A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World

By John Stonestreet and Brett Kunkle

Christians are like salmon in the ocean, surrounded by an environment they cannot control but need for existence. Both begin their lives growing and developing in a safe and secure place (for Christians, that is within a loving home; for salmon, within the freshwater of a river or lake) to prepare them for life in the “real world” (which is the greater society for Christians and the salty ocean for salmon) and the tumultuous conditions they’ll surely face (like environmental factors, culture, predators). 

Salmon, like Christians, must understand the elements around them otherwise they’ll get eating alive, caught within a tsunami, sucked away in a hurricane, or swept within a current heading in a direction they were never intended to travel. Similarly, they are designed to survive within their habitat (society) while thriving against societal forces (culture). To do so, they must know how to navigate the choppy waters or weather the stormy conditions they may face, have wisdom and knowledge to confront the dangerous situations they may encounter, acquire strength to persevere against adversity, boldly engage with their surroundings, and pursue their ultimate purpose.* 

This metaphor is the theme of the message behind, A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World by John Stonestreet and Brett Kunkle.

“Like the ocean, culture is all around us. Just as fish swim in the ocean, culture is the water in which we swim. Also, like the ocean, culture has both seen and unseen elements. Though cultural undercurrents are invisible, they powerfully pressure us to conform to their collective assumptions about the world. Cultural issues, however, are more like waves: seen, heard, and felt. Understanding both is critically important if we’re to keep our heads above water.” 

A Practical Guide to Culture, page 19.

A Practical Guide to Culture is a fantastic book geared towards parents that is biblical in its application and relevant in its cultural conversations. It is divided into four parts that educate and inform the reader on why culture matters for the Christian. Once the reader understands how the Age of Information has created a confused, chaotic, and lonely people who are weak, vulnerable, and easily persuaded to ride the cultural waves, they will feel empowered to confront the waves head-on through the strong and secure Vessel that is designed to weather any water conditions and conquer any obstacles. 

We no longer live in a society where children can freely interact with the secular world (via technology, entertainment, friends, public school, and more.) without experiencing some form of negative consequence, indoctrination of toxic ideology, or other elements of the world that go against God’s order. You can try your best to bubble wrap your children to protect them from the evils of the world, but no padding is strong or tight enough to shield any human from the effects of the Fall. 

While it’s true this world is our rental and not our home, we cannot prematurely escape where God has placed us but instead should seek wisdom that will guide us to live in the world without being conformed to the world. When parents understand the cultural influences children are exposed to along with the threats that seek to corrupt moral values, they will likely recognize the urgency in “playing offense” against the enemy’s attempts to seek, kill, and destroy.

Authors Stonestreet and Kunkle know this and use it as their motivation to inspire parents to gain biblical clarity and the confidence to pursue proactive discipling of their children. 

In Part One, the reader will learn about the various facets of culture, subcultures, and the undercurrents that are present and constantly shaping the world we experience each day. From people to the ideas they develop, believe, and implement, to institutions, the music we listen to, and everything in between, the reader will grasp how and why we are unintentionally influenced by culture rather than intentionally influencing the culture. Part One closes with a vision of success that calls the reader to be a participant, not a spectator, in the present moment. Christians are not only called to the world but also to a particular time and place (Acts 17:24-27). We are not to retreat, rather, to engage culture and seek to transform culture by speaking truth, shining light, sprinkling salt, and sharing grace. 

Part Two addresses the cultural waves before us and the many voices that vie for the hearts and minds of the next generation. This section challenges identity, the Christian worldview, and the power of refining the biblical lens to distinguish truth from lies, facts from fiction, right from wrong, and so forth. A person’s view of the world is their explanation of reality (i.e. How did the world begin? What is a human being? Who or what determines right from wrong? What’s the meaning of life?) and ultimately determines the actions, beliefs, and the ethical principles they live by. As you can imagine, this can be problematic and destructive for culture when people are functioning under the lens of incompatible worldviews. 

In Part Three, the authors continue their strong messaging and theological foundation as they guide the reader through the pounding waves of current cultural threats. This section tackles the hard-hitting issues that plague society, such as pornography, hookup culture, sexual orientation, gender identity, affluence and consumerism, addiction, racial tension, entertainment, and pop culture. There are many resources included throughout Part Three that will lead the reader to consult deeper research or pursue encouraging “action steps.” 

Every single chapter of A Practical Guide to Culture is so informative and beneficial, however, I personally appreciated the conviction I experienced while reading Part Three – every topical chapter should challenge the reader (as an individual) to evaluate how specific cultural elements have influenced, impacted, or shaped their own life. This individual reflection, contemplation, and evaluation can be quite valuable not just for your own spiritual growth and sanctification, but also for relatability and accountability in discipleship. 

The last section in A Practical Guide to Culture offers the reader Christian worldview essentials that will assist in strengthening faith and boldly living out everything they believe to be good, right, and true (as rooted in God’s Word). 

I absolutely loved this section because it reiterates a message I often repeat to my peers – you cannot train your children in the ways of the Lord if you, as the parent, are not trained and knowledgeable in His Word. 

Part Four of A Practical Guide to Culture reads like a practical guide that essentially offers ways to go about implementing everything covered in the previous sections of the book, including:

  • How to read the Bible and why studying the Bible daily should be considered a daily vitamin for the soul
  • How to teach your children that Christianity is objectively true and why that matters
  • How and why to teach your children other religious views and ideologies
  • How to prepare your children for pushback or cultural persecution
  • How to share the Living Hope with a dying world
  • And more…

I read A Practical Guide to Culture in late 2022 and received so much value in the content covered but also found it quite interesting to learn this book was published in 2017 (which means it was written months or years prior to its publication). I wish I would have known about this book in 2017, the same year my first born was exposed to pornography at the innocent age of seven and the stench of public-school indoctrination was just beginning to smell. The topics addressed throughout this book would have benefitted me greatly [in my parenting] even more back then than they have today. Even so, it was chilling how so much of the content in this book is now seen as foreshadowing of our current cultural moment. Everything covered in A Practical Guide to Culture is still applicable and relevant today, yet perhaps even more needed and necessary.

A Practical Guide to Culture is aptly titled – it is a practical guide that equips parents to teach their children what it means to live in the world but not of the world. While this book is an important read for parents, I also recommend it for youth leaders, pastors, grandparents, teachers, and anyone who desires to disciple the next generation of image bearers to bear the image of God within a culture that is anti-God.  It is a book filled with truth and the raw sting of reality that will remind all who read it why we are here and the hope worth living for.

* Just as Christians are needed and necessary for spreading the gospel to all the ends of earth, salmon play a key role in the health and function of ecosystems. 

**I personally purchased this book. Any thoughts or opinions expressed are my very own. 

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