The power of popular culture to catechize us is incredibly strong. We will all be catechized by something. Will it be by our culture, or by the gospel? Dick Staub points the way for us to become culturally savvy Christians.
Dick Staub, The Culturally Savvy Christian: A Manifesto for Deepening Faith and Enriching Popular Culture In An Age of Christianity-Lite
John Wiley & Sons, 2007. ISBN 0-7879-7893-0.
The Problem and Solution
This is a book written by an Evangelicals to Evangelicals. Dick’s concern is that while evangelicalism has had a commitment to influence culture from the beginning, it has unwittingly been “more influenced by the culture than influential in it” (Introduction, xi). The solution is for us to become culturally savvy Christians. This means being “savvy about faith and culture, serious about faith, and skilled at relating the two.” The structure of the book flows directly from this thesis.
The culture we are in is superficial, diversionary, mindless, celebrity-driven, soulless, centered on money, spread by marketing, and sustained by technology. Unfortunately, in an attempt to be relevant to this culture our churches often end up mimicking these very qualities rather than speaking prophetically to them. This is the essence of “Christianity Lite”. As an acquaintance of mine, Aaron Scheer puts it, our churches end up focused on “noses and nickels” instead of “disciples and generations of disciples” (Chap. 1-3).
We need to take a more serious approach to being catechized by our faith. This means seeking God’s deep presence, God’s transforming presence, and God’s loving presence (Chap. 4-6).
If we become savvy about the formative influence of popular culture, and serious about countering this with the formative influence of the gospel, we can then become skilled at speaking prophetically and redemptively to our culture. The key steps are to counter culture like aliens, communicate in culture like ambassadors, and create culture like artists (Chap. 7-9).
Why It Matters
This is the best book I’ve read since Francis Schaeffer’s The Christian Manifesto on how we can pursue our faith in a way that transforms culture versus being transformed by it. Rod Dreher just came out with The Benedict Option. The institutional rehabilitation he calls for there is something Dick Staub shows us how to do very practically here.
I don’t think most evangelical churches and pastors are intentionally trying to mimic culture. They are honestly trying to be relevant in an attempt to save lives and change lives. Yet what we so often miss is the transforming power of Jesus, the Bible, and the Spirit. We have to get back to these divine reference points if we are to understand how popular culture is seeking to mold us, and how we can be transformed in response to it.
One of my heroes is Stuart Briscoe. He, Peter Mitskevitch of Moscow Theological Seminary, and I were sitting in the cafe of my church one day. Peter asked Stuart, “What’s the secret of your ministry?” Stuart replied, “I found a good book and I share with people what I’m finding there.” Simple, profound, yet prophetic. We can’t all preach and teach like Stuart, but we can certainly follow his lead! The answers are not with the brilliance of our leadership. The answers are in this very good book that we call our own.