Book Review: Gospel Fluency

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A couple of years ago our staff team took a few months to work through a book called Saturate: Being a Disciple of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life by Jeff Vanderstelt. It helped to shape a lot of our thinking on how we as a church do mission through our Connect Groups. If you have even a passing interest in what it means to follow Jesus in the everyday stuff of life, Saturate is a must read.

Towards the end of 2016, Jeff Vanderstelt started putting out a request on Twitter for people to review his upcoming book, Gospel Fluency: Speaking the Truths of Jesus into the Everyday Stuff of Life. I jumped at the chance! I clicked the link, unsure of whether the publishers would think I was suitable reviewer material. Thankfully they seemed to, and a few weeks ago I received an email with my early copy of Gospel Fluency.

“Gospel Fluency” is a phrase that I’ve heard used quite a lot recently, particularly on Twitter. You might be wondering what it’s all about. Essentially, gospel fluency is the ability to speak the truth of Jesus into any and every situation. So how does this happen? Vanderstelt uses the obvious and helpful example of becoming fluent in a foreign language. He writes of his attempts to learn Spanish, which began with simple vocabulary and grammar, but it wasn’t until he spent a semester in Spain living with a Spanish family and only speaking Spanish that he gained any level of fluency. He applies this principle to the gospel:

“Gospel fluency is developed by being immersed into a Jesus-saturated community. A Jesus-saturated community knows and speaks the gospel every day into everything, so that all parts of our lives grow up into Christ and are eventually fully transformed by and submitted to Jesus Christ, who is everything for us.”

I found that as I read this book my heart was stirred with a desire to gain a greater fluency with the gospel. Vanderstelt writes often about his ongoing experiences with his missional community (a small group of Christians who meet together as family to encourage one another in discipleship and to seek to impact their community with the gospel). As a leader of a Connect Group in our church – in which we are seeking to live as missional communities similar to Vanderstelt’s experience – I found that the way I’m leading my group was shifting and developing as I progressed through Gospel Fluency.

One of the many things I took from this book was the way Vanderstelt relates sin back to our own unbelief. Often when we think about sin we think in terms of behaviour, but Vanderstelt points out that at its root sin comes out of misplaced beliefs either about ourselves or about God. The result is sinful behaviour, but the cause is unbelief. Some Christians may baulk at this because after all, they believe in Jesus. However, as Vanderstelt explains, it is possible to be a follower of Jesus and still harbour roots of unbelief. An example he gives is worry. As a behaviour, worry causes us stress and means that we aren’t fully trusting God. At its root, worry comes from a lack of belief that God is in control and is either able or willing to do what is good for us.

I realise I’ve been very positive so far in this review, so I’m trying hard to think of some areas of critique. No book is perfect, but for me, Gospel Fluency was far more helpful than it was unhelpful. Vanderstelt writes in a way which is easy to understand; he is humble in his presentation of himself and his anecdotes show his mistakes as often as his successes – this makes him very relatable. If you haven’t read his previous book Saturate, it’s not essential to understanding this book, but it will give some helpful context to Vanderstelt’s background in church and his philosophy around mission and discipleship.

If you’re a follower of Jesus who would like to be better equipped to understand and share the gospel, you need to read this book. If you’re a church leader who wants to build gospel fluency into the life of your church, you need to read this book. If you’re not a Christian but you’re curious about what it means to be one, you may find this book helpful.

Gospel Fluency releases on the 28th of January. You can pre-order a copy here.

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