Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life

 An interview with Jeff Vanderstelt and Ben Connelly,
Authors of Saturate Field Guide: Principles & Practices for
Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life

For far too many Christians, the idea of being part of a church simply means attending a Sunday morning service, maybe a small group or a sprinkling of special events each year. Is that what God had in mind for his bride, the Church, when he sent his son to save her? Pastor and church planter Jeff Vanderstelt, along with his co-author, Ben Connelly, invite readers to experience something deeper in their new book, Saturate Field Guide: Principles & Practices for Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life (Saturate/February 15, 2016).

Inspired by Habakkuk 2:14, which reads, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea,” Vanderstelt and Connelly wrote Saturate Field Guide to show believers how to allow the gospel to permeate every aspect of their world. This begins with understanding ministry isn’t just what pastors do on Sundays and discipleship is much more than a class or program. Instead, both are a 24/7 call for all Christians to live in absolute submission to the Lord, joining with others in a missional community, where each person sees himself or herself as a servant missionary sent to make disciples.

Q: You start the Saturate Field Guide with Habakkuk 2:14. Share that verse with us and how it captures the spirit and message of this book.

Jeff Vanderstelt: Habakkuk 2:14 says, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” This verse is referring to the saturation point of God’s glory everywhere, every day with everyone. Paul tells us the hope of glory is Christ in us (Colossians 1:27). Jesus, in us and working through us by his Spirit, is the way God intends to accomplish this vision. Our hope is that Saturate (both the book and Field Guide) will serve to help people discover who they are in this work and how to live it out together with others in the everyday stuff of life.

Ben Connelly: There is no greater goal, for any Christian, than God’s glory be an ever-growing reality that seeps into every crevice of every life on earth. Saturation, by definition, cannot be relegated to a certain day of the week or a separated “clergy class” among God’s people — it’s a pursuit that must involve every Christian in everyday life.

Q: Why do you think there is often such a disconnect between what Christians say they believe and how they actually live their lives?

BC: At least one reason is that in many traditions, the fullness of Christianity seems to be taught as a past event that greatly benefits my future. It is a past event in the sense that Jesus was a historical man and that for every follower of Jesus there was a point where they “became a Christian.” It’s also a future event in that through Christ, Christians will be restored to right relationship with God the Father and live with him forever in eternity. Praise God both the past and future elements of our faith are true! There’s a present element of Christianity as well that often seems forgotten. Our faith can too easily become separated from our daily lives, relegated to certain days or events and left out of the everyday decisions and realities of life. Obedience, sanctification, holiness, mission, the pursuit of God’s kingdom and other “present realities” of our faith can be lost. In many cases, the disconnect starts with forgetting the Bible is filled with present ramifications for our faith.

Q: How do you think Christians’ view of discipleship need to change?

JV: Many people see discipleship as a set of curricula you go through and master, a class you attend or a one-on-one relationship you’re engaged in. These are all good and important things. However, when we see the example of Jesus making disciples in the Bible, we see something more inclusive of all of life. The Apostle Paul states in Ephesians 4:15, “Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” If we are to grow up every way into Christ, we need to learn to speak the truths of Christ into everything and help others walk it out every day.

That is why I define discipleship as leading others to submit all of life increasingly to the empowering presence and lordship of Jesus Christ. To do this, we have to be visible and accessible to one another in the everyday stuff of life. We need to see discipleship as a community experience in which we are on mission together. After all, the best way to learn something is to do it with others.

Q: Describe what you mean when you refer to a “missional community.”

JV: A missional community is a family of servant missionaries sent as disciples who make new disciples. They are a people who love one another like family, serve others tangibly and proclaim the good news of Jesus collectively. Just as the father loved us through sending his son, who sent to us the Holy Spirit, so are we sent to love, serve and proclaim Jesus. Jesus said it is by our love for one another that the world will know we are his disciples. To be clear, a missional community is not just a weekly small group gathering or a Bible study or a stand-alone outreach project. A missional community engages in everyday life together to bring the experience of Jesus’ rule and reign into a dark world and proclaim to each other and to not-yet believers the gospel.

Q: How are discipleship, community and mission found in everyday life situations?

JV: I encourage people not to add more events and programs to their already busy lives. Instead, I tell them to do what they’ve already been doing with more gospel intentionality. In other words, look at the everyday rhythms of life like eating, working, celebrating and resting and begin to engage them more intentionally.  For example, they likely eat 18-21 meals a week. What if they ate one or two of them with other believers and took time around the table to celebrate Jesus? What if they opened up a seat at their own table for a neighbor or friend who doesn’t yet believe in Jesus and introduced them to the family of God through a meal? Ask the Holy Spirit to turn that meal into a gospel opportunity to listen well, get to know another’s story and find ways to bless your guest.

Q: What is a Gospel identity?

BC: A gospel identity is an understanding of who we are in light of who God is and what he has done throughout history and in our own lives. Because of God’s work through the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, we are disciples of Jesus empowered by the Spirit for life, mission and ministry. This discipleship is most commonly seen in three identities: We are drawn into God’s family, we are servants of God, and we are sent by God as missionaries.

JV: We are informed of and established into our new identity in our baptism. We are baptized into the name of the father, the son and the Holy Spirit. Whenever someone was given a new name in the Bible it was a reference to a new identity and purpose God had established. He does this work in and through us today as well. While we were enemies of God, we became children of God through God’s love poured out for us on the cross. While we were once enslaved citizens of the kingdom of darkness, the King of Kings, Jesus, has set us free. Now as servants of Jesus we serve others like he served us. The same Spirit that sent Christ into the world, empowered him for ministry and powerfully raised him from the dead has now given us a new birth, a new mission and a new power to accomplish it. We are missionaries empowered and sent by the Spirit to make disciples who make disciples.

Q: A lot of discussions in the church today revolve around developing strategies to make the church more relevant and effective — particularly to the new generation of young people reaching adulthood. What are your concerns with that focus on strategy?

JV: I do believe we need to be open to many changes in how the church operates presently, especially in light of the Millennials’ growing disinterest in or distrust of the present-day church. We need to listen more, humble ourselves and be open to how the Spirit is leading the church into the future. With that said, one of my biggest concerns with many of the conversations is they seem to leave Jesus completely out of the dialogue or plan.

I’m amazed at how many talks on leadership, strategic planning and new methodology are presented with very little or no discussions about Jesus, the gospel or the Holy Spirit who make it all happen. There is no human strategy that saves or changes the world if it doesn’t have “Christ in you” at the heart of it (Col. 1:27). At the end of the day, only Jesus saves, and only Jesus will bring eternal change to the world. Granted he does it in and through us, but we can do nothing apart from him.

Q: What is our greatest hope for reaching those who are lost?

JV: Too often I hear leaders and teachers call Christians to go and be Jesus to the world. The only problem is we aren’t Jesus. There is only one Jesus. We don’t need to try and be Jesus; we need to ask Jesus to fill us with his Spirit and work in and through our lives so the world comes to know him in our “clay jar-like” lives.

Paul said to the Colossians in Colossian 1:27, “To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Our hope for the world coming to see and know Jesus is not us being another Jesus, but Jesus being Jesus in and through us. That’s better than any strategy we can come up with.

Q: This field guide is based on content from the book, Saturate. Do readers need to have read Saturate to use this guide?

BC: While Saturate will give further explanation to every concept in this field guide (FG), as well as share stories, we’ve intentionally designed the FG to stand alone. The first day of each week in the FG summarizes and builds on a few chapters of Saturate, so readers will get a sufficient overview of the book’s content before diving into the rest of the week.

JV: The FG truly stands on its own as it summarizes the content of the book well and guides people through an even more thorough study of each concept found in the book. The book is also more of a narrative, while the FG is meant to help readers create their own experiential story as they practice these principles together.

Q: How is working through Saturate Field Guide, chapter by chapter, different from simply reading a book?

BC: The goal of the FG, as implied by the title, is to help translate a belief in the gospel into action and fruit. Books are generally designed to give information and to be read cover-to-cover, sometimes in just a few days. Instead of simply providing information, the FG gives you principles and practices, helping you apply the information and obey God’s words. It also asks readers to bite off a small piece every day for eight weeks and interact with the content each day. Over the course of the FG, they’ll marinate on Scripture, immerse themselves in prayer, dive deep into introspection, carry out practical exercises, discuss and debate and more. Ideally, it will also be completed within a group of individuals who are interacting with the content each day.

Q: Why should this guide be used in a group setting? Can it be done on an individual basis?

BC: The FG can certainly be tackled alone. However, there are multiple benefits to working through it in a group. First, others provide accountability to make sure each day’s/week’s content is done. On a deeper level, as different people struggle with different concepts or need help translating certain beliefs into actions, two minds really are better than one. Finally, no aspect of Christianity or discipleship is designed to be an individualistic pursuit. While our relationship with God is, of course, personal, it’s never designed to occur in isolation, outside of the community of God’s people. The best way to pursue sanctification and discipleship is to lock arms with others, working toward the same things and equipping/supporting one another along the way.

Q: You encourage readers to begin their group time together with someone sharing his or her personal story. Why is that important?

BC: The unique and varied elements of each person’s life helps to shape their understanding of God. On one level, knowing each other’s stories creates a level of openness and vulnerability necessary both to hear and give advice. On another level, stories help show patterns, beliefs and behaviors in his or her life he or she may not realize. Letting others participate in his or her story helps him or her dig to the roots of those patterns, beliefs and behaviors. Finally, sharing personal stories will encourage others by displaying God’s work, which allows them to celebrate his goodness and grace toward each person, which can lead to greater worship of God.

Learn more about more about Saturate Field Guide at book.wearesaturate.com,

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