Let's Take Dominion Now!
I know this is a crucial question, because for years I would have said that working toward social change should not be considered a part of our Christian duty. I was taught that the world was supposed to get worse and worse, and the more it did, the closer Christ's second coming would be. I believed that at some low point in history, all true believers would be snatched out of the earth and that those left behind would go through seven of the worst years of all, just prior to the Lord's glorious appearing. Meanwhile, our job was to spread the gospel and get as many souls saved as possible so that they would be taken up with us in the rapture whenever it might come, and the sooner the better. However, I am now certain that there is a more accurate and a more biblical way of understanding God's mission for us, which I'll try to explain as convincingly as I can in this chapter.
Having said that, my hope is that not too many readers who happen to love the famous Left Behind series of books will decide to shut the book at this point and go no further. I will go on record as saying that I personally have read every one of the Left Behind series, and if more books come out, I plan on reading them as well. I have enjoyed each of them greatly, keeping in mind that they are fiction, pure and simple.
Back to the Beginning
An excellent starting point to explain the mission God gave us is to go to the story of creation itself. We are told in Genesis 1 that God created the earth and everything in it in five days, and then on the sixth day He created Adam and Eve. He created them, male and female, in His image. When He did, He blessed them and said, "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth" (Gen. 1:28).
You may notice that I included that word "dominion" in the title of this chapter: "Let's Take Dominion Now!" Why? Because the first words God spoke to humans, as recorded in the Bible, includes the mandate to "have dominion." It wasn't just Adam and Eve who were to have dominion; it was the whole human race that would "fill the earth" after Adam and Eve began being fruitful and multiplying. Apparently, having dominion over the rest of creation is something built into God's original design for us humans; it is not an afterthought. To the extent that humans fail to have dominion, they also fail to live up to the fullness of their divine destiny.
"Your Kingdom Come"
Moving from the Old Testament to the New Testament, let's look at the Lord's Prayer, an excellent starting point for understanding our mission in the world. When Jesus' disciples asked Him to teach them to pray, He replied, "In this manner, therefore pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6:9-10).
God's ideal for human society is obviously the society that He directly oversees in heaven. It would follow, therefore, that this should also be the way that we live here on Earth, and that is what we should be praying for. Heaven is a place of peace and prosperity and health and happiness and morality and selflessness and well-being and harmony and understanding and kindness and high worship. To the extent that the society in which we live is not characterized by such qualities of life, it falls short of what God wants it to be. Since we are God's people, we are responsible to do whatever we can to help our communities meet God's expectations. I like the way that Bill Hamon expresses this idea: "The Lord has called us to be cultural architects-not just cultural critics."1
As you can see, all of this can be summarized in the expression that we are using more than ever these days, namely "social transformation."
A Long Road
I'm sad to say that it took us evangelical Christians a considerable amount of time to get to where we are today. It was too long a road. But the good news is that we are finally arriving.
To trace this back, the beginning centuries of Christianity were a time of severe persecution. For the most part, believers did not have the power to transform the society of the
Then the Protestant Reformation came along in the sixteenth century, led by Martin Luther and John Calvin. Luther's views of Scripture and of justification by faith produced one of the most positive changes in church history. However, he had a dualistic view of the church over against the world, and therefore he was never much inclined to push the church toward the mission of transforming society. Calvin, on the other hand, taught that believers are responsible for social transformation, and his followers began to believe that we have a cultural mandate (the mandate to transform society) as well as an evangelistic one (the mandate to save souls). One famous Calvinist, pastor and theologian Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920), lived this out, entered politics, became prime minister of the
Meanwhile, the modern missionary movement began around 1800, after William Carey went to
Toward the end of the 1800s, a liberal element of the church began promoting what was called the social gospel. They ended up going to the extreme of advocating that transforming society was all that was necessary and that saving souls was an idea of the past. Naturally, Bible-believing evangelicals reacted strongly against this, and they went to the opposite extreme of rejecting social ministry altogether. Taking dominion? That was, to them, something for liberals who didn't believe the Bible!
That history brings us up to the times that some of us living today can remember personally. I am among them. As an evangelical missionary in
The Congress in
A significant change came in 1974 when the evangelical movement, led by Billy Graham, held the International Congress on World Evangelization in
One event that did help to move social issues to the front and center of our agenda, particularly among evangelicals who were tuned in to the charismatic movement, was the publication of John Dawson's best-selling book Taking Our Cities for God in 1990. The concept of taking a city was a tremendous innovation.
Time for Action!
Now that we have social transformation on our evangelical agendas, it is time for action. I regard "social transformation" as the concept term. However, the action term that will best set us on the road toward that goal is "taking dominion."
Regrettably, a number of church leaders today have developed a negative reaction to the term "Dominion Theology." The root of this goes back to that period of time following World War II that I discussed in the last chapter, when several pioneering movements attempted to resurrect the offices of apostle and prophet. Some leaders of those movements began to advocate "Dominion Theology," using that very term. A related movement taught what they called Kingdom Now Theology. Some strong critics of these movements did their best to discredit their innovative leaders, and part of their procedure became an attack on Dominion Theology and Kingdom Now Theology. The critics were certainly right in pointing out a number of the errors of these pioneers both in theory and in practice, but in my opinion some of the critics opened doors for their own set of damaging extremes. Rejecting Dominion Theology and Kingdom Now Theology was one of them.
Let me illustrate this with a recent experience of my own. One Sunday I was teaching a congregation the basics of what I have been advocating in this book. As I spoke that day, I did not mention the word "dominion." When I finished, I spent time interacting with members of the congregation who wished to talk to me. One of them, after greeting me, said words to this effect: "Peter, isn't there a danger that what you were talking about could be interpreted as Dominion Theology?" The unspoken implication was a warning that I might be in danger of crossing the boundary line into what had become to many a standard heresy. I could see the look of surprise on his face when I replied straightforwardly, "What I'm teaching is, in fact, Dominion Theology." He respected me enough to respond that he would have to look into Dominion Theology a bit more carefully from then on.
While we are on the subject, allow me to be more specific about what I brought up at the beginning of this chapter concerning the Left Behind series. For most of the twentieth century, the prevailing eschatology (doctrine of the end times) of evangelicals was premillenialism. We expected the
The Danger of Transformation Fatigue
The question now arises, How effective have our efforts been since the cultural mandate joined the evangelistic mandate on our agendas?
We have wonderful results to report concerning the implementation of the evangelistic mandate. For example, we began the decade of the 1990s with 1,735 significant unreached people groups, and by 2000 all except fewer than 500 had initial church planting movements in them. Unprecedented evangelistic harvests are being reaped in global hot spots such as
But how about the cultural mandate? Since 1990, as I have explained, city transformation has been high on our priority lists. That, as I write this, was 15 years ago. Our best top-level Christian leadership has been involved with this in city after city across
However, we cannot point to a single city in
I foresee a danger-the danger of transformation fatigue! We must not become weary of well-doing. Satan would love to quench this move of the Holy Spirit by bringing a cloud of despair and hopelessness. Let's bind that wicked spirit of fatigue and move forward with faith, for "without faith it is impossible to please Him" (Heb. 11:6).
A powerful faith builder is to know that it can be done. A city can be transformed. Let's look at two examples of this, one from history and one today.
Let's look back to
The wicked city government [of
Huge bonfires were made of worldly books and obscene pictures, masks, and wigs. A great octagonal pyramid of worldly objects was erected in the public square in
Twice I have visited
The process began in the mid-1970s when Mariano Riscajche, a struggling pastor, began casting out demons, especially the demon of alcoholism. Since then, transformation has come in several areas:
. Spiritual awakening. The percentage of born-again Christians in Almolonga has risen dramatically from less than 5 percent to 90 percent at the present time. Previously the city was under a dark cloud of Satanic oppression, orchestrated by the ruling territorial spirit, Maximón. But now that the forces of evil have been pushed back, Almolonga enjoys open heavens, allowing the blessings of God to be poured out. Large, attractive churches are among the most prominent architectural features of the city's hilly landscape.
. Social harmony. Almolonga was filled with dysfunctional families that were devastated by drunkenness, adultery, wife abuse and child neglect; but now the city is filled with happy marriages, clean homes, wholesome schools and friendly people.
. Material prosperity. Almolonga no longer suffers poverty caused by chronic drought and famine; now it enjoys agricultural plenty, producing vegetables that are record breaking in size. Carrots, for example, are the size of a man's forearm. Crops are now sustained by a natural water supply that comes up from the ground rather than being dependent on rainfall. Farmers deliver their produce throughout
. Law and order. Until Almolonga was transformed, it had no fewer than six crowded jails to deal with robbery, lawlessness and violence in the streets. Several years ago, however, the last jail was closed because of the absence of crime, and it was turned into a Hall of Honor, which is used for weddings and other celebrations.
. Physical and ecological transformation. Almolonga was constantly victimized by plagues, diseases and violent storms. These have now disappeared, while the neighboring city of
Almolonga is known for enjoying one of the highest qualities of life in all of
What Is Our Goal?
Eddie Long, pastor of the 25,000-strong
The Measure for Success
If we agree that we need to move with God for taking over a certain city, how will we know if and when we have succeeded? I think that a biblically rooted measure for success would be the birth of a new creation: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new" (2 Cor. 5:17). If this is what the Bible expects of individuals who are transformed, why should we expect less of a city? If individuals can be born again, why can't cities, made up of many individuals, be born again?
I keep a file of transformation reports, anecdotes that truly are exciting, faith-building and glorifying to God. Here are some examples from different American cities:
. The crime rate has gone down.
. Adult bookstores began to close after prayerwalking.
. Affordable housing is being built in the slums.
. Two psychics moved out of town.
. The rate of unemployment is much lower.
. Employees of banks pray with their customers regularly and play praise music during the day.
. A gay bar went out of business.
. The mayor and the chief of police have been born again.
. The biggest drug bust in the city's history just occurred.
. A Christian Chamber of Commerce was organized.
. The newspapers are giving more favorable coverage to the churches and their activities.
. Abortion clinics have shut down.
. The school system has taken a turn for the better.
Certainly we would applaud every one of these wonderful reports. But none of them alone, nor any combination of all of them, would verify that a city has been transformed, past tense. I believe that these reports are predicated on a watered-down version of transformation.
In the global leadership circles in which I move, the focus of some of my friends is the process of transformation. My thought is that we should not be satisfied with reporting stages of the process as if they were the final goal. No, we should focus on complete transformation. I am not questioning the importance of reporting the process, but I want to emphasize that the process is only a means toward the end, not the end in itself.
What, then, should our goal be? I think it should be sociologically verifiable transformation. In other words, an independent professional sociologist, using standard social scientific measuring instruments, would draw the conclusion that the city has been transformed. One reason that I use
Among other things, the article says, "The cult of Maximón and its followers has been reduced to a mere handful of individuals; and due to his downfall, the men of the city no longer drink liquor because of their evangelical faith. Therefore the annual festival to the idol . . . is now financed only by money collected from sightseeing tours of Japanese, Germans and Americans."4
Today I can honestly say that metropolitan
This, in turn, is causing us to gain major footholds in the city infrastructure, . . . the criminal court system, public high schools, the Georgia State Senate, the United States Senate, and even into the White House itself. . . . When you are a politician in a major metropolitan area, it isn't wise to dismiss or ignore a highly unified, committed, and motivated group of voters exceeding twenty-two thousand people representing almost every voting precinct in your city.5
Our Biblical Mandate
At the beginning of this chapter, I quoted Genesis 1:28, where God explicitly indicates that His original design was for human beings to take dominion over all of creation. However, Adam and Eve, tempted by Satan, proceeded to turn history upside down. By disobeying God and breaking his relationship with the Creator, Adam lost his integrity, his rulership and his personal destiny. He became a sinner and was no longer in the pure image of God. And worse yet, he has passed his fallen nature down genetically through every human generation since.
Meanwhile, Satan was accomplishing his own purpose in the Garden of Eden. To understand this in depth, think of the difference between power and authority. If, for example, I own a .338 Winchester Magnum rifle, I have power. However, I cannot discharge that rifle in the city of
How much authority, or dominion, did Satan actually acquire? Let's go to Jesus' third temptation to find out. Presuming that the temptations were real and not just someone's dream or a figment of someone's imagination, we see Satan literally taking Jesus up on a high mountain. Satan then shows Jesus all (not just a few!) of the kingdoms of the world. Then Satan says, "All these [kingdoms] I will give You if You will fall down and worship me" (Matt. 4:9). My point is that this temptation could only have been real if Satan actually had the power and the authority to deliver the kingdoms to Jesus. Significantly enough, Jesus never once questioned the validity of Satan's claim over the kingdoms of the world.
Jesus, the Second Adam
While Jesus never questioned Satan's dominion, He came to earth expressly to take it away from him. Jesus came as the second, or last, Adam (see 1 Cor. 15:45-47). The first Adam lost dominion; the second Adam will regain it. This was a new beginning of history. It is part of the New Covenant, not the Old Covenant. Jesus brought a new kingdom, namely, the
The first to announce the Kingdom was John the Baptist. He preached in the wilderness and said, "Repent, for the kingdom of [God] is at hand" (Matt. 3:2). This was the D-day of the invasion of the
Jesus preached the gospel of the Kingdom; the apostles preached the gospel of the Kingdom; and He expects us to preach the gospel of the Kingdom (see Matt. 24:14). What is the gospel of the Kingdom?
After the temptation, Jesus went to the synagogue in His hometown of
A Fresh View of Scripture
Following this pattern, our new paradigm for taking dominion includes a dual task: the evangelistic mandate (saving souls) and the cultural mandate (transforming society). Once we have this in mind, we will have mental tools to take a fresh look at two biblical passages that have been favorites of us evangelicals.
The first is Luke 19:10, which reads, "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." Our old paradigm interpretation would make it read, "to save those who were lost." But it does not say this. It says "that which was lost." What is "that"? It is dominion over creation, which was lost in the Garden of Eden by the first Adam. Jesus, as the second Adam, wants to mobilize us to take back what the enemy has stolen.
The second passage is the Great Commission, found in Matthew 28:19-20. Jesus says, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations." It does not tell us to make disciples of individuals in all the nations, which has been our standard, old-paradigm interpretation. Instead, we are supposed to make disciples of panta ta ethne, which in Greek means all ethnic units or social units or people groups. This is a term that denotes sociological groupings of individuals. The whole unit, or nation (including, of course, the individuals who belong to it), is supposed to be Jesus' collective disciple and to observe in that society what Jesus commanded. We now see that the Great Commission's biblical goal is nothing short of social transformation.
I have used the bulk of this chapter to explain the ins and outs of the new paradigm that we have for social transformation, namely, taking dominion. Now I want to show how the church in the workplace is absolutely essential for the practical outworking of this process.
As I have mentioned, since 1990, we Christian leaders in
For example, I lived in the
We met, not just once, but month after month, year after year. Few cities in the
However, let's fast-forward to 2004, several years after Love L.A. ended. Had
Was Love L.A. effective in bringing transformation to
What Is Missing?
How do we explain the fact that with the best leadership, with state-of-the-art spiritual methodologies, with commitment of time, money and energy toward city transformation, the results still are not there? I have described
There are at least four ways that this could be explained:
1. We have the wrong goal. We have no Christian mandate for city transformation, and therefore we are out of the will of God. It goes without saying that I cannot accept this explanation.
2. We have the right goal, but we are using the wrong methods. If this is the case, we have been victims of massive deception because Christian leadership across the board has regarded our methodology as originating with the Holy Spirit and it has been developed by some of the most gifted and godly servants of the Lord.
3. We have the right goal and the right methods, but we need to do it more. In other words, if we have been working toward social transformation in
4. Our goal and methods are good, but there is something missing. I like this explanation the best. Let's look into it more. We can still use the same methods that surfaced in the 1990s and that we have since fine-tuned, but we need to add something needs to the equation.
What, then, is missing?
I believe it will help matters a great deal if we can avoid trivial answers to this question. For example, I recently received a rather lengthy report related to winning the war for social transformation. In it, the author suggested that three things were needed in order for us to turn the corner and see results: intimacy with God, unity in the regional church, and holiness and righteousness. I read that with dismay, because for 15 years we have been preaching those three things fervently and have been doing our best to attain them. All were present in Love L.A. I agree that we cannot do without these things, but analytically speaking, I cannot see how any of these would provide a tipping point.
During the 1990s, we knew very little about apostolic leadership. Neither did we know much about the church in the workplace. But now we do. In chapter 1, I tried to make a case for the church in the workplace, and in chapter 2, I argued that there are apostles in the workplace. We need to move beyond the 1990s and integrate these concepts into our social-transformation efforts.
Let's look, once again, at the social-transformation graphic.
One of the two major columns that support social transformation is the church in the workplace, and workplace apostles help to tie the whole structure together.
A very important role in social transformation is that of territorial apostles. These are apostles to whom God has assigned key apostolic authority over a certain geographical region. I have no doubt that some nuclear-church apostles are also God-ordained territorial apostles. However, this new paradigm of the church in the workplace has brought me to the strong conclusion that the majority of territorial apostles will probably turn out to be extended-church apostles rather than nuclear-church apostles.
Let's decide to move forward. Let's take dominion now!
Used with permission. The Church in the Workplace, by C. Peter Wagner, Regal Books. To order this book click on Faith and Work Resources.com link to the right of this page.