If you want to make a powerful and lasting impact on the culture, you've got to do more than just consume it, critique it, condemn it, or copy it. The only way to truly change the culture is to create something new for it - something that will inspire people enough to start to reshape their world.
Here's how you can use your creativity to change the culture:
Engage the culture. Forget about trying to withdraw from the surrounding culture; that effort is ultimately futile because you can't help but be influenced on some level by your culture. Instead, choose to participate in the culture. Rather than worrying about the culture influencing you in negative ways, do all you can to influence the culture in positive ways.
Don't separate your faith from the rest of your life. Integrate your faith fully into your lifestyle by following God's guidance in every part of your life. Remember that your faith isn't just about what you do at any given time or place; it shapes who you are and who you're becoming as a whole person. As you interact with the culture, your faith should naturally influence all of your decisions.
Embrace your calling. God has given you the desire you have to take what exists in the world and make something more of it. Take your calling to be creative seriously by pursuing it with passion. Pay attention to your interests and develop and use your talents to the fullest. Ask God to help you discover what contributions He wants you to make to the world. Then do your best to do so.
Cultivate culture. Take care of the good things that your culture has already given you. Preserve and nourish the best of what people before you have contributed to the culture.
Dare to take risks. Be willing to think and do things that have never been thought of or done before - things that make the world a better place. Ask God to help you overcome your fears so they won't block you from using your creativity to the fullest.
Tap into the Gospel's power to transform culture. The Gospel's power can't be contained in any particular culture; it reaches into every culture and changes it by changing the lives of the people within. It doesn't just abandon the old and replace it with the new. Instead, it transforms it from the inside out. With God's power at work to make even the impossible gloriously possible, every culture can be changed for the better. So make a daily habit of inviting God to work through your life to change the culture, rather than trying to change it yourself. Rely on God's unlimited power instead of your own limited efforts.
Be specific. Instead of pursuing a vague and naïve general idea of changing the world, think and pray about the specific ways God wants to use you to do His redemptive work at particular times and in particular places. Remember that all it takes for you to change the world is to change the culture right around you. Be humble about the scale of your creative work, but be assured that even work on the smallest scale is hugely significant if God has called you to do it. Trust God to accomplish something great through your creative efforts.
Notice where God is already at work, and join Him there. Look for ways in which God is bringing about something new and better throughout your culture - at your company, school, church, stores, neighborhood, parks, and anywhere else you go. Ask yourself where the impossible is becoming possible, and realize that God is at work there. Consider how you can join God's work. Think about specific ways in which you can empower people by helping to meet their spiritual and physical needs.
Use your power well. The awesome creative power you have at your disposal is a gift from God that you can either use for great good or abuse in ways that lead to destruction. Resist the temptation to engage your power in the wrong ways by humbling yourself to serve other people on a regular basis, genuinely listening to other people's concerns, investing your resources into the lives of people who aren't as powerful as you, and making it your goal to accomplish God's purposes rather than your personal goals. Regularly check yourself to honestly evaluate whether or not you're trusting in God's power rather than your own.
Work with other people. Your contributions to the culture will have a greater impact if you work on them together with a group of other people than just by yourself. Look for people you know and trust; with whom you share passion and conviction and commitment; and whose gifts, talents, and needs complement yours. Work as a community toward common goals.
Discern the impact of your work. Regularly examine how much your creative work is impacting the culture, and in what ways it's doing so. Where are you experiencing God's grace at work to multiply your efforts? How can you focus your efforts on the most fruitful areas to produce the most positive change?
Stay closely connected to God through spiritual disciplines. Make sure you're practicing spiritual disciplines such as prayer and Bible reading, meditation, and study on a regular basis to maintain the close connection with God that you need to rely on His power daily. Get a fresh dose of spiritual power every day to help you engage and change the culture around you.
Sustain hope when you fail and celebrate your successes. When your creative work fails, ask God to help you learn all He wants you to learn from the experience. Trust that, if you follow where He leads, He will ultimately bring about good results from your work somehow. When your creative work succeeds in changing the culture, thank God and celebrate the positive changes you've helped to bring about. Let the memories of your successes so far inspire you to keep giving your best effort to your work.
Adapted from Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling, copyright 2008 by Andy Crouch. Published by IVP Books, an imprint of InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Ill., www.ivpress.com.
Andy Crouch is editorial director of the Christian Vision Project at Christianity Today International. He also sits on the editorial board of Books & Culture and has been a columnist for Christianity Today. He was editor-in-chief of Regeneration Quarterly and for 10 years served as a campus minister with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Harvard University. He is a coauthor of The Church in Emerging Culture and a contributor to the Worship Team Handbook.