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Friday, April 17, 2015

"Saturate" (Jeff Vanderstelt)

TITLE: Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life
AUTHOR: Jeff Vanderstelt
PUBLISHER: Wheaton, IL: Crossway Publishers, 2015, (256 pages).

This book is about ordinary Christianity being put into practice in everyday life. It is for imperfect people trying to do something good in this world. It is about believers wanting to obey the Word of God. It is about discipleship in simple terms. It is also about putting theory into practice, where theology's rubber hits the road of discipleship. Jeff Vanderstelt, lead pastor of Doxa Church in Bellevue, WA in confessing that he dislikes writing, has decided to publish the book because of a vision in Habbakuk 2:14, "For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea." He believes that it is possible for every believer to practice discipleship in a way that saturates the world they live in with Christ's love and influence. Presenting his idea in four frames of thought, he begins by mentioning the idea of church not as an event or program but a lifestyle of hospitality. People want to be participants and not mere spectators. Opportunities need to be given to such people to contribute. It is better to be a fisherman instead of watching people fish. He goes back to Jesus' willingness to meet people where they are, at weddings, parties, houses, and ordinary places. It is not the religious events that matter but all the ordinary activities through the day. His vision of church is essentially the people of God living together on a mission in everyday living. Church does not end in a Church service on Sunday. It begins on Sunday and Church happens in everyday living through the rest of the week.

Part Two is about how Jesus lived it. Instead of going straight into the perfect life of Jesus, Vanderstelt begins with the brokenness of the world as well as a reminder that we are not Jesus. Only Jesus is Jesus. We cannot save the world. Only Jesus can. Our starting point is not good works. Our starting point is believing and trusting Jesus. We have been saved from sin, so there is no need to work for our own salvation. It is ok to be broken. It is ok to be weak. God uses such people to do his work. We can only saturate the world in the manner that Jesus is leading us to. It begins from the inside out. It is trusting that God will make us better in his time.

Part Three builds upon the faith in Christ as the cornerstone of our lives. Like Christ emanating from the center of our hearts, we are to live out our faith in every place and in everything. Like the fishermen disciples who trusted in Jesus, they went on to preach the gospel everywhere they went. It is what Vanderstelt calls "all-of-life discipleship." It stems from a growing life of obedience to the Word. Reading it is not enough. It needs practice. It needs obedience. Only then will there be growth. Learn to supplement the Sunday teachings with personal feeding. Three key environments are described.
  1. Life on Life: This is essentially about authenticity, to be open and honest about ourselves, that the beauty of Christ will flow freely from inside us without any need for pretensions. It is unlimited grace of God flowing out of us.
  2. Life in Community: Remembering that our sin hurts people, we need to learn accountability to one another. We are all members of the body of Christ. Through a community, we learn, we share, and we grow.
  3. Life on Mission: Using the example of a doctor trained many years to deal with health matters of life and death, our mission too is about learning to share spiritual matters that deal with matters of life present, life future, and life past. Our mission often shapes us. Like people on a mission trip who felt purposeful and equipped, life in everyday society can also be like that. It is living as broken and imperfect people; constantly shaped and equipped; and living out life in society in the power of the Spirit.
In Part Four, Vanderstelt gradually comes back from the 'doing' of discipleship to the 'being' of discipleship. Our identity is in Christ, shaped by the community we live in, baptized in the Name of the Father, serving in the Name of the Son; and Baptized in the Name of the Holy Spirit. He shares stories of everyday faith to encourage readers. Stories like the how they have accepted and loved Nicki, devastated by a broken marriage and a tragic second marriage, and be treated as part of the author's family. Stories of inner healing from plain care and concern in Christ's love. Stories of how Clay came back to life after much prayer and intercession.

Part Five is about everyday examples which many readers ought to be able to identify with. We can live as Christian disciples in at least six areas of life: 1) Eating; 2) Listening; 3) Storying; 4) Blessing; 5) Celebrating; 6) Re-Creating. We remember the path to living as disciple begins in Christ, like how the disciples started their journey in the boat. We clarify our mission. We form a plan. We saturate the world.

For a first time author, Vanderstelt does a good job in putting simple concepts in everyday language using everyday examples. The book will appeal to the layperson as it is devoid of heavy theological jargon. It speaks plainly the gospel truth of beginning in Christ for everything we do. It touches on the way that we live Church instead of always saying "we go to church." He reminds us that at the end of the worship service each Sunday essentially means the beginning of our living out our testimony in the world. Sometimes, believers will hesitate about living their faith in the marketplace using excuses like:
  • "I don't know how?"
  • "No one has taught me."
  • "I have never been discipled at all."
  • "What should I do?"
  •  and so on ...
Do not fret. Like a fresh graduate from school, one needs to start somewhere. The first steps may be hard, but once it is taken in faith, we depend on the Holy Spirit to lead and to guide us. The trouble with many people is that we allow our doubts of ourselves overwhelm the opportunities presented before us. We shirk back under the cloak of unpreparedness or ill-equipped reasons. The truth is, we are never going to be fully trained as culture and contexts change all the time. Practicing our faith in the school of life may very well be the best and only way to go. There is a time for everything. For many of us, especially those who have been going to church for years, perhaps, Vanderstelt's book is a call for us to take the plunge to being disciples everywhere we go in everything we do.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Crossway Publishers and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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