Westmont's change-the-world culture is worldly
Views 22 | Time to read: 3 minutes | Uploaded: 4 - 24 - 2019 | By: Nathan Tudor
Everyone at Westmont is supposed to change the world. You need to implement a plan to address systemic racism while developing clean water solutions in sub-Saharan Africa—and don’t forget your recent mission trip, during which you converted half of a small country.
Okay, I overstated things. You only converted a quarter of a small country.
However, Westmont certainly has a culture of world-changing. It’s right on our Admissions website: “Learn how to truly make an impact in the world.”
There is pressure to do something significant, which is by no means a bad goal. The problem is that “significant” has taken on connotations like “conventionally impressive,” “earth-shattering,” and “worthy of publicity.”
I am by no means criticizing the practice of showcasing the high impact work that many of our brothers and sisters in Christ are achieving. There is value in being reminded that people are doing worthwhile things. The problem, however, is that we are being conditioned to think “worthwhile things” are exclusively world-changing things.
In C.S. Lewis’ “The Great Divorce,” as the narrator travels into the afterlife, he encounters a woman robed in glory and splendor, a veritable queen of heaven, someone who is clearly important. But when he asks who she is, his guide says “ye’ll never have heard of her.” Her great works were not “significant” by the world’s standards, but by the standards of the Kingdom of Heaven; she was a hero because she showed love in the mundane, the everyday drudgery of life. But how often do we adopt the world’s standards of achievement?
There is significance in the self-giving work of the mother who wakes up early despite her fatigue and packs sandwiches for her kids. There is significance in the careful labor of the plumber who practices his trade well, so the houses he works on are structurally sound. There is significance in the thankless ministry of the small church pastor who gives sixty hours a week to his job, but whose congregation only complains about how dissatisfied they are.
When was the last time Westmont held up the person in the background? The person who doesn’t speak in chapel or lecture in class, but without whom the whole place would fall apart?
I can think of one example: Holly Beers’s chapel talk on minor characters in Acts was a much-needed corrective to this culture. Like that talk, my goal is not to diminish the achievements of the Peters and the Pauls of the world, but rather to put the spotlight on the Phoebes, the Lydias, the no-names.
By Westmont’s standards of recognition, Jesus himself probably would have been disregarded. He spent thirty years in some backwater town working with his hands. Were those years insignificant? Did his life only start to matter once the miracles started? Certainly not. Anything done well, done honestly, done faithfully, is significant. I imagine the Kingdom will be full of those we’ve “never heard of,” and we will marvel at how we never noticed the glory right under our noses--the glory of those who changed the world one sandwich, one screw, one sermon at a time.