What is Culture?

Culture is what we make of the world. Culture is something we are ALL creating. Culture is something we are all called to create for change.

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Culture is a tricky word to wrap our heads around. Sometimes, the word culture is used to denote high culture, as in fine art, literature, and symphonies. But that is a narrow definition of culture. Other times, the word culture is used to describe a specific time, place, people, or setting as in Aztec culture or medieval culture, but again quite narrow.

Culture, in its broadest sense, can certainly include fine art, but it also includes graffiti. Mozart and NF. The Iliad and The Stand. Also, lasagna, basketball, rockets, braille, a sewing circle, newspapers, venture capital, heart transplants, skyscrapers, Handel’s Messiah, Lamborghini sports cars, chocolate chip cookies, alpaca farming, and the bazillions of other combinations of ways that humans take what our Creator God has created and create new stuff and produce new meaning.

Culture is What We Make of the World

Andy Crouch defines culture as “what human beings make of the world” and what we do through our own human efforts to “take the world as it’s given to us and make something else.” [1]

So, for us, as fallible and flawed yet fearfully and wonderfully made human beings, we can make of the world things that are of differing levels of positive or negative affect to the world and to each other. From atom bombs to penicillin, the iron maiden to the Gutenberg printing press, there are value judgments at play.

Will we create culture for the glory of God and the love of those around us or for our own selfish and insecure ends?

Culture is Something We are ALL Creating

And to be clear, we are all making something of the world even if just a reinforcement of the status quo all around us. To acquiesce, to consume, that makes something of the world, too.

Culture then is something we are all creating, all around us, all the time. It’s dynamic, fluid, ever-changing. And, as something that has been given to us, the raw materials entrusted to us by a Creator God, we have a responsibility to steward and shape the waves of cultural sea change, to bend them in the direction of our purpose and calling. We are called to create by the First Creator. And, as His hands and feet are in the world today, we create for change.

This is how culture change really happens.

Culture and Our Calling to Create for Change

If we see something that needs changed on a large scale in the culture around us—and there are many things that need changing—then what do we do? Hope? Pray? Yes, but we are called to do more. In short, we create for change. Notice this is not the bubbly, effervescent motivational pep talk that says, You can do it! Be the change you want to see around you! Create the change! It’s not create the change but create for change in full reliance on our sovereign Creator who invites us to use our giftings and participate in representing Him to the world around us.

Get Your Culture Change Score

We are all called to create for change. How well are you changing the culture around you? Take this free assessment to get your Culture Change Score and find out.

[1] Andy Crouch. Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling, IVP Books, 2013. pg. 23

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Joel Ohman

Joel Ohman is a serial tech entrepreneur, author, and the chief creator at Created for Change. You can connect with Joel at JoelOhman.com or via LinkedIn.