Eric Metaxas, author of a popular, and controversial, Bonhoeffer biography, recently wrote an article on the importance of reaching cultural elites for Christ. He uses William Wilberforce’s methods for ending slavery as a key example.
He argues that elites are the next unreached people group, an idea he supports by telling a story about how Dick Cavett didn’t know where the Golden Rule came from. The importance of this anecdote, he claims, is that elites are culture-bearers and culture-creators for the rest of us.
What does this have to do with changing the world? Everything. Because, for good or for ill, it is the cultural elites who determine much of what goes on in the rest of the culture, who can set the tone and content of the cultural conversation. They can determine what we sneer at and what we ooh at and ahh at. Not that they are trying to do this. It’s just the way things are. They tend to have the tv pulpits and the Conde Nast photo spreads. And the folks in Topeka who watch them… don’t. You’ve heard of trickle-down economics? Let me introduce you to trickle-down culture.
If Christians are to change the world, apparently, they should start with the most important people and work their way out and down.
That is simply good missiology and would further the Gospel. In their way, the cultural elites of Manhattan and Hollywood are an untouched people group no less in need of hearing the Gospel than the cannibals of Irian- Jaya or the Auca Indians of Ecuador were just a few decades ago. As brave and diligent souls have over the last two millennia risked their lives and lost their lives, and have studied obscure grammars and translated the Gospel of John into the dialects of these and other vanishing tribes, so too we today ought to humbly set ourselves to the noble task of bringing the Gospel to these elites. We should think and pray about moving to those places where they gather, and we should try to communicate with them and learn their folkways and cultural shibboleths with the same diligence we have applied to obscure tribes. And if the Lord has not called us to live in those places, or to work in those industries, which are the front-lines in the struggle for the heart and soul of our culture, then we should pray about whether we ought to send money to help the ministries of those who have been called. And we all should know that we have certainly been called to support them in prayer.