- Hardcover: 368 pages
- Publisher: David C. Cook (June 1, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1434711013
- ISBN-13: 978-1434711014
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.4 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 87 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #30,604 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World Hardcover – June 1, 2017
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Understand What Culture Is and What It Does to Us
Includes The Guide to Christian Worldview Essentials.
A Practical Guide to Culture
Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today's World
This honest and practical guide for parents and Christian leaders explores questions like:
- What unseen undercurrents are shaping twenty-first-century youth culture?
- Why do so many kids struggle with identity?
- How do we talk to kids about LGBT issues?
- How can we steer kids away from substance abuse and other addictions?
What Culture Is (and What It Is Not)
Among Christians, culture is a word much used but rarely defined. It comes from the Latin word cultura, which means 'agriculture.' If plowing, tilling, and cultivating come to mind, they should. In its most basic sense, culture refers to what people do with the world: we build, we invent, we imagine, we create, we tear down, we replace, we compose, we design, we emphasize, we dismiss, we embellish, we engineer. As Andy Crouch says, 'Culture is what human beings make of the world.'
Culture is dynamic and changing—and that change often comes in waves that threaten to overwhelm us. But as Christians, we’re able to secure ourselves to solid, unchanging truth in the chaotic ocean of culture. John Stonestreet and Brett Kunkle show us how to navigate the tides and pass those skills on to the next generation.
A Practical Guide to Culture is a profound, witty, and forthright manual written by two concerned dads who also happen to be two of the most effective worldview and apologetics experts of our day. Based on their deep experience working with tens of thousands of teenagers, John and Brett show how to stop giving in to a degrading culture that makes kids unhealthy and sad and start raising kids who love Jesus and live without fear and regret.
I wish John Stonestreet and Brett Kunkle had written A Practical Guide to Culture years ago. As a parent and youth pastor, I was often concerned about the impact the culture might have on my children and students, and I wasn’t always sure how to address the challenges. John and Brett have written a hopeful, engaging book that will prepare parents, educators, and youth leaders to equip young minds. This isn’t just a survey of culture; it’s an active, purposeful, and thoughtful action plan. If you want your students and children to represent Christ in a fallen world as they thrive in their Christian walk, A Practical Guide to Culture is an essential guide.
Will the next generation be defined by the radical cultural shifts taking place, or will the culture be defined by a generation committed to the radical love, redemptive truth, and restorative grace of Jesus? In A Practical Guide to Culture, John Stonestreet and Brett Kunkle provide a biblically based roadmap designed to assist a generation’s navigation through the difficult currents of relativism, decadence, and apathy, while simultaneously shining the light of Christ.
“Everyone who works with students and cares about their future needs this guide. It’s exactly what the title says: practical. John and Brett have filled this book with clarity, wisdom, and loving advice on the most important issues facing this generation.”
“A Practical Guide to Culture is smart, clear, and incredibly helpful for Christians trying to raise faithful, resilient children in a post-Christian—and increasingly anti-Christian—society. This is abook written by intelligent men who know how to relate big ideas to daily life in terms everyone can understand. When people ask me, ‘But what can we Christians do about the collapsing culture?’, I will emphatically recommend this book as the place to begin. I’m buying two copies: one for my family’s use and one for my pastor’s.”
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Author: John Stonestreet and Brett Kunkle
Topic: Christian Living
Scope: Contemporary Living and Influence in the Culture
Purpose: To equip Christian leaders, parents, and students with the tools to successfully navigate the culture. This means they will be able to flourish as Christians even when much of the culture seems to be against them.
Structure: The book is separated into four sections.
1. Why Culture Matters. This section defines culture and gives reasons why Christians should care about culture and what happens in it. (Chapter 1. What Culture Is and What It Does to Us, 2. Keeping the Moment and the Story Straight, and 3. A Vision of Success).
2. A Read of the Cultural Waters. Here the authors explain some of the underlying trends in our current culture and how we should think about them. (Chapter 4. The Information Age, 5. Identity After Christianity, 6. Being Alone Together, and 7. Castrated Gelding and Perpetual Adolescence)
3. Pounding Cultural Waves. These are the individual things that are *trending* in our culture right now. In other words, a lot of this is about what people argue about on social media. (Chapter 8. Pornography, 9. The Hookup Culture, 10. Sexual Orientation, 11. Gender Identity, 12. Affluence and Consumerism, 13. Addiction, 14. Entertainment, and 15. Racial Tension)
4. Christian Worldview Essentials. This section finishes the book with essential skills/tools needed for Christians to prepare themselves to engage and mold the culture. (Chapter 16. How to Read the Bible, 17. Why to Trust the Bible, 18. The Right Kind of Pluralism, 19. Taking the Gospel to the Culture)
What it does well: *This book defines and explains culture well. Culture is something we all think we know, but is incredibly difficult to explain. Stonestreet and Kunkle navigate this obstacle commendably. In defining and explaining their view of culture they enable the reader to understand their prescriptions throughout the book.
*This book is not full of alarmism. Many books of this type from similar sorts of authors are pessimistic and "sky is falling" tomes. This is not true here. Throughout the work the authors do not shy away from pointing out what they think is going wrong in the culture, but there is always an undertone of hope. In fact, the hope they have often moves from being an undertone to downright, in your face hope. It was incredibly refreshing to read a book on culture by Christians that wasn't condemning of the culture. Instead they want to redeem and restore it.
*The authors avoid being overly partisan. It is clear these authors are conservative both theologically and politically. However, they are quick to criticize some sacred cows of their own camp. Two examples come quickly to mind. First, in the chapter on racism they are quite critical of the common conservative retort "All lives matter" to the Black lives matter movement. Stonestreet and Kunkle rightly explain that "yes, all lives matter-including preborn ones-but we ought not give the impression that we aren't carefully listening to the concerns of those specific fellow image bearers who believe their value is being dismissed"-290. Another example is when the authors attack much of the method people use for reading the Bible. They rightly criticize reading the Bible by wrenching verses, stories, and even whole books from their context. It is not a magic book and we should spend time actually reading and studying it, not finding prooftexts for our pet issues.
*Also, this book is hugely practical. This should go without saying because the title is A Practical Guide to Culture. However, this book has its finger on the pulse of culture in ways many similar books attempt but never reach. Stonestreet and Kunkle give "action steps" for everything they write about.
*Lastly (though there is a lot more done well), this book is permeated with scripture. It almost oozes with scripture. There are at least 164 direct references to scripture and many more indirect references. This was very nice because it would have been easy to write this book without the counsel of scripture. However, the authors were not content with the easy job. They wanted to show they have wrestled with this subject in light of God's word.
*There is a lot more that is done well, but to explain more is beyond the scope of this review.
What it lacks: *This book is not as nuanced as Niebuhr's Christ and Culture or Carson's Christ and Culture Revisited nor as academic as Myer's Understanding the Culture, but to be fair it isn't meant to be. This is a practical guide to culture and it reads that way.
*One thing I have a small problem with is the discussion of "calling" at the very end of the book. The authors define calling in a common way that I wrestle with. They see calling as the intersection where our vocation and our worship or mission are most effective and most gratifying. Now, I would hope people are effective in their mission and gratified in their work, however, I am not sure this is the biblical definition of calling. As I read the Bible, it looks like we all have the same calling and we can fulfill that calling in any place as long as it isn't inherently sinful. Also, the authors quote Frederick Buechner in saying (in a roundabout manner) that it is unlikely we are fulfilling our mission and worship if our "work is writing TV deodorant commercials." Now the authors may not agree with Buechner wholesale here, but I think it is entirely possible to write deodorant commercials for God's glory.
Some quick highlights: "Too many Christians have a tendency to react to what is loudest and noisiest in our culture, which often means overreacting to what isn't ultimately important and underreacting to what is."-21
"...culture's greatest influence is in what it presents as being normal. Clearly, not all that seems normal ought to be, but what is left unexamined is also left unchallenged."-28
"Culture tends to shape us most deeply by what it presents as normal. We are creatures of cultural habit. Our loves, our longings, our loyalties, and our labors can become products of the liturgies our culture imposes. We live according to them but rarely think through them. Unintentionally, we become culture shaped rather than intentional about shaping culture."-39
"Telling us 'That's bad, so stay away' didn't work"-42
"Asking 'Where do I draw the line?'-called the line approach to culture-is too simplistic to be helpful. First, not everything labeled Christian is good, and not everything labeled secular is bad. Much that is labeled Christian-movies, songs, leaders, schools, churches, ministries, and organizations-fails to reach basic levels of excellence and honesty. And much that is labeled secular accurately portrays fallen humanity, displays artistic genius, and brings good to the world. As Gregory Thornbury, the president of The King's College, is fond of saying, ''Christian' is the greatest of all possible nouns and lamest of all possible adjectives.' It's meant to describe a person, not a thing."-45
"We often think of compromise when it comes to beliefs and behaviors, but a particularly subtle temptation is to compromise in our methods."-70
"The ignore-controversial-subjects-and-they'll-go-away approach to raising kids won't do. In the information age, plenty of voices are willing to talk with our kids if we aren't."-82-83
"The issue of trust is complicated only if kids think that so-called Christian authorities are untrustworthy."-83
"...if we don't know whom it is we are educating and whom they should become, education devolves into a disconnected hodgepodge of classes, skill acquisition, test taking, activities, and degrees. Now think of fashion, business, public policy, health care, biomedical ethics, or even youth groups. We won't know what to do in these areas if we aren't first clear on who humans are. And it's clear we aren't clear about that."-102
"Instruction is necessary, of course, but discipleship happens not when we talk at our kids but when we walk with them through their struggles to a place of commitment."-110
"Our kids learn their tech habits from us."-120
"In many ways, adolescence is now-and this must not be missed-the goal of our culture. Somewhere along the way, we ceased to be a culture where kids aspire to be adults, and we became a culture where adults aspire to be kids, or at least adolescents, forever."-133
"Rules can provide wise and appropriate boundaries, but following rules shouldn't be confused with Christian maturity. Rules can't show us the heart of a person. While rules may help limit the bad influences and temptations 'out there' they leave unaddressed the problems 'in here,' in the human heart."-138
"Can we Christians stop not talking about sex, please? For too long, we've let other voices direct and dominate the cultural conversation on sex. Much of the church's contribution has been to shout 'Don't do it!' from the margins of society. We've given the impression that Christianity has a negative view of sex. But God's story offers so much more than a simple no to unsanctioned sex. For every prohibition, there is a beautiful, life-giving yes!"-173-174
"The goal for Christians isn't to be blind to color but to embrace the distinctive qualities and uniqueness of God's image bearers."-290
"Rather than reject God's exclusive plan, we should be grateful in the way a diseased patient rejoices when a cure is found. The redemption and restoration we have through the exclusive means of Jesus' death and resurrection are cause for celebration. That's why it's called the gospel-it's good news."-327
Recommendation?: I highly recommend this book. Stonestreet and Kunkle have clearly explained their view of how Christians can navigate in today's culture. They do this by advocating to challenge and influence the culture, not by withdrawal or wholesale acceptance of culture. This is a book that is useful for anyone who cares about their own influence or their kid's spirituality. I can only hope that it is updated every few years to keep up with the issues in the culture of the time.
For many Christian parents, the world in which our children are growing up is a battleground that we’d rather they remain conscientious objectors to. We fear the cultural changes and the ever-increasing animus toward people of Christian faith. It is a natural reaction for us to want to shelter and protect our young, but as we all know, and try to ignore, the day is coming when they will no longer be under our protective wing. What will they do then? How will they fare in a world of competing ideas and inflammatory rhetoric aimed at the very foundations of their worldview? The answer, championed in the quote above, is to prepare them now so that they might endure in that day of battle.
This is exactly what A Practical Guide to Culture was written to do. Authors John Stonestreet and Brett Kunkle have spent the majority of their years in ministry seeking to equip parents and young people to engage with the current culture. Having spent his entire life in a Christian home, only to have his faith dismantled by a college philosophy professor, Brett now spends his life preparing young people to succeed where he failed. He serves as the Student Impact Director at Stand to Reason, and brings more than 18 years of experience working with youth to his writing. John has also worked with young people through years of service to organizations like Summit Ministries and Ratio Christi and is currently the President of the Chuck Colson Center and on-air personality for Breakpoint.org. He is the author of several books, including Restoring All Things: God’s Audacious Plan to Change the World Through Everyday People and a champion for the defense of the Christian worldview. Both men seek to impart decades of practical wisdom to their readers, through this current project, in the hope that the coming generation will “navigate this cultural moment as champions for Christ.”
The book is divided into several categories, beginning with a theoretical understanding of culture itself, then moving toward specific social topics faced by most teenagers today. From there, it broaches practical means by which parents or mentors can guide children toward answers found in Scripture and a brief closing section on the reliability of the Bible in shaping one’s worldview. Interspersing technical data with personal experience, the authors guide parents gently into the ominous waters of the culture war with the care and compassion that readers should reciprocate to their children.
For many who are unfamiliar with social engagements faced by the younger generation, the first section of A Practical Guide to Culture will be helpfully illuminating. The authors rightly distinguish between creation and culture, writing that, “Culture doesn't refer to this created world; rather, it refers to what humans do with it. To clarify a bit further, culture refers not to what humans do by instinct or nature, but to what they do freely.” Establishing this distinction, they seek to remind readers that while a withdrawal from culture might seem preferred or even righteous, it is through proper focus on the greater story of redemption and the Redeemer that believers can functionally navigate a culture that seems to turn increasingly against them.
In the second section, Kunkle and Stonestreet take much of the norms in the modern information age to task regarding the damaging psychological and sociological effects that have resulted from an excess of both entertainment and data. Readers are made aware of the need to engage children with a greater intentionality, providing both structure, leadership and comfort; aspects of life which are slowly eroding with the advent of social media and the internet search engine. Ultimately, the disconnection within the family that results from the availability of outside material can be remedied as parents seek to entertain the questions their children pose and guide them within an environment built on trust. As per the authors, “The issue of trust is complicated only if kids think that so-called Christian authorities are untrustworthy. . . We must never give our kids the idea that questioning is doubting or that doubting is sinning.”
The closing sections of the text will resonate deeply for those seeking specific responses to specific struggles. Covering the gamut of concerns from pornography to affluence and entertainment, both authors speak truth to various lies surrounding each point of cultural engagement and provide avenues for deeper discussion. Concluding their work within the very philosophy upon which it is written, the authors point readers to the need for biblical foundations within the home. Both Kunkle and Stonestreet draw upon their years in apologetic instruction, briefly and ably expounding on the reliability of the Christian Scriptures and the rationality of the faith.
What’s Good About the Book
Possibly the most encouraging portion of the text is what the authors call, “hope casting”. At the close of each third section chapter, a portion of the discussion is devoted to upward or positive trends observed in recent studies. It can be far too easy to lose hope in the current Western climate. Even while scanning through the various struggles in this writing, the reader can feel the weight of the future upon them. Because of this, the authors choice to provide light amidst the darkness is well placed.
In addition to this, the authors write at a level that is well blended between academic authority and far-reaching approachability. The text never ventures too far into statistics and studies to risk losing the average layperson, but also intersperses enough supporting information to provide assurance in the authors’ research of their positions. For this reviewer, possibly the most encouraging feature of this book is its abundance of Scripture. For many books of this type the emphasis drifts into the primacy of philosophy or sociology with only enough Scripture to support a pre-determined conclusion. When reading A Practical Guide to Christianity there is no point at which the authors guidance by the Word of God is overshadowed by their philosophical training, and that is a refreshing change.
What’s Bad About It?
While this book is both an informative and encouraging read, it must be said that it is difficult to see where it stands out among its peers. Both Kunkle and Stonestreet have a certain level of name recognition that follows them, and while their communicative ability is outstanding, the question must be asked if it will be enough. This is less a critique of the work in hand as it is a bemoaning of what feels like a saturation of culture-related works geared at youth. Certainly, such saturation is a blessing in some ways and clearly an indicator of renewed interest in matters of faith for the next generation, but it also creates a distinct challenge in getting quality writing of this sort to the audience that needs it most.
The Apostle Paul wrote often of what theologians have referred to as the “already/not yet" of the Christian life. For Paul, the believer has been redeemed from this sinful world and already enjoys the presence of God as if they were seated at his right hand presently. However, the ultimate fulfillment of this great promise has not yet been realized, and thus, Christians must remain in the fallen world acting as ambassadors for God's kingdom until the end. In a large way, this is also the message of this book. However great the desire may be for the believer to desert the world and its cultural influences, preferring far more to live in seclusion, awaiting the return of Christ, this is not what they've been called to do. They've been called to engage with the culture as ambassadors for the kingdom. Brett and John seek to equip their readers with both the understanding that this brings and the practical means to do so.
This work is written on a level that is reachable by all. From the pastor in the pulpit to the parent of the pre-teen, this book should become part of their life. The ease with which it reads equates to the power with which it can equip, which is itself a testimony to the refined abilities of the authors. For many years, books have been written to youth about what they face and how to face it. Finally, a book has been written for those that guide them. Parents and youth pastors alike should have a place for this writing on their shelf, but only if they plan to act on the wisdom contained within.