14 Dec 2007

Can I Recommend a Book

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Books, Ministry, Mission, Preaching

During the 1990s one of my favorite contemporary Christian artists was Rich Mullins. Mullins was radical in many ways. He did not simply produce Christian “pop” music. There was serious grist in most of his material, a dangerous undertow. Through his music Mullins challenged conservative Christians to grasp the reality that Christian faith was more than wearing a wrist band (WWJD) or even listening to popular Christian artists. Christianity had to impact the fallen world in the name of Jesus Christ and carve out beach heads for the kingdom. We do this through becoming emissaries of shalom.
Once Mullins confessed his deep concern for American Christianity … which could just as well describe “restoration” churches too:

I really struggle with American Christianity. I’m not really sure that people with our cultural disabilities, people who grow up in a culture that worships pleasure, leisure, and affluence, are capable of having souls, or being redeemed.” (Rich Mullins in An Arrow Pointing to Heaven)

What Mullins is lamenting is that Christians live in such a way that barely distinguishes them from those who make no profession of faith at all. We are comfortable, affluent and have bowed to the idol of pleasure. Guilty as charged!

On top of this our culture is undergoing a profound change. The question is do we have to become Amish to be “distinct” in the biblical notion of the term (some dangerously misunderstand this notion in its NT context). Can we be “savvy” culturally speaking and still point to the radical call of the kingdom? These are questions that Dick Staub raises in his excellent book The Culturally Savvy Christian (Jossy-Bass 2007).

Staub writes not as a theologian but as one immersed in “pop” culture. Yet he has read, reflected and digested his subject critically and creatively. It is a mistake, Staub argues, to abandon the world and retreat to our monostaries. We need to see ourselves within God’s Story (chapter 3 is very good) so that we can mediate God’s transforming Presence (chapter 5 is even better). “Theology has to stop explaining the world and start transforming it” he says (p. 91). He holds C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien up as models of how we can engage our culture not only as “aliens” but also as ambassadors and artists.

This engagement is for the sake of the Christian gospel and witness. This witness is at the same time “savvy” but counter-cultural in that it points to values that are alien to those canonized in Amerian mythology.

It goes without saying that Staub believes some things that I may demure from. But that hardly detracts from my liking of this book. To many Christians still think as if we live in the 1950s. That world is gone (if it ever existed at all). I appreciate Staub being a conversation partner to help this preacher to be (hopefully) wise as a serpent but innocent as a dove.

Makes a great Christmas present along with a book or two by your lowly blogger, 😉

Bobby Valentine

17 Responses to “Can I Recommend a Book”

  1. Gardner Hall Says:

    We have to live in the world but not be of it. You are right that the first part of that truth casts doubt on the wisdom of the lifestyle of the Amish/Hutterites. They try to escape what God wants us to live in.

    However, I feel that the greater danger is being drawn too much to the other extreme, that of identifying too closely with this world. For example, I am frightened by the R-rated movies that Christians actually praise and recommend to others. I am saddened that many disciples identify so strongly with American politics and American wars when our primary identification should be with God’s kingdom.

    Paul seems to think that there is some virtue in being innocent (simple)concerning what is evil. (Rom. 16:19). While that text may not be promoting complete naïveté, I do think it means that we don’t have to let our curiosity run wild so that we can watch every carnal movie and and get involved in every shallow fad so that we can be “savvy.”

    Doubt I’ll have time to read the book, but enjoy your summary. It brings up that balancing act between the errors of being a hermit on one hand and allowing cultural garbage to pollute us on the other. Wish I could read 10% of what you read.

    God bless

  2. Justin Imel Says:


    Don’t know if you remember me or not, but we had a class or two together back at IBC. I recently bought “Kingdom Come” & “A Gathered People” to read on vacation next week. However, I’m teaching a new class at Ohio Valley University next semester (I’m adjunct there, while preaching in WV). Anyway, I’ve got to read my textboks before I get to your books, but I hope to read them soon!

  3. Rex Says:

    I am not sure what Church Rich Mullins was a member of but I do know that he spent some time attending Cincinnati Christian University which is affiliated with the Independent Christian Churches.

    Ithaca Church of Christ
    Ithaca, NY


  4. cwinwc Says:

    Sounds like a good read or would that be “reads” if we include the “lowly blogger” books.

    If our economy keeps going down many of us may not have to worry about being “affluent” and affected by the Culture and I’m not saying that would be necessarily a bad thing.

    Thanks for the summary.

  5. Matthew Says:

    I read the book a while back and really enjoyed it. I really liked the line that said something to the tune of “A Christians is too Christian for the culture, and to cultural for the Christians.”

  6. Anonymous Says:

    This last fall I went to Willow Creek for a small group conference with my pastor. It has completely changed my view of the church. The conference was called,”Ancient Future Community.”

    I loved one of the videos that showed not only the history of the church positively/negatively but how to combine the wisdom of the old with the passion of the young. It was done in a rap format which tends to turn others off. So be it! We must have our fences or we wouldn’t be secure in the simple knowledge of Christ.

    I had the honor of sitting with Alan Hirsch, during a coffee hour. This man has written a book called, “The Forgotten Ways”. If you haven’t read it, you should. Through this and his blog, the future of the church and our discipleship process can be very scary for some, yet, also very exciting. Hirshch makes the point that we go out into the world, if we overcome the barriors be it language, culture, ect. we pull people out of that very culture and within 3-7years they no longer have relationships in the world. They look like us, listen to our music, and the very field they are called to minister in, they leave behind.

    Mike Frost is another that really has begun to shake my idea of the church. N.T Wright has also helped me to see a God that is the God of new creation balanced with the God of covenant.

    The impact this is having on my life is to really look at creative ways to minister to people in the world. Not to many like my new song, “Rudolph The New Born Christian,” it is unholy!” Though I wrote it more as a kind of joke to reveal our fences.

    I’m also starting to believe that we have begun to idolize not just the bible but our Pauline theology. Paul is important but he is not Jesus. Maybe it’s time to look at Jesus and how Paul interprets Jesus, instead of taking Paul as law, maybe than we wouldn’t be so prone to this kind of idolization.

    We as christians love to defend our ideas and theology. We adorn ourselves with a religion even though we rebel against it. What did Christ truley look like on the cross? Naked, heart laid bare, defenseless, blameless, all of the things that made Him righteous!

    Love is not complicated, but it’s not easy either. We look at what it means to speak in tongues. We stroke and edify ourselves with our own image of God. Yet, God is missional, He is pursuing those He loves, maybe it’s time we speak a language that the world can relate to. The more I become the me that God created the more people I see coming to Christ. Each of us are unique, we need to honor that and use it for God’s glory. My husband and I have actually been kicking around the idea of opening a coffee shop. A place in the world to witness to Christ. Whether your scrubbing toilets or preaching from a pulpit, as missional instruments, and members of the priesthood, we need to start balancing our God with the idea of new creation.

    By the way, a very special Merry Christmas to you and your family. Mine is continuing to grow and I thank you again for that!

    Penney Winiarski

  7. george mearns Says:


    I have a review of “A Gathered People” up on my blog at

  8. preacherman Says:

    Thanks for this book recommendation. I don’t listen much to Christian music but liked what I’ve heard from Him. Sounds like he is on top of culture. So, that is a great thing. Thanks again for the recommended meditation. 🙂

  9. Bill Says:

    As we turn our hearts toward family and friends during the Christmas holiday, I wanted to let you to know that I am thankful for blessing of many new friends I’ve come to “know” here in blogland. The tie that binds us is our shared love for and devotion to the Savior whose birth we remember during this special time of the year. May your days be full of holiday blessings; and, may your heart be filled with the warmth of His presence.

    Spiritual Oasis Blog

  10. preacherman Says:

    I hope you have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year brother. I hope you and your family have a blessed holiday break.
    In Him,
    Kinney Mabry

  11. adam brown Says:

    hello, i emailed you but got an error. anyway here’s the reg cleaner i uses, this shit is good, don’t stay without protection!

  12. Zack Says:

    I just read a few of your blogs ( this one , the two about Marcion, and about unity). All extremely well written, thought out, and biblically accurret (spelling error?). I appreciate your blogs Bobby.
    I completely agree that we need to be more “culturally savvy” to reach out to our own culture. That we can still learn from the OT (have you read “The Bible Jesus Read” by Philip Yancey? great book!). And that the most important thing is that Jesus was born of a virgin, lived for us, and died for us. That is all we need to be united.
    I got A Gathered People for Christmas and will certainly read it this year. And The Kingdom Come too.
    Blessings to you and your family!

  13. laymond Says:

    I hope you had a great Christmas. We all had a good Christmas, we even received a Christmas potato. If you are not familiar with this tradition check the link on my blog.

  14. CresceNet Says:

    Gostei muito desse post e seu blog é muito interessante, vou passar por aqui sempre =) Depois dá uma passada lá no meu site, que é sobre o CresceNet, espero que goste. O endereço dele é http://www.provedorcrescenet.com . Um abraço.

  15. Matthew Says:

    Bobby, I did some some on laying on of hands and on how to read Acts. Would love your thoughts.

  16. preacherman Says:

    I hope that you have had a great holiday and have a great 2008. I know that you are going be busy writting book and I’ll be busy buying them. I pray that you find all the blessing you want in Christ Jesus brother. Oh, I would love your input on my current post.
    In Him,
    Kinney Mabry

  17. Anonymous Says:

    Looking arond on CS Lewis Books found you and Lee Freeman conversatoin some 5 or 6 years ago. Enjoyed the interchange. unfortunate that now that Lindskoog has past away the Hooperfiles are coming out of the woodwork. I hope some scholars come and take Kay Lindskoogs mantle in speaking against Hooper apparent foibles intentional or not.

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