouraged, and emphasized that “culture can be recreated.” He said that before Starbucks appeared, it wasn’t that American didn’t have the habit of drinking coffee, but the national coffee shop chain recreated the coffee drinking culture. In the same way, before Steve Jobs introduced Apple iPhone, it wasn’t that people didn’t use cellphone, but the iPhone completely changed the way people view mobile devices.
“Christians must be able to stand up,” said the Chinese pastor. “We have to actively participate and recreate a new Christian culture.”
Collaborate and Unite All Resources
Youth With A Mission (YWAM) Founder Loren Cunningham introduced the concept of ‘seven mountains,’ which represents the seven fields that influences the world. They are government, marketplace/business, education, religion, family, media and entertainment.
Liu said that churches must “step out of our ivory tower” and collaborate with all the leaders in all the mountains, because church alone is not enough to change the world. He then told how former U.S. president George W. Bush invited U2’s Bono to speak at the National Prayer Breakfast in 2005. Although the tradition was to invite respected preachers to speak, the arrangement shocked many pastors. Many shook their heads and didn’t want to listen.
However, when Bono came on stage, he also said that he originally didn’t bother to speak with those in the religious sector, but “when God begins to work, crazy things happen. When God begins to work, God will connect all the areas together.” Bush had invited him to speak because he wanted to connect these leaders of different fields together to solve the top 10 problems that this world faces.
“In the past, we thought that it is enough to depend on ourselves, but we need to go to other areas and collaborate with them,” said Liu, who has led his church to plant over 30 cross-cultural churches from around the world. “That is when we can change the world.”
In the areas that each sector is lacking, the other sector can compensate for the inadequacies. In an example, Liu said that the churches have people but are lacking in money, but the business world has lots of money, but they lack people. “This is beautiful teamwork,” he said.
Through collaboration with leaders in each of the seven mountains, Christian churches can more greatly impact the world. “Why does the church think of the world as enemy? It is possible that we can connect all the resources together. When we are connected, then we can bring influence. There are too many things we can do.”
Live Out Your Brand
Alluding to the first church, Liu said that people called disciples of Jesus as Christians, because they modeled after Christ, so ‘Christian’ in itself means little Christ. Believers in the early church did not call themselves Christians, but through their actions people recognized their identity or “brand,” he said.
In contrast, believers today call themselves Christians, but are living the same way as the world lives, thus losing any influence in this world. In an example, he said the divorce rate in Christian family is the same as that of non-believers, so what’s different between believers and non-believers? This caused Liu to think about how the first church was able to make such an impact.
“The first church used changed life to change the world,” said Liu, who defined Christian brand as living out a ‘vibrant faith’ and ‘excellent life.’
While his own church belongs to the charismatic movement, Liu didn’t hesitate to point the listeners to the truth. Sometimes charismatic churches overly emphasize on the power of the Holy Spirit and neglect obedience to God’s word, and seeking to hear prophesies but neglect what is already written in the Bible.
“If Jesus is your Lord, you have to obey his word. Otherwise, how can you call him Lord? In the basic thing, we must be able to follow God. Then the Holy Spirit can give you power,” he said. “If you don’t even do the word that he has already told you, then how can you expect that He tell you anything new.”
“A lively faith begins when you actively obey the word of God,” said Liu, who compared the obedience to the key to unleashing the power from behind the water dam gate. “Normally, we don’t see that power, but it is released when we obey.” This is how we can live out that vibrant life, he said.
The second key to unleashing God’s power and live out the Christian brand is to live an “excellent life,” said Liu. Human beings use roughly only 10 percent of our brains, which means that the other 90 percent are unused. Quoting Ephesians 3:24, the pastor said often times believers don’t realize that God wants them to live out their full potential as God has originally intended for His glory.
Liu said that the church needs a “renaissance.” In the past, church only cared about authority and had put down creative thinking and values, limiting people’s giftedness, which eventually led to the renaissance revival – a rebellion against the authority power structure.
“Today, the church needs to wake up. We need to affirm that creative thinking is a gift from God. We can’t use authority to dismiss the rights of individual thinking,” he said.
Liu addressed the fears of the church that with too much freedom comes much chaos. “When people’s hearts are far away from God, creativity brings about corruption of people’s characters. When people’s hearts are connected with God, creativity and imagination will become the cradle of God’s dream.”
Several years ago, Liu met with Joel Osteen, senior pastor at Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. Osteen shared with him how just 15 years ago, he had never thought of himself as being a preacher of God’s word. Whenever his dad asked him to preach, he would refuse and say that he is only a cameraman. It wasn’t until his father was very sick did he reluctantly agree to preach for the first time. Ever since then, he went on to be the pastor of the largest church in the United States.
“Ask God to give you great dreams, so God can begin and finish the mandate that he has in your life,” he said. “You have to live out your brand then will you begin to have influence.”
“Through man, it is impossible, but through God all things are possible,” said the Chinese pastor.