Culture Making by Andy Crouch

2020, book #31: “3, 12, 120. Typically there are 3 very influential people, 12 who have a big impact, and 120 you can’t go without mentioning.” — Andy Crouch

Finished on May 12, 2020

My good friend Andres Limones Cruz recommended this book to me and it was most definitely one of the most positively impactful books that I read in 2020. There were a number of strong insights and takeaways throughout this book. There were many parts of the book that it seems people don’t think about often. Things like who actually has an influence on others are the things that I don’t see many people thinking about or discussing on a regular basis. It’s essential to understand the value that we can truly offer to others.

I often chuckle now when people say that they don’t have any influence. I ask if they have any children or siblings or parents. If you have even one of those three things, you have some degree of influence. We can all influence others, the question is how many people can we influence and to what level. A sports athlete may influence people to cheer for them or wear their jersey, but can they influence a great number of people beyond that? That’s a good question but I’d say not usually.

A basic unit of culture is the family where we first begin making something of the world.

This makes me think back to the Warren Buffett quote, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” The same goes with culture. You can have the best culture in an office. But, if your employees find you smoking cocaine on your private yacht naked, the culture could be ruined pretty quickly.

Positive cultural change usually takes hundreds of years while a terrorist attack or natural disaster can destroy many things very quickly.

We must think back to why we are here in the first place. God created the world in a very intentional way and for very intentional reasons.

Creation, even on a human scale, is meant to end with a glad exclamation, “it is good.”

Culture is a tough thing to maintain, it requires imperfect people to uphold something that is ever changing. With unique mindsets and different biases, culture is ever changing and always evolving. God had a design when He Created the world and everything and everyone in it. With free will, it’s now up to us (as it has been for thousands of years) to uphold it.

Culture is God’s original plan for humanity and it is God’s original gift to humanity both duty and grace. Culture is the scene of humanity’s rebellion against their creator, their scene of judgement, and it is also the setting of God’s mercy. At Babel, the nations tried to isolate themselves from God through a city that reached critical mass.

On the cross, Jesus was crushed by culture but his real direction began a redemption of culture. Yet, the gospel cannot be maintained within culture.

What are we here for? We can all do different things in life and on earth. There are different and unique skills and abilities and passions. The environment that we are part of is always within our control to an extent. It’s up to us what level of influence and impact that we can have over the culture that we are operating within on a daily basis. As Andy emphasizes, it’s our responsibility to intentionally invest our cultural power. One example of this is consistently maintaining our integrity and honesty, no matter the setting. After enough time and repetition, it is reasonable to conclude that this would rub off on those around us and influence them at some level.

Stewardship means to consciously take up our cultural power and invest it intentionally among the seemingly powerless. This enables them to cultivate and create, stewards are people who invest with things they know are not their own in places where there will only be a return if God is indeed at loose and at work in their world.

The author talks about the people who an author thanks for help for the book or gives credit to. In many parts of life, this remains. I think about it with my professional focus and specifically my decision to get an MBA. There were 3 people who really influenced me more than anyone else — Michael, Bruce, and Jen. Of course, there were numerous other people who had an impact and whose opinion I valued but ultimately, as with anything, it comes down to what we really believe and why people have an influence over us in the first place.

3, 12, 120. Typically there are 3 very influential people, 12 who have a big impact, and 120 you can’t go without mentioning.

This is seen clearly in books and movies, there are typically a few people who are thanked profusely in the acknowledgments of books, others who are also thanked, and a larger list without whom the book would not be as it was.

Why does boredom occur? If you look at and study some of the highest performers and most successful people throughout history, many times those people did not experience much boredom. These people were able to continue to push forward and press on to the goals and purpose that was in front of them.

As Mihaly Csizszentmihalyi shares, flow is something that people experience in this life yet it always ends. What if, flow never ends? “Psalm 90 may be one of the Bible’s most profound meditations on time and eternity.”

This was a book that I particularly enjoyed and the scriptural references throughout allowed me to dive into some of the concepts at a greater level than I would have otherwise. I think that it’s important to do a regular self-inventory to maintain an awareness of who we are today, who we are becoming, and who will be in the next years. Little by little, person by person, we can change a culture.

I gave this book a 4/5

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