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by Jacob Ninan
Abstract. Three famous Christian leaders heard God telling them that what they needed to do to impact the world for Christ was to have Christians become active in the spheres of culture that have maximum influence on people’s lives, which God called ‘the seven mountains of influence’. A lot of attention has been taken up worldwide in this direction. I am arguing that this message was not from God, but that it has managed to divert a lot of attention, energy and efforts from God’s focus for people.
Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, and Loren Cunningham, founder of Youth With A Mission, reported in 1975 that God had independently told both of them that if Christians wanted to impact the nations for Jesus Christ, they would have to affect seven core areas of culture which He called the ‘seven mountains’, viz., arts/entertainment, business, education, family, government, media and religion. It was because Christians had lost their presence in these spheres of culture that they lacked influence. Later on, Frances Schaeffer of L’abri, France, said that God had given him also the same message.
It does look as if it makes sense. God’s purpose is not only that all of us should individually be saved from our sins, and become His children and citizens in His kingdom, but also that we should influence the world around us in a positive way. Jesus pointed out that we are to be the light and salt of the earth. And these ‘mountains’ represent areas that greatly influence the lives of people. Since it is not the Christian leaders, but the common Christians who are out there in the market place which these mountains represent, it also brings out the point that it is not just the duty of the Christian leaders to carry out the task of reaching out to the masses, but that of every Christian working in every sphere of life.
The Developing Story
Over the years, Christians from different denominations have developed this theme in different directions, contributing their own emphases. All of them do not agree with all other emphases, but each one sees their task as being primary. Some explained that this was referring to the restoration of the dominion over the world which Adam and Eve had lost because of their sin. Now that Jesus has completed His work of redemption, it has become possible to retake this dominion. For some others, it was an extension to their belief that since Jesus has reversed all the effects of man’s fall, we Christians became eligible for a prosperous and trouble-free life as was the case before the Fall, being the head and not the tail, and this was going to be worked out through Christian involvement in the seven mountains. Some of them focus on the mountain called business which can fund all other mountains. For some other Christians who believed that Christians were not going to be taken to heaven one day, but heaven was going to come down to earth, the cleansing of all the seven mountains would lead to preparing the way for this to happen. For others, this would fulfil their goal of improving the social conditions and the standard of living across the world as Christians got involved strongly in all areas of life. Some others took this as God’s mandate for taking over the government of the world through Christian political leaders so that Jesus can become king on the earth. Etc.
Many of these people became energised by the belief that God had given this prophetic message at this time for the fulfilment of what God had given each group as its goal. Now, the intensity of their focus on their particular goals has heightened to such an extent that all other things began to fade in value and priority. They began to proclaim separately what came to be known as the ‘dominion gospel’, ‘prosperity gospel’, ‘kingdom of God on earth gospel’, ‘social gospel’, etc. Different ones began to say that their particular goal was the real mandate from God rather than what most people considered as the ‘Great Commission’. Some of them claimed that what God told Adam and Eve to do before the Fall, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth,” was the original mandate for man which they lost with the Fall and which Jesus was now restoring.
What Went Wrong?
God’s purpose in creating man was not to find someone to rule the earth and take care of it, but for someone to have fellowship with. When God created the universe, and especially the earth and all there is in it, it was all for man to live in. Man was to have the dominant role on the earth. But it is important to see that the earth was made for man, and not man for the earth.
God created man in His image so that He could have fellowship with him. But Adam and Eve lost this relationship when they chose to live independently of Him. Then God sent His Son to open the way back to Him and to make it possible for His image to be restored in us (through a work of justification and sanctification). This work of redemption is what is uppermost in His mind with respect to us. When this work is finished on earth, He will start a new phase with His people on a new earth with a new heaven.
What seems to have happened is that the by-products of God’s salvation have become more important for some people than salvation itself. These people began to plan for bringing about the changes that would refine society and culture from their points of view, forgetting for the moment that unless people themselves got changed, mere change of circumstances, forms and facilities could not eliminate the inherent problems of human life. Many people have said at different times that what the people needed was better education, better health, better facilities, etc., and then everything would be fine. But such attempts have been proved to be totally inadequate time after time. All the improvements that man has brought about in education or living conditions have not managed to change the people inside, and evil continues to triumph. On the other hand, wherever God has moved in places through the power of the Gospel that changed people, society has also been affected for the better. We can also see that even people, who have unlimited wealth and every facility they can think of, can be far from happy in their life. King Solomon tried out many such things and discovered that none of those things brought him real and lasting happiness. Imagine for a moment that the government came into Christian hands, and Christians began to control business, media, education, etc. Would that by itself bring about the kingdom of God on earth? Would people come to know God automatically when they enjoy comfort and plenty? On the contrary! Would it not still need the Gospel to be preached, and people to repent, believe in Jesus and be born again?
The Kingdom Of God
There are many Christians who are dedicated to various forms of improving the lot of people on earth, and they are all to be lauded. In fact, it is Christians who have contributed the maximum in health care, education, social changes, etc., especially in needy situations. But we can see that most of these projects started because these Christians were moved by the love of God in their lives and wanted to share it with the others so that they too might come to know God. Over time, many such projects have become mere humanitarian efforts and the Gospel has been left on the roadside.
In other words, the most crucial element of the process of building the kingdom of God is to preach the Gospel and help people to be ‘converted’—not to change their religion, but to get into a proper relationship with God. If this is not done, even though all living conditions on earth have become better, there will still be no building of God’s kingdom.
So, people who move their attention from changing people’s lives to changing the culture and circumstances of life are actually putting the cart before the horse. Many seem to have actually done this in terms of their focus and efforts. Some have misunderstood, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” as if it implied an earthly kingdom which God wanted to set up.
Without doubt, there is great need to change things on these ‘seven mountains’ which have become contaminated by immorality, selfishness, pleasure seeking, etc., and who can do it better than those whose hearts have been changed by God? Certainly, God depends on Christians to effect these changes as they exist in this world as its salt and light, while at the same time being not of this world.
God wants His kingdom to be established where people subject themselves to His reign and do His will here and now, just as it is being done in heaven. Jesus clarified that the kingdom He had in mind was not of this world. The kingdom of God is also referred to as the kingdom of heaven. If it were to be a kingdom on earth, His soldiers would be there to fight for it. But it is a spiritual kingdom where we enthrone God as king in our hearts and where we subject ourselves to Him to do His will. While we are living in this world, this kingdom in our hearts marks us as being not of this world. The kingdom of God will provide its people righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit in their hearts even while they are living in this world of sin.
Jesus made it very clear that no one could enter this kingdom without being born again; in fact, people cannot even ‘see’ it without being born again. When more and more people enter into this kingdom through repenting from their sins and putting their trust in Jesus, they will influence the people and circumstances around them by being the salt and light of this world. This kingdom cannot be achieved by trying to improve life on earth.
In other words, without the preaching of the Gospel and people being born again, there cannot be any building of the kingdom of God. When people get into the kingdom, they will start impacting the world around them by being the salt and light of the world. The focus on the seven mountains is actually turning people’s attention to improving conditions on earth and not in people’s hearts, and away from doing what can actually bring in people to the kingdom of God—the preaching of the Gospel.
How is it that at such a time as ours, when things are going from bad to worse in terms of morality, understanding of right and wrong, violence, perversion, etc., when the standard of Christians itself is going down because of watered down preaching and importing of worldly values, God would send a message to the leaders to improve the impact of Christians in this world rather than ask Christians to repent? When God decides to use an extraordinary means of communicating His direction to Christians, why doesn’t He talk about the shortness of the time ahead and tell us to prepare ourselves and others for the coming of Jesus? These are the messages given for these days in the New Testament. When God sent messages to the people of Israel through the Old Testament prophets, the common factor was a call to repent and to turn back to God. On the contrary, at this time of apostasy, nearly at the end of the world, He seems to have sent a message that addresses a secondary issue. Following that, many Christians seem to have changed their focus to working in the seven mountains, forgetting weightier matters. To put things in an extreme way, when our time on earth is becoming very short and we should be concentrating on what is most important, some Christians seem to be worried about, for example, how to Christianise art forms in the different cultures.
Many Christian leaders seem to be unaware of the fact that not every message they receive in their heart is from God. This seems to be particularly true of those who believe in hearing God speak to them in their heart. Deceiving spirits are very active in these last days to bring out what Paul calls ‘doctrines of demons’. Such doctrines are not necessarily weird looking ones which we can immediately identify as coming from demons. The examples Paul gives are doctrines that forbid marriage or eating certain foods, which are deceptive because they give an appearance of making people holy and godly! Following such doctrines will make people think they are becoming holy while they are actually turning their focus away from real inner godliness. There are, of course, demonic doctrines that lead people to licentiousness, debauchery, and various forms of sin. But demonic doctrines may also be those which look good on the outside, but which will distract people from God and His ways. Without watching out for such deceptive thoughts that come to our minds in just the same way as thoughts of temptation come in, we may end up swallowing everything as a ‘revelation from God’! Let us not also forget the fact that not everything supernatural is from God, and that not even being filled with the Holy Spirit can protect us from thoughts that evil spirits can place in our mind.
This ‘revelation’ about the seven mountains is certainly extra-biblical in that the Bible does not give us such an instruction about how to influence the world for Christ. But then, God is not restricted to speaking to His people only things that are already there in the Bible. He can give us specific instructions for different times we live in. However, we need to check everything that seems to come from God to see if it is in contradiction to what the Bible says or is in line with it. Obviously, God will not contradict Himself.
One important factor that made so many people believe that this message was from God was that it came to godly people such as these three. One does not normally expect that godly people like these would make a mistake in this area of hearing from God. But we must not forget that even Jesus had ideas put into His mind from the Devil, and He had to sort them out with His knowledge of God which had already been given to Him in God’s word. Another factor could be the miraculous way in which the same message was given to three different people around the same time. But just think of it, this is quite within the capabilities of Satan to do! So these two factors are not enough to convince us that this message was from God.
Let us look at the concept of improving the Christian influence on the seven mountains in the context of the Bible. The Bible does say about Christians being the salt and light of the earth and thereby being a positive influence on the world. It also tells us to be witnesses for God in every part of the world. But in order to be able to achieve this, what Christians need to do first of all is to live lives that are witnesses for God. Secondly, we preach the Gospel to every creature and make disciples of all nations so that they also can experience the change. That is how the people of the world can repent and receive the good news of salvation. That is how they can be born again and become a part of the kingdom of God. That will then add to the witness to the world and enhance the influence on the seven mountains.
On the other hand, if we neglect the work of bringing change into people’s lives through the Gospel because we are focussed on working on improving the seven mountains, we miss God’s plan. This does not seem to be in line with what God has said through the Bible. From Satan’s point of view, this would be a good thing, when Christians would be occupied with making things better in the world, and there would be less attention on making efforts to bring people into God’s kingdom. Because Satan is telling people to do something good for the others and not evil, as we would normally expect him to do, we would be caught off guard and into his snare.
If we look at the various proponents of the ‘seven mountains movement’ and the whole spectrum of activities going on under this umbrella, what we find is an emphasis to ‘infiltrate’ the different mountains in large numbers and to become ‘change makers’ of culture from there. Organisations have been set up, books and other media have been prepared, and training programmes are available around this ‘mandate’ of the seven mountains. What we do not find is an emphasis on leading people to Christ and getting their lives changed by Christ. There are also a few who do not seem to have thought through all these implications, but naively think that better situations on these mountains will make it conducive to their preaching of the Gospel.
In the light of the signs of the end times that are increasing and the shortness of the time we have, this ‘message from God’ lacks the seal of His heart as we see in the Old and New Testaments.
Is This The End?
There are some Christians who believe that God is going to purify this earth in every way so that it will be transformed into a new earth where God’s people will live forever. According to them, when Jesus returns to this earth, His people are not going to be raptured in order to be with Him, but wicked people, wickedness and all defilements are going to be taken away, leaving God’s people on this earth. For such people it makes sense to think that the seven mountains need to be purified and that it is their responsibility to do it so that Jesus can come into a new earth. This has many theological problems which we cannot discuss in this article.
Conclusion This teaching of the seven mountains has affected a large number of Christians all over the world and taken them off the right track. It does not look as if this ‘revelation’ was from God after all, but a diversionary tactic from the Devil. These three famous leaders appear to have made a mistake on this point and not anticipated where this was leading to. But it does not imply that they are not godly people. It only shows that anyone can make a mistake. At the same time, we also see how mistakes which big leaders make can affect a large number of those who respect them. They are bigger targets for Satan’s attacks. It teaches the rest of us not to be overawed by the fame or status of the person who is bringing out a new teaching, but to check things out before accepting them.
-- Published in the Light of Life magazine, August and September 2015
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