So far, I’ve blogged through the first section of Dick Staub’s book, The Culturally Savvy Christian, in which he encourages Christians to be savvy (that is, to get it) about popular culture and the uniquely American brand of Christianity that has been influenced by popular culture, and which may be a part of our own Christian communities. He has harsh words for both popular culture and what he calls “Christianity-Lite”; they are not, however, the rebuke of a self-righteous Luddite, but rather a call to both to rise out of the mire in which they are stuck.
In the second section of the book, Staub urges believers to get serious about pursuing God’s presence in their lives, identifying three characteristics specifically: God’s loving presence, his transforming presence, and his deep presence.
In the chapter on the deep presence of God, Staub calls out today’s evangelical pastors, who, he sees, are more concerned about building their empires than knowing God deeply. “We need fewer entrepreneurial pastors and more pastors who actually know God deeply.” (71) Have we, as pastors, been seduced into pragmatism, defining success by results—numbers of attendees, numbers of salvations, numbers of baptisms—rather than on how deeply and intimately we, and our congregations, know God? Has the siren call of success caused us to run aground? Have we been deceived into believing that celebrity is an effective tool for building God’s kingdom?
God is the point. He has always been the point—the goal. But we evangelicals have substituted heaven for its maker. When doing evangelism, I was trained to ask, “If you were to die tonight, how certain are you that you would go to heaven?” We have made heaven the goal—or worse, escape from hell. But heaven is not our destination. “Popular culture believes that the destination is personal fulfillment, and the church generally teaches that the destination is heaven. In fact, our destination is God, and what we seek is not our inner self, nor do we seek some future bliss; what we seek is reunion with God now.” (72) What our hearts need most is not the promise of a future paradise or the actualization of our unique self, but rather the deep presence of the one who made us from scratch, knows us from Adam, and loves us from the cross.
Our culture and our churches will not be transformed until we are transformed. We must become well, and only people who dig deep wells will become deeply well. “Only God’s deep spiritual, intelligent, creative presence in us will draw people to him. Only the presence of deeply well people will transform popular culture, and only by going deep in God can we be restored to deep wellness.” (79)
God wants you to know him deeply. He wants to rescue you from the triviality and shallowness of popular culture. He wants to take you out of the kiddie pool and show you the ocean. “In God, we find springs of living water, the sustenance of daily bread, light in darkness, truth, the guidance of a shepherd leading his sheep, abundant life beginning now, and, after death, a resurrection that extends this new life into eternity.” (81) You are invited to become, not merely God’s fan or his follower, but his friend. You are invited, not simply to heaven when you die, but to the depths of God’s presence today—which is, in fact, heaven in the here and now. But you must pursue God. You must chase him. You must run after him with all your heart. “The well soul is available to the pursuer of God’s presence, but not to the halfhearted, superficial seeker.” (90)