Mar 2, 2012

Everything Matters: Creating a High Calling Culture

I need your help with a bit of culture creation . . . but first, let me give you some background.

It wasn’t until my 20s that I began to merge what I considered the spiritual world—prayer, singing, reading the Scriptures—with everything else: academics, music, work, pop culture. I generally heralded daily devotions as the stuff that mattered, while studying and working were more like chores I did for responsibility’s sake, not for spreading the gospel. And culture, the topic of this conversation, was simply a list of items I either avoided or consumed depending on the item’s moral value.

Which meant CCM was in; MTV was out.

What I didn’t realize was that none of these weekly activities fit nicely into straight-forward categories. Culture turned out to be bigger than labels like “pop,” “elite,” “folk,” and “consumer.” In fact, I discovered that culture contained all of it, from preaching to puzzles, choir to chemistry. It contained both the prayer style I had employed and the company that kept me employed.

For starters, let’s say that culture is the result of everything we create, manage, and consume (I’d say “and enjoy” but let’s face it: some culture is no fun to create, manage, or consume).

Here at The High Calling, we try to host conversations about every area of our lives. We talk a lot about work in the traditional sense, which includes discussions on cubicle-world ethics and honesty in the workplace. But if you’ve been around a while, you know we believe that God cares about all seven days and everything we fill them with. So while work may be what you do to get a paycheck, items such as poetry, film, trends, language, holidays, and non-fiction may not. Yet both require work.

To put it another way, Dave fixes my car. Dave also coaches Little League. Both are work, and both are cultural acts, even though only fixing my car earns Dave a paycheck. We are, as Andy Crouch says, “culture makers.” Some make improvements to cars for pay, yes, but we also make toys, music, houses, apps, children, communities, stories, language, history, libraries, justice, noise, and play.

Culture is all day, every day.

In addition, when we care about culture enough to make it a high calling, we take the acts of creating, managing, and consuming a step further into the realm of worship. God said it was all good, even very good. To the degree we reflect God’s own acts of creating, managing, and consuming, we worship by becoming more human, made in God’s image. Think about that. The better I handle, say, our checking account, the more I reflect the characteristics of God and therefore become the human God called me to be.   

Fascinating, isn’t it? Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy. Writing a new article can frustrate me. Keeping the lawn mowed is the last thing I want to do on hot summer days. Enjoying a good book is tough when my mind is too busy to calm down. Creating, managing, and consuming are both chores and beautiful gifts.   

How about for you—what do you spend a lot of time creating, managing, or consuming? How does it affect the culture the rest of us inhabit? How does it affect your own health? Where do you feel you most mimic God in the traditional workplace (including full-time parenting) and elsewhere? Do your cultural contributions help others become more whole, more human?

Update 3/30/12: Good conversation took place in the comments to this post, but before (or maybe instead of) landing on a single culture vision statement—as requested below—I've asked a number of writers to respond based on their particular vocational field. Enjoy the first installment called Everything Matters: Editing as a Cultural Act, by David A. Zimmerman.

Update 6/29/12: The "Everything Matters" Collection to date:

A Vision for Culture

I’d like to create a statement that might guide the culture content here at in the future. Believe it or not, I don’t currently have one written anywhere. It’s time. Will you help me shape one? If you include a vision component, it would imagine how our readers benefit from the cultural content we publish. If you include a mission component, it would say a bit about how we intend to realize that vision.

Here are a few suggested guidelines:

  • Keep your statement under 75 words
  • Write it here or paste a link in the comments if you write it on your site
  • See the About page for more about if you are new here
  • Begin your statement with “Everything you do matters to God.”


Image by Thomas Shahan. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr. Post by Sam Van Eman.

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