I received Jeff Vanderstelt’s new Book, “Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life” from Crossway so that I could review it. I must say up front that I have met Jeff, spent a week at his church in Tacoma for training purposes, and in general I am a big fan of the ministry he is doing. Am I biased? You bet.
I suppose there are many different ways that a person could review a book. I’m not going to pretend that I really know what I’m doing. I don’t. What I am going to do is highlight the main points in the book so that you, the reader, can understand what it is all about and make the wise decision of purchasing the book for yourself.
Part 1: Beginnings
In this section Jeff talks about his physical, emotional and spiritual breakdown while he was on staff at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois. He explains his breakdown as being the result of being too involved in managing an organization as opposed to being connected in the lives of people. He felt like he no longer fit in at the church and it put him in a massive tailspin. Jeff writes, “…I had fallen into a deep depression and had started seeing a counselor. I was anxious, afraid, and felt like a failure…Some nights, I contemplated suicide.” (P. 18) Jeff goes on to talk about how God, during this difficult season, opened up his eyes to a new way of thinking about and doing ministry. As I write the word “new” in the previous sentence I am instantly reminded that what Jeff is describing in this book is not “new” at all. It truly is getting back to the basics of being the church and making disciples as we see in the pages of the New Testament.
For some excellent videos of Jeff talking about how the gospel relates to everyday life you can go HERE.
Part 2: Jesus
In Part 2 Jeff goes on to talk about how he began a new church in the Tacoma, Washington area. It was not long before they were very involved in reaching out to their community but this led to a brand new discovery. In the middle of attempting to live as the hands and feet of Jesus Christ “hosting cookouts with neighbors, serving our schools, feeding the homeless, partnering with the arts community, starting small businesses, meeting with politicians, fixing homes…” (P.48) they began to feel rundown and overwhelmed. Jeff is painfully honest and explains that he had developed a messiah complex. He was putting too much of the responsibility to make a difference in his community on his own shoulders. It was a time in his life where God reminded him that He was the only one who had the strength to carry such a burden.
The rest of Part 2 is a wonderful description of how the gospel is much more than what gets us into the kingdom of God. For many of us we realize that the gospel saves us but we are not real sure how it relates to the ongoing growth and maturity of the Christian the rest of their life. The gospel saves us, but it is also what strengthens and sustains us as we love God and serve others in everyday life.
Part 3: Discipleship
This section is critical for the American church to pay attention to. Jeff states clearly that the mission of the church is to be making disciples of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:16-20). I don’t think many people will argue with that. Jeff explains that the problem is that we have tried to take shortcuts in the church when it comes to making disciples and this experiment has failed. Classrooms, programs, curriculum are good but they can never be a substitute for deep relationships and community.
“If we are to be disciples of Jesus who are being re-formed and restored to become more like him, we need to have people in our lives, up close and personal. We need people who can see where we do or do not believe the truth about Jesus and what he has done for us. Then, when the layers are pulled back, we need people to speak the truth of the gospel to our needs. Sometimes we just need a reminder of what we already know but have forgotten. Sometimes we need a bit of new information about Jesus. And there are times when we need a direct rebuke. We cannot do this in a classroom. It can’t happen in a week or two. We have to get more into each other’s lives, and it is messy, intrusive, and uncomfortable. P. 95
Part 4: New Identity
Part 4 is all about knowing who we are in Jesus Christ. Jeff describes the key characteristics of who we are in Christ as family, servants, and missionaries. Knowing our identity in Jesus keeps us from coming up with vision statements, goals, objectives that are divorced from what we clearly see in God’s Word. What we do as a church is rooted in who we are as the sons and daughters of God. We truly don’t need to be creative, imaginative when it comes to how we live out our faith as the church. We just need to re-examine the gospel. We are saved by the gospel and through it’s transforming power we are made in to the family of God, who live as servants and missionaries for the glory of God. Love this quote about being on mission…
We have the Spirit of God in us so that we might be empowered, just as Jesus was. We are his missionaries, filled and anointed by his Spirit. If you have the Spirit of God, you are a missionary sent by Jesus to tell the world who he is and what he has done. Charles Spurgeon once said, “Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter.” Everywhere you go, whatever you do, you are a missionary sent by Jesus to love like Jesus, overcome sin like Jesus, proclaim the gospel like Jesus, and see people’s lives changed by the power of the Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. You are always on mission. Every part of your life, every activity and event, is part of Jesus’ mission to make disciples. P. 163
Part 5: The Everyday Stuff
Part 5 is very helpful because it is very practical about how we live out our gospel identity as family, servants and missionaries. I find it so helpful because Jeff is not creating a new list of things for us to do. We are already too busy in the church. The last thing we need is another long list of things too do. Instead Jeff is helping us to see that everyday life is best place to proclaim and live out the good news of the gospel!
Eat: We all eat meals, everyday. Invite people from your church or neighborhood over and just enjoy building a relationship with them.
Story: Get to know the story of people all around you. Listen. Love them. Look for ways to tell the gospel story to them. Show them how the gospel story is a better way and meets their deepest needs and longings.
Bless: We have been blessed so that we can be a blessing to others. When we have experienced the blessings of the gospel we will want to pour out blessings to others. Look for ways to do this in everyday life.
Celebrate: Jesus compared his kingdom to a great party (Matthew 22:1-2). Our we people of joy and celebration? If not, why not?
ReCreate: This word comes from rest and create. Are we daily resting in Jesus? When we immerse ourselves in the gospel we can truly rest knowing that we are deeply loved and secure because of the work that Jesus did on the cross. What do you create on a daily basis? Are we doing it as unto the Lord?
I definitely encourage you to get this book and begin to rethink what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ in everyday life. Just in case you feel you have not done enough reading yet, HERE is an an interview I did with Jeff’s wife, Jayne, a couple of years ago.