Sunday, November 15, 2020

The 7 Mountains of Influence in Society: The Arts & Business


“Sean knows what it’s like to face the impossible. Twice he beat unbeatable odds. At age thirteen he came down with Hodgkin’s disease. The doctors didn’t think he would survive, but he did. When he was sixteen, he contracted Askin’s sarcoma, a rare cancer that attaches itself to the walls of the chest. The prognosis is never optimistic, and its treatment has horrible side effects.

Sean may be the only person alive to have suffered both of these cancers. For sure, no one has gotten them both in such a short span of time. Doctors say that the odds of him overcoming both were the equivalent of winning four lottery tickets in a row using the same numbers. He survived his second cancer by being put in an induced coma for a year. At one point his parents were told that he had only two weeks to live, and a priest read his last rites. When he miraculously came out of that coma, he had only one functioning lung. Yet as he lay in his hospital bed watching the Ironman World Championship triathlon on television, he vowed that he would one day compete in it.

During the months of recovery that followed, an oft-quoted line inspired the teenager to go on: “The human body can live roughly thirty days without food. The human condition can sustain itself for roughly three days without water, but no human alive can live for more than thirty seconds without hope.” He decided to test the infinite possibilities of hope. His first challenge was to crawl eight feet from his hospital bed to the bathroom. A few years later he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. But he hadn’t yet begun to test the infinite possibilities of hope. Over the next several years this cancer survivor with a single lung scaled the tallest mountain on each of the seven continents. He became the first cancer survivor to stand atop the granddaddy of them all: 29,229-foot-high Mount Everest. But he still hadn’t tested the limits of hope. In his forties, he skied to the South Pole. Now he had completed the Explorers Grand Slam. But there was still that one remaining impossible goal. You guessed it: Sean Swarner traveled to Hawaii and competed in the Ironman World Championship.

This cancer survivor who was read his last rites has redefined the meaning of impossible by being the only person in history to climb the seven great summits of the world, ski to both the North and South Poles, and complete the Ironman in Hawaii —all on one lung. Now he is helping other people discover the infinite possibilities of hope as one of the world’s top-ten motivational speakers.”-Robert A. Petterson, The One Year Book of Amazing Stories: 365 Days of Seeing God’s Hand in Unlikely Places

Just as Sean climbed those 7 peaks, I’m challenging us as the church to scale the battles taking place in society, to influence society for Jesus Christ.

Today we continue talking about the 7 Mountains of Influence in Society. As we know society can be broken down into general spheres of influence, and various worlds that people act within.

Last week talked about the spheres of influence in the realm of education, religion, and the media. 

Today we talk about the arts, and business spheres.  First, let’s talk about the arts.  This can also be called the hill of celebration.  This is art, music, movies, and all forms of entertainment. 

And it’s important to remember that entertainment, and art, and creativity are all godly, good things.  God does approve of entertainment, of celebration, of festivals, and of dancing, and of good things.  He loves us.  He wants to give us good things.  He wants us to have times when we relax and enjoy ourselves.

The goal of Christians as we fight on this hill is to create and encourage manifestations of pure entertainment and art.  Think of paintings by Van Gogh, or Monet or Da Vinci. Some incredibly beautiful paintings that encourage our better natures.  Think of films like It’s a Wonderful Life, or The Jesus Film.  Think of books like the Lord of the Rings or The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  These are all expressions of films that guide us toward the right. They are pure.  In fact any film that encourages the good in us, whether calling us to courage, or love or friendship or nobility or protecting the weak, have at least some level of good content. 

But the enemy is also at work on the hill of celebration. And in virtually any example, the enemy will take something that is pure, and twist it to become evil.  Like sex, sex is a beautiful act between husband and wife.  The enemy takes that, twists it and perverts it, and then distributes it in film, art, music, and so on.  And it’s incredibly powerful how much this hill of arts influences our lives.  Think of how powerful the television’s influence is on our culture.  It’s very strong.

So we battle it out on this hill by encouraging and producing pure content coming through the arts, the movies, the music industry, toys, games, and so on.  And the enemy is also on this hill trying to pervert movies, music, toys, and games so that they will have a negative influence on society.  And I was raised, deeply influenced by many shows that were vulgar and nasty, and teaching me terrible ethics, like South Park became super popular when I was young, terrible, not even a kids show, but of course kids will watch it, it’s a cartoon.  Same with The Simpsons, always on right after the football game, definitely bringing out the worst of who we are. Or Beavis and Butthead on MTV.  I remember watching those shows and feeling dirty just watching it.  The message was so vulgar and negative. 

Then again I grew up watching some shows that were very positive and a good influence on me, like Mr. Rogers neighborhood. Or Bill Nye the science guy, or Arthur, or I don’t know, Rugrats.  There were things that weren’t overtly Christian, but they sparked my creativity, they sparked ideas and bigger thoughts about the world.  That’s good stuff.  Usually. 

So who of you out there can make a difference in this sphere of society?  I love to write, to read, to watch movies and listen to music, and I’m always dreaming of Christian content that truly inspires.  I’m not a big fan of Christian rock, it’s good for worship, but I dream of really deep stuff, that explores different genres of music, indie, techno, alternative, post-rock, you name it, I want more creativity and more depth in that realm.  I dream of Christian movies that aren’t so surfacy and limited.  I dream of deep, deep stuff, allegories like Narnia, creative expressions of biblical values like The Lord of the Rings. I want some beautiful paintings of the spiritual world.  I want to see artwork of the new Jerusalem. Who of you out there have these kind of ideas, and how could you put them into practice?  That is the question.  Pray about it.  Are you one of those creative souls who can influence the world of the arts for Jesus? 

Finally, we consider the world of business.  This could also be called the hill of economy.  How does the battle on this hill play out in our world?  Well it plays out in many different ways.  First of all, this hill really influences what gets funded in the world. Where does the money go?  If top business men and women in the country are Christian, then their money goes to support Christian causes.  And this is a great thing.  The churches spreading the gospel across the world need funding. Charities need funding. Missionaries need funding. To do all these things costs money.  Really the whole hill of business can impact hugely every other hill, because the money either goes to support Christian or non-Christian work. 

One of the great things in the United States is that there is a culture of constant giving to charity.  That is not common in the world.  Most of the world, much of Europe, does not have that same culture, at least not to the extent of the United States.  Think of how George Lucas when he sold Star Wars to Disney gave 5 billion to support education for K-12 in the United States.  Think of how the widow of beneficiary of the McDonalds wealth gave 1.5 billion to The Salvation Army to build Kroc centers all over the country. 

My neighbor was a consultant and marketing advisor for Tommy Hilfiger. But he became a Christian, because someone witnessed to him, now he puts his wealth to work for Christian education.

The Salvation Army is very active on the hill of business. During kettle season we have relationships with massive worldwide corporations like Wal Mart, Kroger, Walgreens, Hobby Lobby, and so on, to bell ring in front of their stores.  It’s a great thing.  We raised millions and millions of dollars because these huge businesses recognize the good The Salvation Army does in the world.  That money is then used to preach the gospel, meet needs, and build churches in the 3rd world.  Yes, it’s true.  10% of our budget in Owosso goes to support and build churches in the 3rd world.  It’s a great thing.

So we see that we want to influence this hill for Christ.  But how are we doing? Well, we see some good things and some bad things.  We do see a lot of people who support churches and charities, and so on. But we also see a lot of business leaders who are very secular, and use their wealth for extravagant living, and evil things in the world.  So once again, the battle is fierce, but we stand our ground and continue to influence the business community for Christ.

How can you influence this hill? Well, maybe God is calling you to start a small business. Maybe God is claling you to start an online business. Maybe God is calling you to witness to wealthy business leaders.  Perhaps God will turn you into a millionaire or billionaire for the purpose of using that money to finance the building of churches across the country.  Who knows where God will call you.  But pray about, you never know what God might do, or who God might bring across your path that you can influence for Jesus.

I remember in Chicago we were evangelizing on the streets near a courthouse building in downtown Chicago, giant skyscrapers everywhere.  And I got to witness to many different people that day I loved it, I got to say to a crowd of people “Wow, God loves you all so much” and I saw a business guy kinda smile.  And then I got into quite a rousing, and polite debate with a Jewish lawyer.  We debated in a friendly manner, and I thanked him for talking. Who knows what happened later, maybe he turned to Christ.  Maybe he’ll influence a wealthy leader who will get converted, and use his wealth to fund missionaries or build churches?  You never know.  Always watch for those opportunities from God.

I’ve seen more and more people, Christians and such, on social media, with a lot of doom and gloom attitudes. The end is near. Might as well give up. Not yet brothers and sisters, we still have a mission and it’s not over, it’s to take the gospel to all nations and all languages, and that job isn’t done yet.  It’s still on, and we’ve gotta do it here, and onward into the world.