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Hardly a day goes by that a book or an email doesn't arrive telling me how to "transform the culture" or "change the world."

In one recent email, a conference promised the attendance of many nationally recognized evangelical speakers. I went to the website and read that at this conference, among other things, I will "find out what it means to be inwardly strong and outwardly focused and to have a church body that desires to change the world from the inside-out!"

I have on my desk a book subtitled "The Passion and Practices of Missional Churches," and the subtitle for one chapter says that missional churches "expect to change the world." It leads with a quote from a well-known futurist, who says, "It is still God's policy to work through the embarrassingly insignificant to change his world and create his future." The book points to one Southern California church and says, "The ultimate criteria for determining its effectiveness is the transformation of Los Angeles."

Are they ever in for a big disappointment. On top of that, I'm now worried for Los Angeles.

I hesitate to cheer for cultural transformation, though not because I like the world just the way it is. Hardly. I read the paper this morning. I hesitate, though not because I don't believe that the church impacts the world. It has impacted the world and will continue to do so. I hesitate because I think the goal of transforming our city, our culture, or our world can lead to little good.

The church is rightly embarrassed by well-lit displays of the Crusades, the Inquisition, murderously Reformed Geneva, and the Salem witch trials in history's hall of shame. What do all these events have in common? They were motivated by a desire to transform the culture, if not the world, ...

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