Book Response: The Culturally Savvy Christian, by Dick Staub

Work on personal illustration

As part of his Doctor of Ministry (DMin) in Ministry to Emerging Generations (Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary), Tom’s written a number of book responses and given several short presentations (personal and group). In this series he not only “shares the wealth,” but also looks forward to your feedback as he refines his project: An argument for vocational discernment for graduate studies in the context of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (Stay tuned to learn more!). Earlier posts on the program: Ministry to Emerging Generations and The Big Picture of Ministry to Emerging Generations.

The Culturally Savvy Christian: A Manifesto for Deepening Faith and Enriching Popular Culture in an Age of Christianity-Lite

The Culturally Savvy Christian

The Culturally Savvy Christian: A Manifesto for Deepening Faith and Enriching Popular Culture in an Age of Christianity-Lite. Dick Staub (San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2007).

In the Epilogue of The Culturally Savvy Christian: A Manifesto for Deepening Faith and Enriching Popular Culture in an Age of Christianity-Lite (San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2007), Dick Staub confesses:

I started out to write a simple book, and along the way, I was told it was a manifesto. Conferring such weight upon my modest efforts resulted in severe personal consternation and manifold rewrites (199).


When completing the “manifesto,” my first response was “too much of a good thing” or “too many blocks of good material pasted together.” Sections such as his unpacking of The Mind of Christ: Jesus’ Spiritual Practices (103-108) and C.S. Lewis: Snapshot of the Culturally Savvy Christian (126-134) were excellent, but most probably drawn from previous material. They could have stood on their own instead of disrupting the flow of the book. A simple, shorter book unpacking “The culturally savvy Christian is serious about faith, savvy about faith and culture, and skilled in relating the two” accompanied by resources in an appendix or a website would be easier to share with colleagues (1, 67, 135). In addition, I would have preferred his earlier title, “Pilgrims Through This Barren Land” (90). I find this framing much more applicable to my engagement of culture, i.e., pop culture and Christianity-lite.

With regard to the content, I particularly resonated with Staub’s critique of “Cocooning from Culture” (30-32), shallow marketing driven church growth strategies (38-39), and cultural bulimics in Christian subculture (45). Staub challenges me to be obsessed by God alone when embracing the call “to be light of the world, not the lite of the world” (79, 41). At the halfway point of the book, I felt that Staub made an excellent point with regard to God’s Transforming Presence and could have moved toward closing.

I cannot overstate the severity of our situation. A spiritually, intellectually, and aesthetically impoverished church and culture require a radical renaissance that can only come through completely transformed individuals who no longer conform to the values of this age. All the excitement about new paradigms, enthusiasm for relevance, and the sincere desire to transform church and culture will amount to nothing unless they are accompanied by the deep faith that produces transformed people (102).

Maybe the section on “Skill” in relating “Savvy” and “Serious” was more developed than necessary. Aliens, ambassadors, and artists are all important, but maybe a condensed form would make a good final chapter or appendix. Or possibly this could be a direction for a follow-up volume. Whatever the case, there was too much good material requiring a modified structure. Although my desire would be for the editor to have given more attention to trimming the final section, the Epilogue was superb. And I embrace the affirmations of a culturally savvy Christ, the last of which is . . .

Finally, for the rest of my days, I will aspire to be a culturally savvy Christian who is serious about faith, savvy about faith and culture, and skilled in relating the two, and I will urge others to do the same (201).

What a joy to be part of a pilgrim party encouraging and equipping me in this barren land in order that God’s creation mandate may continue to be applied in ministry among the emerging generations.

To God be the glory!

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Tom Grosh IV

Enjoys daily conversations regarding living out the Biblical Story with his wife Theresa, four girls, around the block, at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church (where he hosts the Christian Scholar Series), on campus as part of InterVarsity Graduate & Faculty Ministry (serving fellowships such as the Christian Medical Society/CMDA at Penn State College of Medicine), online as the Associate Director of the Emerging Scholars Network, in the culture at large, and in God's creation.

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