We're inspired by great figures who built themselves from nothing and created an enterprise, an organization, or a movement.
We're jealous of these people, longing to see the same influence in our own life as they had. We want to make an impact in the world. We want to change something, even if it's only to say it was us who did it.
There is something inspiring about these stories. They call us outside of ourselves, making us believe we can do something bigger than we thought possible.
The aftermath of all their labors, though, is often less than inspiring. Often you can see all these empires crumble after the leader is taken out of the equation. It's as if the whole thing was kept together by that one person and as soon as the foundation was taken out, the whole thing collapsed upon itself.
With others, however, we can see that their empire strengthened after they were taken out of the equation. These people created a culture from their own DNA so that when they were gone, all their ideas and processes were still infused throughout their work.
What really changes people and places?
Many people may say education or technology or infrastructure or health or science or economy or connections or aid or luck or fate.
If you want to move someone out of poverty, you would probably start with one of these factors. I'm going to suggest another avenue.
Actually, it's culture that envelops all of these other factors, but culture is so much more than even these. Culture is unexplainable and yet it is central to what it means to be who we are. Changing a culture changes lives. Changing culture changes places.
The reason for this is because when you change culture, you change mindsets, expectations, and perceived reality. We fight against things that go against our culture until they are made right. We align ourselves with our culture and align everything around us with it.
Culture is contagious. You can catch it. If you're around someone quite different from you, you will start listening to their music, watching their movies, and talking like them. Your values and interests start becoming like theirs, or maybe it's theirs that start becoming like yours, depending on whose culture is more compelling.
This is why God incarnated among us as Jesus, because he wanted us to catch something from heaven. He called it the kingdom of Heaven or the kingdom of God. It's a heavenly culture that's very contagious. It's even airborne, but you have to be in near proximity in order to catch it. You won't be infected just walking by or by just saying hello. You must have real encounters about real life.
When you incarnate among a people group with a heavenly culture, you will infect them with this heavenly reality. And you will change the fabric of every other factor as well.
That's why we go and baptize people into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They die to their old way of life, their old culture, and rise into the kingdom of Heaven, a heavenly culture. This changes people and spreads like an epidemic, if only we remain incarnated among the people we're called to.
Those great people we admire that gave their life to build enterprises, organizations, or movements are only as great as the thing they built. If it crumbles after they're gone, it all amounts to nothing in the end. Even if they leave behind their culture that continues their empire, it's still only worthy of the message it sends.
If you want to give your life to something, then give it away to something that will carry on after you're gone and even after the movement falls away. It's great to build yourself up and create something from scratch, but you have to think of the affects it will have after you're gone and after it dies.
If what you build is simply to entertain people, then it will ultimately amount to nothing in the end. If that entertainment calls them into a deeper reality, a heavenly culture, the kingdom of Heaven, then you're leaving an impact for eternity.
Most of us won't start something so compelling or culture-changing, but we don't have to. You just have to identify the people or organizations or movements around you that are doing something with eternal significance and join them. Support them and serve them. Give your life to them. Everything you're working for will continue after you're gone because the organization doesn't depend on you. And even after the organization is gone, the effects will be seen in eternity.
You don't have to be famous to change the world. You just have to change culture. Serve those movements making a heavenly cultural impact and live a life free of regrets.