On Changing the World

This past weekend, for the first time in my life, my attention was drawn to a football game between Harvard and Yale. Though, I suppose, that’s not entirely accurate, because I didn’t watch a minute of the game itself. What I saw was the story that the game was delayed by a student protest of the two universities’ being “complicit in climate injustice.” I know very little about Harvard or Yale’s climate change policies, or lack thereof, but I admire the students standing up (or, I suppose, sitting down) for the cause.

An endless amount has been written on generational differences, but something that I notice across multiple studies is that younger generations strongly believe they can change the world. That core belief then goes on to affect their day-to-day lives and decisions. How can I make an impact? How can I play my part? You may have rolled your eyes at people declining to use plastic straws or opting for tofurkeys this Thanksgiving, but individuals’ decisions to do these things, like lower their use of plastics or cut meat from their diet, are decisions often borne out of a spirit of activism, a desire to change the world.

This change-the-world desire is so deeply embedded in people that it practically creates a total impasse between those “in” and those “out” of the mindset. World-changers will wonder, “Why aren’t people more conscious of their personal impact on the world?” The less concerned will wonder, “Why are people so conscious of their personal impact on the world?” It’s an idea so fundamental that it becomes hard to explain.

It’s not just young people that want to change the world, though, and it’s not just activists and protesters. Think of your Facebook feed and the political posts and statuses you see shared and written (unless you’ve hid all of them, like I’ve tried to). There are tons of people trying to change the world, thousands of people that think their opinion or political platform will change things. Liberals, conservatives, Christians, atheists–everyone would like to elect their favorite candidate so they can change the world, and they’re all attempting to do so at the same time, and loudly.

Personally speaking, I’ve got a bit of the “change the world” fire lit under me. Some of that may have to do with my youth, or maybe my youth combined with my new position as pastor of a church. I’m a greenhorn pastor fresh out of seminary who would really love to get out into greater Nashville and change the world. What’s more, I have something in my arsenal that truly can change the world–my primary tool, the Word of God, is the very power of the Almighty Lord to effect change in people’s hearts and lives. I sit here wondering, “Why wouldn’t I want to change the world?”

But the world is a big place. And I’m just one person. Even with the power of God and his Word on my side, I’m a human being limited to one place and one space in time. I can maximize my influence or expand my sphere of influence, but none of that will necessarily change the world. I don’t know if I can speak for everyone who wants to change the world, but I believe the daunting nature of the task can cause a certain amount of stress and anxiety. I want to change the world, but how is that even possible? I want to change the world, but what can someone as small as I am possibly do? I want to change the world. I want to go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. But the world is really, really, really big.

To my fellow Christian world-changers out there, to people who want to share Jesus and in doing so change the world, I have this piece of advice:

Narrow the scope.

If you want to change the world, support your friends with the love of Christ.

If you want to change the world, raise your family on a strong Christian foundation.

If you want to change the world, reflect God’s love to strangers online and on the street.

If you want to change the world, volunteer in your church.

If you want to change the world, preach the powerful Gospel to the people in your life.

It’s a difficult task to change the world outside of your own sphere of influence. Not everyone is up to it. And you know what? That’s totally fine. Instead, identify your own sphere of influence…and influence it. Perhaps focus less on changing the world and more on how you can changing your world.

I might not be able to take greater Nashville by storm, but I can continue to preach God’s powerful Word to the people in my pews on Sunday. I might not preach to thousands of people a month, but I can focus on making my sermons the best they can be for the 100-or-so that will hear me. I might not get the entire North Side to join my membership registry, but I can take extra effort to follow up with individual visitors and friends and family members with connections to my people. The gospel will change my world; God’s Word does not return to him empty. And I pray that he uses me effectively to accomplish what he desires and achieve the purpose for which he sends it.

God has changed you, and he gives you his Spirit and a mission to go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. You might not be able to get to all creation by yourself, but you can get to the creation around you. Pray for the strength to do what you can. Be confident that God is working through you and many others. Change the world!


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