Changing culture isn't a number game… we need change agents, not numbers

FASCINATING article recently by Os Hillman on what it takes to change culture.

Here’s an excerpt:

For centuries, Christians thought culture would change if we just had a majority of Christians in the culture. That has proven to be a false assumption. Culture is defined by a relatively small number of change agents who operate at the top of cultural spheres or societal mountains. It takes less than 3-5 percent of those operating at the top of a cultural mountain to actually shift the values represented on that mountain.

For example, this is exactly what advocates in the gay rights movement has done through the “mountains” of media and arts and entertainment. They have strategically used these avenues to promote their cause and reframe the argument. They are gradually legitimizing their cause through these two cultural mountains through a small percentage of people in society operating at the top of the media and arts and entertainment mountain.

Mountains are controlled by a small percentage of leaders and networks. James Hunter, in a book entitled How to Change the World, highlights what sociologist Randall Collins says about civilizations in his book The Sociology of Philosophies. According to Collins, civilizations have been defined by a very small percentage of cultural philosophers who influence seven gates and supporting networks since our birth as a civilization.

Hunter summarizes, “Even if we add the minor figures in all of the networks, in all of the civilizations, the total is only 2,700. In sum, between 150 and 3,000 people (a tiny fraction of the roughly 23 billion people living between 600 B.C. and A.D. 1900) framed the major contours of all world civilizations. Clearly, the transformations here were top-down.”

What an amazing piece of information. Imagine that. Culture has been defined since the beginning of time by no more than 3,000 change agents, a tiny fraction of the population.

That is why we must realize that making more converts will not necessarily change culture. It is important to have conversions, but it is more important to have those who are converted operate at the tops of the cultural mountains from a biblical worldview.

Those at the tops of these mountains are expressing their liberal worldview through these cultural spheres. The more godly the change agent at the top, the more righteous the culture will be. The more ungodly, the more liberal we will become. It doesn’t matter if the majority of the culture is made up of Christians. It only matters who has the greatest influence over that cultural mountain.

Read more of Os’ thoughts here…

REALLY interesting.  What do YOU think?



  • Gary Sweeten June 11, 2013 Reply

    I agree with Os but do not see anyone that is teaching Christian leaders how to be Change Agents. In fact, much of the advice I see from Todd, LifeWay, Seminaries, professors is anti change. For example, the ways this blog and others advise Pastors to del with Complaints. A well trained Change Agent knows that Complaints are their best friends that provide energy for change. It is from Complainers that changes come. But it takes real skills to understand how to use Complaints to leverage positive alterations.

  • petedayton June 11, 2013 Reply

    Having read Os’ whole post and a majority of the over 50 comments, I offer a couple of thoughts. Hunter in his book calls for a “faithful presence” of Christians all across the realm. He pretty much gives up on changing the culture because we, the church, have lost enough power such that we are no longer a major factor in the culture. Other institutions, such as media, academia, political, legal, economics, have surpassed our remaining influence. So, in a sense, Hunter does agree that only if we get our people back in high places will be able to influence change.
    My concerns are there doesn’t seem to be any Wilberforces around America anymore and as soon as one reaches high levels they are either purged out or they succomb to the temptations of society.
    Also, I am of the opinion that God does the saving, so targeting influencers doesn’t seem efficacious.

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