Bill Bright (1921-2003), founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, and Loren Cunningham (1935-), founder of YWAM, together formulated a concept called “seven mountains of culture” in 1975. It has swept churches across America. Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984) was a fervent disciple.
Bright and Cunningham said there are seven cultural “mountains” or spheres of influence: arts and entertainment, business, education, the family, government, media, and religion. It’s our duty as “change agents” – like David, Daniel, Esther, and Moses – to scale these mountains and reclaim them for God “if we are to impact any nation for Jesus Christ.” This is the battlefield “where culture [will] be won or lost.”
According to Bright and Cunningham, the purpose of this “initiative is not to establish dominion over all the earth or in governments” but rather “to love and serve all people … regardless of faith, lifestyle, or gender orientation.” We must model Christ through our “love of one another and others” so that “his love and grace [are] extended to all people.” This way, we can “influence others for God’s purposes” and reclaim the seven mountains. Through his expensive “Seven Cultural Mountains” ministry (nothing’s free), Os Hillman promises that we “can have greater influence no matter what age or status in life.”
Does this concept contain any truth? Is it biblical? No. I see only a false gospel, one that fleeces God’s flock. At no time in world history has God commanded us to “reclaim” spiritual mountains. Maybe Bright and Cunningham had Caleb’s “give me this mountain” in mind (Joshua 14:12). The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ changed all that. We don’t scale spiritual mountains on this earth. By faith we ask Jesus to remove them (Matthew 17:20, 21:21). The only mountain we’re to scale is God’s, Mount Zion. All others will be removed.
David, Daniel, Esther, and Moses were “change agents.” But they didn’t scale any mountains in their cultures. This isn’t what they were after and it’s not why God used them. Instead, these men and women became witnesses of God – his holiness, righteousness, justice, and love. They also prophesied of Jesus Christ, the Messiah who would redeem them and all people from sin.
When Jesus finally arrived, he entered synagogues and marketplaces. But he did more than love and serve. Jesus healed and delivered people. Most importantly, he preached the kingdom of God – repentance and faith. Paul was the same. Yes, he had a trade as a tent-maker. But it was to keep him from being financially dependent on the Christians he stayed with. Paul also preached in synagogues and marketplaces. He considered this task much more important than making tents.
Jesus gave us one task before his ascension: the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-19, Acts 1:8). We must be witnesses of his death and resurrection, preaching repentance and faith and making disciples wherever God sends us. The church’s divine task on this earth is two-fold: conversion and discipleship, i.e. the new birth and holiness. If we do anything else, we’re wasting our time. Loving and serving people through a circle of influence sounds good in itself. But compared to the Great Commission, it is sinful and weak!
The real battlefield is not culture but the human heart. The real spiritual battle is sin. Its cost is the eternal death of body, soul, and spirit in hell. The false “seven mountains” gospel mentions no heaven or hell and no just payment for sin. It’s not preparing people for eternity but keeping their eyes glued to earth. Besides, the individuals who make up cultures must be converted to Jesus Christ if they are to think, say, and do what is right in every aspect of their lives. Christ’s gospel goes to the root of the problem. The “seven mountains of culture” gospel looks only at the fruit.
Yes, we’re “change agents.” But we don’t seek to change a culture, only the people in it. And the only “change” we preach is spiritual. If we want to see the kingdom of God, i.e. heaven rather than hell for eternity, then we must be born again (John 3:3-8). We must become “new creatures” who love, worship, and obey God from the heart (2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 6:15).
Bright and Cunningham’s “seven mountains of culture” message is also ignorant of the times in which we live. Spiritually, they’re closer to 1st-century Rome than modern America. If these men had preached their false gospel to early Christians, they would have been laughed to scorn.
The “signs of the times” say that the anti-Christ is alive and well on Earth. Only the Holy Spirit is restraining him from unleashing great spiritual and physical terror on unbelievers (2 Thessalonians 2:7-9). In the few years before the anti-Christ’s seven-year reign during the Great Tribulation, will we scale any cultural mountains? No. We will suffer great persecution instead. Bright and Cunningham’s “seven mountains” message isn’t preparing the church for this drastic change!
I pray that Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, silences this false gospel and leads his people back to the Word. The “seven mountains of culture” message has wholly abandoned it.