How Do We Transition from "Sunday" to "Everyday"?

If you fail to pray, you will have missed the most important element of transitioning from Sunday to everyday. 

When we first began training leaders to start and lead missional communities we were primarily working with church planters and new churches. Now we increasingly find ourselves coming alongside already existing churches looking to transition from a Sunday centric model to equipping for ministry every day. Presently, I am leading my own church family at Doxa Church through this same transition. Admittedly, I am still in process, but I am learning a lot about transitioning through both my experience and the stories of others. Before I begin, it’s important to state that I could probably write a whole book on the topic of transitioning. What I have to say here is only the tip of the iceberg, but I pray it’s helpful nonetheless.

Unified Leadership

The first and most important principle is unified leadership—leaders who share the same convictions. Those who give overall leadership to the church must be both convinced and committed to a new direction: convinced biblically that this is God’s desire for their church and committed practically to living it out as an example to the people under their care. You will not consistently lead the church toward a new reality if you are not convinced enough to lose people who don’t agree and committed long enough to learn how to work it out practically for those who stay to see and experience the change. Leaders must be unified and in agreement about what they are committing themselves and the church to for the long haul. This is not like adding a program or making a minor ministry shift. This will be a whole church transition, and the transition will take many years.

Repentance

As leaders become aware of ways they have not faithfully been examples to the flock (1 Peter 5:3), they should be prepared to repent publicly. For instance, the Scriptures are clear elders are called to show hospitality, which is making space in their life, home, schedule, and budgets for outsiders. Hospitality gives a tangible expression to the truths and effects of the gospel showing how God welcomed us in through Christ. Leaders are called to lead the church in hospitality first by example and second through instruction. We will never move the church from Sunday to every day if leadership doesn’t lead the way in hospitality.

As elders come to see they have not been faithful in hospitality, they need to confess that to the church and ask God to give them the grace to change. Repentance will likely need to happen in many areas (i.e. being friends of non-Christians, discipling the flock under their care to be disciple-makers, showing radical generosity in all things, etc.). As leaders publicly confess and repent, they create a culture of grace in the church that makes it possible for the church to repent, as well.

I have found most people will not take new steps toward change unless they believe there is grace to acknowledge past failures and sin. Think about it, most churches are where they are today because the members choose to follow the example and teaching of their leaders. To expect them to change without leaders repenting publicly is an unhealthy expectation. They didn’t fail. Leaders did. If the church is going to turn corporately in a new direction the leaders will have to lead the way in repentance.

Preferred Future

However, we should not only look back on where we failed, we must also look forward to a preferred future. People will not change until the pain of staying and missing out on what could be is stronger than the comfort or familiarity of what is. Why did God’s people go to Egypt? Famine. They believed Egypt offered sustenance and a future. Why did Jesus’ disciples leave their careers to follow him? They believed He had something much better. If you are going to lead God’s people forward from Sunday to everyday, they will need to see that the better way is a life of full submission to Jesus in the everyday stuff of life.

Most people who love Sunday gatherings have likely experienced God at work in their hearts there. Leaders need to help people see they can experience even more of God’s presence and power in an ongoing way. Describe the life of a disciple filled with and led by the Holy Spirit on mission every day. Most Christians have not experienced much of the abundant life Jesus promised because they have not stepped out in faith to walk on those waters. I often hear people express their desire for a greater intimacy and acquaintance with the power of the Holy Spirit. However, I must inform them that the life lived in the Spirit is a life lived on the Spirit’s mission.

You won’t come to know the power of the Spirit if you live a life that does not require his power. To call people to transition from Sunday to everyday, I paint a picture regularly of a preferred future walking in the Spirit on mission with others who deeply love Jesus. If that life doesn’t sound better than only a weekly event on Sunday, people will not leave their present nets of comfort to venture out into the unknown. It’s true; there are significant costs in following Jesus every day, but the kingdom benefits far outweigh the worldly costs. Once again, this starts with leaders. If leaders are not convinced the future is better, they will not be able to convince anyone else either.

Program Support

Next, keep all programs that support the future direction, starve all that do not, and remove any that fight against it. I often use the analogy of a body when describing how to transition a church. The body has certain organs that if taken away will kill the body. It has others that the body can live without, and others, if damaged or infected, can kill the body. When making a transition, don’t get rid of the activities or programs that are the heart and lungs, skeletal supports, and nervous systems of the church. In most churches, Sunday gatherings and groups play vital roles in the transition to everyday mission. I’ve seen churches kill their entire church by shutting down all their programs to start missional communities. This is a fatal mistake.

At Doxa Church, we use the Sunday gathering to exhort, equip, and encourage people toward mission in the everyday. When I arrived here, they had community groups in place. I didn’t scrap them and start over; I decided to keep them and gradually transition them to missional communities. These two programmatic structures were and are vital structures for communication and care through which we can also bring equipping for the new direction. I also choose not to feed programs or events that do not specifically support the future direction. By starving I mean we don’t give leadership energy, coaching, or training to these ministries. We didn’t shut them down, but we don’t prop them up and work to sustain them either.

Each church has a limited supply of leadership and resources. We must steward our resources most effectively toward accomplishing the mission of making disciples who make disciples in the everyday stuff of life. We must do few things and do them well versus try to do everything mediocre. Finally, any program or ministry that is cancerous must be eliminated. A cancerous program is one that is fighting against the future direction or even poisoning others along the way. These cannot be allowed to continue or they will destroy the body.

Equip Pioneers

As you move forward you will find some have been waiting for this change. It seems God always has a remnant in the church being prepared to pioneer forward. As you discover the pioneers and early adopters, be prepared to give them the best support, mentoring, and training your church has to offer. They will need all you can give since this is new territory. Ideally, the overseeing leaders of the church are either in their groups leading by example or in other groups sharing their own learnings with others. The best way to move the entire church forward into a new direction is to have a few lead the way. People need to see and hear what life can be like from those who’ve gone before them.

We have found that placing pioneering leaders in pilot groups can be a very effective way to provide them with close training and development. A pilot group is made up of people eager to move forward into this new reality led by one of our equipping leaders who is most familiar with mission in everyday life. We presently are using the Saturate Field Guide as the curriculum for these groups. We call people to commit for a ten-week journey together through the Field Guild with the expectation that they will put into practice what they are learning along the way. We’ve done this both in singular groups and in larger groups that are broken up into 4-5 smaller groups. Through the pilot groups we have identified and equipped leaders, given people a taste of everyday mission in community and formed new missional communities as a result.

As leaders and others step out into everyday mission together, overseeing leaders must be present and available to coach and encourage them along the way. Most plans fail for lack of good preparation and ongoing support along the way. You can’t just launch people into a new reality. You need to provide ongoing training and evaluation along the way. Jesus didn’t just send His disciples out on mission. Prior to that He did it in front of them and with them. He pulled them aside regularly to explain what He was doing and to reflect on what they were doing. His training was hands-on and real-time. Then, when He did send them out, they returned with reports. Jesus provided additional training and coaching in light of their experiences or failures. We need to follow Jesus’ example of developing His leaders if we are going to expect people to lead from Sunday to everyday.

Smalls Steps and Shared Stories

I have discovered that the move from Sunday to everyday for some seems daunting. Some can’t imagine themselves making the trek up what seems to them to be Mount Everest. However, everyone can take a step on the trail. We have found that the vision of the preferred future is compelling, but without small steps being clarified, it can become paralyzing. Our job as leaders is to help people take small steps forward.

For instance, invite your neighbors over for a cookout, or call your group to pray weekly that God would open doors for the gospel. Take a prayer walk through your neighborhood once a week and ask God to open your eyes and open your neighbors’ hearts. Start going to the same restaurant once a week, and be gracious guests who learn names and stories of the servers and tip very generously. These are all small steps that anyone can take. Then share the stories of steps taken while gathered with the larger body on Sunday.

I know of one church that has a section in their weekly gathering called “I gave it a try.” During this time people share stories of giving it a try. I tried inviting our neighbors over for dinner last week. They denied, but we gave it a try. We try getting to know the story of the parents we sit next to in the stands while watching Joey’s football practice. We actually have a better idea how to serve them lovingly now that we gave it a try. At Doxa, we have a story each week from normal people in our congregation take small steps of faith in everyday situations. The people in our churches know what we care most about based upon what we do on the platform and what we regularly celebrate. Encourage small steps and celebrate each step taken.

Pray

Jesus instructed His disciples to wait for power from the Spirit before they went out as His witnesses (Acts 1:6, 8). The account of the early church throughout the Acts of the Apostles is one of consistent, prayerful dependency and Spirit-led mission. To lead our churches forward into everyday mission, we must become a prayerful people. Once again this begins with leadership. Leaders must pray regularly, consistently, and for significant periods of time.

We have adopted several ways of creating a prayerfully dependent culture here. We pray at 10:02 every morning for harvest workers. This is taken from Luke 10:02. We learned this from the leadership of C2C in Canada. We stop whatever we’re doing and take time to pray that our Lord will send more workers for the harvest and prepare the harvest for the workers. We also try to dedicate a block of time for prayer in most meetings. We also commit to “stop and pray.” If we are in a conversation where someone is in need of prayer, we don’t say we will pray. We stop and pray in the moment. We also stop and pray during a meeting when it is apparent we are lacking wisdom or direction. We have people praying during our gatherings on Sundays and more recently are asking our missional communities to commit to praying through an entire Sunday morning gathering to learn to pray together throughout the week. Our elders lead these times to both model our commitment to prayer and to actively train our people.

As our church grows in prayerful dependence they also grow in being led by the Spirit. Many Christians don’t know how to engage in the mission in everyday life because they haven’t yet learned how to follow the Spirit of God on mission in prayer. If you do all that I have already written and fail to pray, you will have missed the most important element of transitioning from Sunday to everyday. Jesus is building His church in the everyday stuff of life. Prayer is the key to submitting to Him and being empowered by Him to join in the work.

Speaking the Truths of Jesus

Have you ever tried to learn a new language? You know how hard and frustrating it can be translating every single word when you first start. But after awhile, something happens. Suddenly, you start not only to speak, but to think and feel in that language. You eventually start interpreting life through it. That’s fluency.

In many ways, the Gospel is like a new language. It takes time. We can be slow to learn, fast to forget, and unwilling to trust. But when the truths of God through Jesus become part of us, we start interpreting the whole world around us through the lens of God’s perspective. Slowly every aspect of our story starts to be affected by the redemption story—relationships, work, and even ourselves. Everything starts to have a new meaning. Even more, we are able to transmit the truth of the gospel in ways that speak to the real and present brokenness and longings of people.

Just like when you become fluent in a new language, you discover a new way to see the world; with the Gospel, you discover that Jesus is good news for everything.

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Jeff Vanderstelt

Jeff Vanderstelt is the visionary leader of Saturate, the Soma Family of Churches, and the lead teaching pastor of Doxa Church in Bellevue, WA. He also travels around the US and the world equipping the Church in the gospel and missional living. He is the author of "Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life." He and Jayne, his wife of 22 years, have three children; Haylee, Caleb, and Maggie.

Bringing the Gospel to Our Lips

If you and others around you are going to grow in gospel fluency, you need consistent immersion in a gospel-speaking community.

This needs to be much more than a weekly gathering of the church where the gospel is preached (though it should include this). It also should be more than a weekly Bible study, small-group gathering, or missional-community meeting (though I also recommend these). Growth in gospel fluency requires regularly being with others who know and love Jesus, speak about him often, and commit together to regularly remind one another of the gospel when they forget.

From the very beginning of the story, the act of eating has played a very significant role in the worship and remembrance of who God is, what he has done, and who we are. God provided a great place for Adam and Eve to live, with all the food they needed. They regularly had the opportunity to remember God, his word, and his work, as well as who they were and what they were called to do. For them, every meal was a time to remember God’s abundant provision and express their worship of him alone.

When we eat, we see that our food looks good. Some meals look like a painting by Monet, others look like a Picasso, but they are all works of art. We can smell our food. Just think of all the wonderful aromas of the best meals you’ve had. Don’t you love them! And as you put your food in your mouth, there’s an explosion of sensations—sweet, sour, bitter, salty. It’s like a party in your mouth! And you don’t just taste your food, you feel it as well. There are so many textures to experience. And then you hear it as it crunches, or sloshes or slurps its way into your body (some people are annoyed at this part of eating). Through all of this, you are nourished and replenished, strengthened and rebuilt. God wants us to eat and remember—enjoy and worship him—and, at the same time, have our needs met by him.

Remember what he said to Adam and Eve: “Eat from any tree in the garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat of that tree, you will surely die” (see Gen. 2:16–17). Every meal was an opportunity to remember, trust, and obey. Every meal was meant to be an act of remembrance and worship. But they didn’t remember, trust, and obey. They ate unto themselves. God designed them to trust in his ability to provide for them. Something outside of them was meant to take care of a deep need inside of them—and he would provide that something. They were not to look outside of his provision.

All of this was meant to point us toward God’s ultimate provision in Jesus. Eventually, Jesus came to be God’s ultimate provision for us. He is the bread of life that meets our deepest needs and satisfies our greatest longings. Every meal is meant to cause us to remember and worship Jesus.

What if you took time at every meal—even very simple ones—to give thanks to God, praying not just at the beginning, but throughout the meal? Our family is trying to use our evening mealtimes more intentionally. We are presently rehearsing the Ten Commandments and going through the gospel with each one of them. We also have given each night a theme to guide what we do together at the meal.

There is one meal specifically given by Jesus, to remember and proclaim the gospel—learn about that here. But for now, consider our normal, everyday meals: what if your friends, your family, your small group, or your missional community made it a point to make every single meal a remembrance and worship experience? What if you slowed down enough to remember Jesus at every meal? What if you savored every moment as an opportunity to praise God.

(Taken from Gospel Fluency by Jeff Vanderstelt, ©2017 Crossway.)

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Jeff Vanderstelt

Jeff Vanderstelt is the visionary leader of Saturate, the Soma Family of Churches, and the lead teaching pastor of Doxa Church in Bellevue, WA. He also travels around the US and the world equipping the Church in the gospel and missional living. He is the author of "Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life." He and Jayne, his wife of 22 years, have three children; Haylee, Caleb, and Maggie.

Listen to Your Heart

Part of our job in growing in gospel fluency is paying attention to the overflow of our hearts.

What comes out in the form of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors finds its origin inside of us. Too often, we focus our attention on changing the external rather than addressing the internal. But Jesus was very clear that what defiles us proceeds from inside our hearts—our beliefs and our motives. The fruit of our lives comes from the roots of our faith. Just as a thermometer detects a fever, what we see or experience tells us about the gospel health of our hearts. So we need to learn to trace the fruit back to the root.

Over the years, I have learned to ask four key questions in progressive order when forming people in the gospel: (1) Who is God? (2) What has God done (which reveals who God is)? (3) Who am I in light of God’s work? and (4) How should I live in light of who I am? I encourage people to apply these questions to their Bible study and to all of their discipleship processes.

When I am seeking to discern unbelief in the gospel, I reverse the order of those questions: (1) What am I doing or experiencing right now? (2) In light of what I am doing or experiencing, what do I believe about myself? (3) What do I believe God is doing or has done? and (4) What do I believe God is like? In other words, I trace the fruit back to the root. If the fruit is not like Jesus, that is an indicator that our faith is not in Jesus. Remember, we’re all still unbelievers in many areas of our lives. We do not always believe the truths about God as revealed in the gospel; therefore, we are living in unbelief.

How do we know if the fruit of our lives is like Jesus? Well, it helps to get to know what Jesus is like. This is why we need to continue to become more and more acquainted with him by reading the Scriptures, especially the Gospels, which describe how Jesus lived. The fruit of faith in Jesus is love for God and others. The gospel makes clear that this is not something we do on your own. Through faith in Jesus, each of us is made into a pure and holy dwelling place—a temple—where God’s Spirit lives. Jesus foretold that he would send the Spirit to help us know, believe in, and be connected to Jesus, so that we could bear much fruit.

In Gospel Fluency, I shared how Tim Chester teaches that beneath every sin is a failure to believe a truth about God. I’m convinced the same applies to what we believe about ourselves. Because we believe lies about God, we also believe lies about ourselves. We believe God is unloving, so we, in turn, believe we are unlovable—disposable, unwanted garbage. We believe God is not our Savior, so we have to be the savior to our friends, our spouses, or our children… We all fluctuate between the extremes of believing we are demigods sent to save the world and demons who are the scum of the earth, and everything in between. And the reason we believe what we do about ourselves is because of what we believe or don’t believe about God.

We need to learn to speak our beliefs out loud. So often, we are not even aware of what we are believing in any given moment. We just go along, living in false belief, and, as a result, we continue to engage in sinful behaviors. I am so blessed to have a friend and partner in Jayne who encourages me to speak out loud what is going on in my heart between me and God. She is in good company with the psalmists and the prophets in the Scriptures. They knew that our transformation comes partly through our verbal proclamation of our faith—speaking out loud what we are believing in the moment. This is confession.

So often, when people are led to confess their sins, they only confess their sinful behaviors. In other words, they confess the fruit. They say: “I’m sorry I lied. Please forgive me.” Or: “I looked at pornography. I know that’s wrong. Please forgive me.” The problem, however, is that they need to confess their sinful beliefs—the roots, the stuff below the surface that is motivating and producing their behaviors, the sin beneath the sins. All sin stems from wrong beliefs—lies we believe—and ultimately from our unbelief in Jesus. And because we generally don’t go beyond the fruit to the root, we end up aiming at behavior modification instead of gospel transformation. In the gospel, we come to see that sin is wicked and our world is broken. People suffer and will suffer because of sin. We are not promised a pain-free, trouble-free, suffering-free existence. But we don’t need more self-help and we don’t need denial. We need deliverance.

When we address only the behaviors and push people to change what they do without a change in what they believe, the weight falls on us rather than God to handle the problems of the world and deal with the brokenness caused by sin. Instead, we need to trust in God’s power to change us and change the world. [We need] gospel transformation, not just behavior modification. God’s Spirit is our guide, teacher, and counselor. When those of us who belong to God confess out loud what we believe, the Spirit is right there with us to convict us of our unbelief and lead us to the truth that is in Jesus. This is how God grants us repentance. He convicts us of our unbelief and leads us to believe the truth.

(Taken from Gospel Fluency by Jeff Vanderstelt, ©2017 Crossway.)

Comment

Jeff Vanderstelt

Jeff Vanderstelt is the visionary leader of Saturate, the Soma Family of Churches, and the lead teaching pastor of Doxa Church in Bellevue, WA. He also travels around the US and the world equipping the Church in the gospel and missional living. He is the author of "Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life." He and Jayne, his wife of 22 years, have three children; Haylee, Caleb, and Maggie.

Distinguishing Truths from Lies

We are at war!

Bullets are flying. Bombs are dropping. The enemy is closing in. Destruction is all around. There are casualties everywhere. But in our war, you can’t see any of this. Well, you can see the effects of it all over the place in the brokenness, chaos, and pain around us, but this war is invisible.

We are not fighting each other. Our war is not against “flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). And we are not fighting with physical weapons. We fight what is unseen with weapons that are not wielded by human hands. Our battle is spiritual, and so are the weapons we use. The gospel is the power of God for salvation. And our enemies are the Devil, the world, and the flesh.

The Devil screams out: “God is evil. I hate him and I will do everything to oppose him and destroy what he has made.” The world screams out: “This world is best without God, and you are best when it’s all about you.” And the flesh screams out: “I don’t need God because I am god. It’s all about me and it’s all dependent upon me.”

So what are we to do in this battle? The Bible tells us to (1) take our thoughts captive and examine them, (2) bring them into submission, (3) consider the fruit, and then (4) fight with gospel truths. For now, we focus on the first.

What is going through your mind? What do you regularly hear spoken in your head? What are you believing about God, his work in Jesus, others, yourself, and what you should do? This is why it is so important to know the gospel, rehearse it in our minds, and remember it. We cannot defeat the enemies of our souls without becoming more gospel fluent. And part of growing in gospel fluency is learning how to recognize what is not from God—what is not in line with the truths of the gospel.

So how do you know if what you’re thinking lines up with what is true in the gospel? Well, remember that the gospel literally means “good news.” So ask yourself: “Is this good news that I’m thinking? Is it tearing God down or lifting him up? Is it tearing others down or building them up? Is it tearing me down or encouraging, exhorting, or equipping me?” The enemy of our souls [lies: Satan] brings to our minds thoughts and words that are lies about God… One good way to learn how to discern the truth from a lie is to continue reading Scripture. If what you hear disagrees with the Bible, it’s a lie.

Satan also accuses: He loves to tear us down with accusations. And most often he tries to deny what is true of us in Christ—what Jesus has done to change us. He doesn’t want us to live boldly for Jesus, so he accuses us of things that are not true of us so that we will cower in fear, guilt, and shame… He also tempts us with promises of fulfillment through sinful pleasures or pursuits. He tries to convince us that God’s ways are not good. And he loves to offer seductive short-cuts to fulfill our longings and desires. He often tries to make sin look attractive to lure our hearts away from obeying God… The enemy also loves to divide and isolate through gossip, slander, and bitterness.

The means vary, but our enemy loves to get us to turn against one another. He loves to erode our trust and give us reasons to separate or divide. And one of his greatest schemes is to isolate us as he does it. He wants us alone so he can pick us off one by one with no one around to encourage us or speak the truths of Jesus into our lives. Watch out for the schemes. In all of them, our enemy is dead set on our destruction.

The first step is to capture the thought and examine it. Train yourself to regularly stop and closely examine what you are thinking, feeling, or believing in light of the truths of the gospel.

(Taken from Gospel Fluency by Jeff Vanderstelt, ©2017 Crossway.)

Comment

Jeff Vanderstelt

Jeff Vanderstelt is the visionary leader of Saturate, the Soma Family of Churches, and the lead teaching pastor of Doxa Church in Bellevue, WA. He also travels around the US and the world equipping the Church in the gospel and missional living. He is the author of "Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life." He and Jayne, his wife of 22 years, have three children; Haylee, Caleb, and Maggie.

We All Live by Faith in Someone or Something


We all live by faith in someone or something.

Everything that we are and do is a result of what we believe. Our behaviors are the tangible expression of our beliefs. It is by grace you have been saved through faith. . . .

A gospel-fluent community that is growing in faith in the gospel is evidenced by people confessing their sins to one another regularly. A gospel-fluent community that is growing in confidence that Jesus fully atoned for our sins extends grace and forgiveness to one another. It is by grace—the gift of God in Jesus—that you are saved from the consequences and control of sin. And it is through faith—belief in Jesus’s work on our behalf. Every sinful attitude, motive, thought, or action is a result of unbelief in God’s word and work.

Paul teaches in Romans 1:18–32 that we all, like Adam and Eve and all their descendants, have exchanged the truth of God for a lie and have worshiped the creation instead of the Creator. We put our faith in the things God has made or the things we can do instead of God. God gives us over to our wrong belief and lets it produce in us what all idolatry produces—sin, brokenness, perversion, and pain. He does this so that we will see the wretchedness of sin and turn back to him as the one who forgives our sin, cleanses us from unrighteousness, and heals our brokenness.

The gospel is not just the power of God to save, but also the revelation of God that we need to be saved and that the only one who can save us is Jesus. The Spirit’s job is to reveal to us our unbelief, grant us repentance, and lead us to know and believe in Jesus. That is the work we do. We turn from unbelief to belief in Jesus. Unbelief can take several forms: (1) we don’t believe because we lack the truth about God; (2) we believe lies about God; or (3) we fail to put our faith in what we know to be true of God.

First, many don’t know who God really is. They don’t know what he is like or what he has done for us. A person can’t believe in God if he or she is unaware of the truths about God. There is no salvation—no transformation—apart from knowing God. One of the reasons Jesus came—and one of the reasons why the gospel is such good news—was to reveal the truth about God and to bring us into relationship with him. In the gospel, we have the revelation of what God is like and what God has done. God is revealed through Jesus’s life, Jesus’s ministry, Jesus’s death, and Jesus’s resurrection. What is your God like? What do you believe about God? Growing in gospel fluency requires growing in our knowledge of God as he is revealed in and through Jesus Christ.

Second, in some cases, our unbelief involves believing lies about God. Satan deceived Adam and Eve into believing lies about God, and we regularly buy into his lies as well. We might know certain truths about God, but fail to believe those truths because we are deceived into believing lies. Jesus came to dispel the lies. Regularly, we hear Jesus say, “Truly, truly I say . . .” He is replacing the lies we believe with the truths of God. Not only does he proclaim those truths verbally, but he is also the ultimate example and display of those truths. Growing in gospel fluency requires regularly replacing lies we have believed with the truths of God revealed in Jesus. One of the reasons God sent his Spirit to us is to reveal the lies and help us believe the truth about God. I regularly invite God’s Spirit to do this in my life. You can too.

Third, we often say we believe something to be true about God, but our lives show that we don’t actually believe it. We know a truth we should believe, but in actuality, we don’t. For instance, we profess belief in a God who forgives our sins through faith in the death of Jesus, but we continue to believe we need to behave better in order to make up for what we’ve done. When we do this, we are living in unbelief in the gospel. The gospel is the power of God to save us not only because our sin of unbelief is forgiven through Jesus’s death on the cross, but also because in the gospel we come to know and believe the liberating truths of God revealed in Jesus Christ. And through believing those truths, the lies we’ve believed are dispelled and the truth sets us free to really live.

So what do you believe? The gospel won’t fluently come out of you to others unless it’s changed you first.

(Taken from Gospel Fluency by Jeff Vanderstelt, ©2017 Crossway.)

Comment

Jeff Vanderstelt

Jeff Vanderstelt is the visionary leader of Saturate, the Soma Family of Churches, and the lead teaching pastor of Doxa Church in Bellevue, WA. He also travels around the US and the world equipping the Church in the gospel and missional living. He is the author of "Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life." He and Jayne, his wife of 22 years, have three children; Haylee, Caleb, and Maggie.

Exposed by the Mission

Yes, we can pretend to have it all together while sitting in a pew on Sunday or while impressing one another with our knowledge of Scripture. But mission exposes our inadequacies and need for grace.

If you are in a small Bible study group, one of the best things you could do is move the study out into the neighborhood. When you read a command in Scripture, ask, “How are we going to obey this command together on mission?” In other words, ask yourselves what this passage says you should do together (life in community) and how you might do it in the middle of a mission held together (life on mission).

Doing this will bring up all sorts of opportunities for discipleship: excuses will be expressed, fears acknowledged, lack of confidence or courage realized, and inadequacies verbalized. Then you’ll be getting somewhere in terms of people’s discipleship.

In this process, you will discover the truth about everyone’s present state. When you actually get out of the comfort of your Christian community and onto the streets of mission (in your neighborhood, at a café, in the park, or at a local high school), you will discover together where everyone still needs to be discipled. The junk will come out, and then you will be able to disciple one another in the everyday stuff of life.

I was surprised by this on my first mission trip, but after a few of them, I knew it was coming. Soon, a part of me began to hate taking mission trips because I knew things would get bad—we would fall apart and we would be seen as needy.

Yet that was why I continued to lead them. Such brokenness has to happen if real discipleship is going to take place.

Sometimes I wonder if this exposure is why Christians avoid getting on the mission of making disciples together in the stuff of everyday life. We know we will be exposed. We will be seen for the needy, desperate people we really are. Our junk will come to the surface. Yes, we can hide and pretend to have it all together while sitting in a large gathering on Sunday or while impressing one another with our knowledge of Scripture in a weekly Bible study. But out on mission, the need for grace and power from God will never be more clearly manifested.

That’s exactly what we need. We need to see and know our need for Jesus. We need to see and know others’ need for Jesus. Then we need to give one another the truths of Jesus to change us, empower us, and allow His Spirit to work through us effectively. We also need to experience God using weak, tired, and broken people to do amazing work.

This happened in the early church as well. Before Jesus ascended into heaven, He told His disciples to wait for power from God—the Spirit of God was going to come upon them and empower them for the work (Acts 1:8). The disciples were sent out with God’s power and presence with and by His Spirit. They faced persecution. Many died for their faith. They lost possessions and family members. Many messed up and grew in the grace of Jesus as a result. And they grew in their love for one another, their devotion to obey God’s Word, their prayerful dependence on God, and the powerful proclamation of the gospel. They all grew while on mission (Acts 2:42–47).

The mission revealed their need and required God’s help!

I’m amazed at how often Christians want to experience the presence and power of God apart from the mission of God. I’m also surprised at how many people believe they can grow people up toward maturity in Christ apart from getting them involved in the mission of making disciples.

This stuff can’t happen in a classroom. It does not happen in one-on-one meetings. And it does not happen if we just hang out together as Christians all the time. We have to get out on mission to fulfill the mission of being disciples who make disciples.

I used to think we should take people out on mission trips once or twice a year. Now I’m convinced we need to help people see they are on mission all the time.

Unfortunately, many disciples of Jesus don’t get beyond seeing church as just attending an event on Sunday or Wednesday or doing a Bible study together. They are not experiencing what it means to be on mission together in the everyday stuff of life. So they live with the facade that everything is OK. On the surface, they look as if they are all in for Jesus. But brokenness, pride, insecurity, and selfishness are all there under the surface.

(Taken from Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life by Jeff Vanderstelt, ©2015, Crossway.)

Comment

Jeff Vanderstelt

Jeff Vanderstelt is the visionary leader of Saturate, the Soma Family of Churches, and the lead teaching pastor of Doxa Church in Bellevue, WA. He also travels around the US and the world equipping the Church in the gospel and missional living. He is the author of "Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life." He and Jayne, his wife of 22 years, have three children; Haylee, Caleb, and Maggie.

We Are Missionaries

What God has done to us, He wants to do through us.

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 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’s mission to make disciples.

Remember, you are not alone on this mission. Jesus goes with you everywhere because His Spirit is in you to empower you to be His representative in the world. He wants to saturate your world in word and deed by His presence at work in and through you by His Spirit.

Our baptism is a reminder of our new identity in Christ. We have been saturated with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We have a new name because we are new creations who can do new works by the power of the Holy Spirit living in us. This is why Jesus places baptism first in the sequence of events of making disciples. He wants us to know who we are and what power we now have to do what He wants. His command for us to “[teach] them to observe all that I have commanded you” comes after we establish people in their new identity (Matt. 28:19–20).

Since you do who you are, you need to know who you are in Christ.

Knowing and believing who you are in Christ leads you to obey Jesus’s commands.

The people in your church don’t need a new to-do list. They needed to be reminded of their new identity in Christ. The same is true for you.

  • We are the Father’s family; therefore, we love others like He loved us.
  • We are servants of Christ; therefore, we serve the least of these as He served us.
  • We are missionaries filled and empowered by the same Spirit that was in Jesus; therefore, we are always on mission to proclaim the good news of Jesus.

Whatever He has done to us, He now wants to do through us to others.

(Taken from Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life by Jeff Vanderstelt, ©2015, Crossway.)

Join Me for a Gospel Fluency Crash Course

As a Christian, do you find it difficult to talk to others about Jesus? Is it possible this difficulty is because we're trying to speak a language we haven't actually spent time practicing?

On Tuesday, February 28 at 6:00 p.m. PST join me for a live crash course in gospel fluency on Facebook and Twitter. I'll be discussing how we can best become fluent in the gospel for the good of our neighbors and the glory of Jesus.

About Gospel Fluency

flu·en·cy / noun :the ability to speak a language easily and effectively

Even if they want to, many Christians find it hard to talk to others about Jesus. Is it possible this difficulty is because we’re trying to speak a language we haven’t actually spent time practicing? Is it possible we have neglected to understand for ourselves how the good news of Jesus impacts every facet of our own lives?

To become fluent in a new language, you must immerse yourself in it and commit to practicing it, over and over again. You must use it everyday until you actually start to think about life through it. Becoming fluent in the gospel happens the same way—after believing it, we have to intentionally rehearse it (to ourselves and to others) and immerse ourselves in its truths. Only then will we start to see how everything in our lives, from the mundane to the magnificent, is transformed by the hope of the gospel.

Challenging us to cultivate this counter-cultural mindset, Jeff Vanderstelt offers readers wise biblical insights, practical advice, and compelling stories aimed at encouraging and equipping Christians to speak the truths of Jesus into the everyday stuff of life.

Find out more information here.

3 Comments

Jeff Vanderstelt

Jeff Vanderstelt is the visionary leader of Saturate, the Soma Family of Churches, and the lead teaching pastor of Doxa Church in Bellevue, WA. He also travels around the US and the world equipping the Church in the gospel and missional living. He is the author of "Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life." He and Jayne, his wife of 22 years, have three children; Haylee, Caleb, and Maggie.

Just Give Them Jesus

(Excerpt from Gospel Fluency.)

But we fail if we don’t give them Jesus.

The apostle Paul, in his letter to the church in Ephesus, states: “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Eph. 4:11–15).

It is God’s intent that every person who comes into a relationship with Him through Jesus Christ eventually will grow up into maturity. And maturity looks like Jesus. He is the perfect human, providing an example of what we are meant to be. A mature Christian is one who resembles Jesus Christ in thought, attitude, emotion, and behavior. And one of the most significant ways by which we grow up into maturity is by speaking the truth in love to one another.

Many wrongly believe that speaking the truth in love is actually just speaking hard words to one another with loving hearts: “You have bad breath, but since I love you, I’ve got to speak the truth to you.” “We want you in our group, but you aren’t very kind to others, and as a result, people don’t want to be around you! I’m just speaking the truth in love.” But that is not what Paul is talking about here. Sure, we do need to speak truthfully to one another and do it with love, but Paul has something more in mind.

We need to read just a few verses further to discover what Paul means. He clarifies the truth that we are to speak to one another in verse 21. He states, “The truth is in Jesus.” “Speaking the truth in love,” for Paul, is shorthand for “speaking what is true about Jesus” to one another—that is, speaking the gospel to one another. Paul knows that if people are going to grow up into Christ in every way, they need to hear the truths of Jesus (the gospel) and learn to speak them into everything.

As my friends Steve Timmis and Tim Chester like to say, “What’s the question? Jesus is the answer. What’s the problem? Jesus is the solution.”

Too often, when giving people answers to their questions or solutions to their problems, we give them something other than Jesus. If they are struggling with their finances, we give them the best budgeting plans we know of. If they are working through relational discord, we teach them communication techniques. If they are struggling with doubt, we challenge them to just believe, promising that all will get better if they do.

But we fail if we don’t give them Jesus.

In some cases, we encourage them to read their Bibles or pray, which, of course, are wonderful things. However, if we don’t teach them to meet and know Jesus through their Bible reading and prayer, we are dangerously close to leading them away from Jesus through very good things. This is the heart of idolatry—taking a good thing and making it a “god thing.” We take something God gave us to direct us to him and love it or depend on it more than him. As a result, we fail to come to him through it.

Like what you read? Read a longer excerpt here.

Comment

Jeff Vanderstelt

Jeff Vanderstelt is the visionary leader of Saturate, the Soma Family of Churches, and the lead teaching pastor of Doxa Church in Bellevue, WA. He also travels around the US and the world equipping the Church in the gospel and missional living. He is the author of "Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life." He and Jayne, his wife of 22 years, have three children; Haylee, Caleb, and Maggie.

Want to Review 'Gospel Fluency'?

My next book, Gospel Fluency: Speaking the Truths of Jesus into the Everyday Stuff of Life, releases in February. The understanding and practice of what it means to be fluent in the gospel has changed the way I relate to God and to others, and I pray it does the same for those who find a copy in their hands. 

To that end, my publisher, Crossway, has generously offered to send out review copies. If you'd like to receive one, just fill out the quick form at this link.

Here is a bit more about the book:

flu·en·cy / noun :the ability to speak a language easily and effectively

Even if they want to, many Christians find it hard to talk to others about Jesus. Is it possible this difficulty is because we’re trying to speak a language we haven’t actually spent time practicing? Is it possible we have neglected to understand for ourselves how the good news of Jesus impacts every facet of our own lives?

To become fluent in a new language, you must immerse yourself in it and commit to practicing it, over and over again. You must use it everyday until you actually start to think about life through it. Becoming fluent in the gospel happens the same way—after believing it, we have to intentionally rehearse it (to ourselves and to others) and immerse ourselves in its truths. Only then will we start to see how everything in our lives, from the mundane to the magnificent, is transformed by the hope of the gospel.

Challenging us to cultivate this counter-cultural mindset, Jeff Vanderstelt offers readers wise biblical insights, practical advice, and compelling stories aimed at encouraging and equipping Christians to speak the truths of Jesus into the everyday stuff of life.

While you're waiting for your copy of Gospel Fluency to arrive, enjoy this excerpt.

Find out more information here.

Comment

Jeff Vanderstelt

Jeff Vanderstelt is the visionary leader of Saturate, the Soma Family of Churches, and the lead teaching pastor of Doxa Church in Bellevue, WA. He also travels around the US and the world equipping the Church in the gospel and missional living. He is the author of "Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life." He and Jayne, his wife of 22 years, have three children; Haylee, Caleb, and Maggie.

Missional Communities—Biblical or Cultural?

Are missional communities just a passing fad?

Recently, one of the leaders in the Soma Family of Churches asked me if I thought missional communities would be a passing trend. He wasn’t questioning the validity of them, but he did wonder if this was a time-based, culturally applicable approach to making disciples that may not be necessary sometime in the future. Is the concept of church as a missional community (or as we often ask, “Is missional community the primary structure for making disciples?”) just a pragmatic solution to a cultural situation?

My answer to my colleague and my answer to many others is a resounding “no.”

Why? Because I am convinced that missional communities are not a new program or methodology for the church, but an ancient way of being God’s people set apart for God’s mission in the world. “Sure,” I told my friend, “the name ‘missional community’ might be trendy, but the concept is really nothing new at all.” The concept is deeply biblical and culturally transferable from one time and culture to another.

WHAT A MISSIONAL COMMUNITY IS

To make my case, I first of all need to define what a missional community is. A missional community is a family of servant missionaries sent as disciples who make disciples. They are:

  • children of God who love one another like family
  • servants of God who show what the Kingdom of God looks like in tangible form
  • missionaries sent by God to show and tell the truth of what God is like and what God has done

The goal of this family of servant missionaries is to lead others to become the people of God on the mission of God in the world.

GOD’S ANCIENT WAY

From the beginning of time God has called a people to be His family—His image-bearers—chosen by Him to belong to Him and lovingly show God’s love by how they love one another like family. It began with Adam and Eve who turned to a different father—the father of lies—and as a result the family they led looked more like the devil and less like the heavenly Father. God then chose Abraham to be the father of a new nation: a family set apart as both beneficiaries of God’s love as well as benevolent givers of His love. This family was also called to be a display people, showing the world what God as King was like through the visible display of his kingdom. His people were called to be His servants who serve others just as God had served them. One example of this is in how God called His people to be hospitable toward strangers in light of how God had treated them while they were strangers in Egypt. Lastly, God’s people were sent from place-to-place with the intent of living amongst the nations declaring what their God was like in light of what He had done for them. Israel was a family of servant missionaries, loving, serving, and proclaiming the good news of God.

But they failed. They fell short.

So Jesus came as the true and better Son who laid down His life for us so we could become children of God. He is the true and better servant who showed us what the Kingdom of God is like by how He served and gave up His life. He is the true and better missionary sent by the Spirit to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom. He didn’t do this in isolation. He did it in community—a community on mission together—a missional community. Jesus and His followers were a missional community. When He first called them He said, “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Jesus formed a community on mission that loved one another like family, served others as a way of serving their Messiah King, and eventually were sent out as missionaries to proclaim the gospel in the power of the Spirit.

After He died on the cross and rose again, He sent His disciples out to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and establishing every disciple in their new identity as family, servants, and missionaries. What Jesus did with them first, He sent them out to do with others. Their baptism wasn’t just words. It was a statement of their new identity that informed their new way of living: loving, serving, and proclaiming together.

That’s exactly what they did. The early church loved, served, and proclaimed because this is who they believed they were in Christ.

Later, when Peter intends to encourage the church scattered throughout Asia Minor, he reminds them first of who God is and what God has done most specifically in and through the person of Jesus Christ. Following that, he reminds them of who they are in 1 Peter 2:9: But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Note the key identity statements he uses: chosen race (family of God), royal priesthood (missionaries anointed by the Spirit), and holy nation (servants of King Jesus). This is who God’s people were called to be prior to Jesus. It is who our baptism says we are because of Jesus. And it informs what we do as God’s people—the church—as we make disciples of Jesus.

This is who we are; therefore it’s what we do.

So is missional community a new idea? No. Is it going away? Not as long as Jesus continues to build His church and not until He returns and the mission is accomplished.

However, the way we work it out is always changing. In the early church they met from house to house. Some today meet from beach to beach, office center to office center, school to school. Some meet from house to school to office center. How we work out what it means to love like family may continue to take on different shapes and forms depending upon the culture and time we find ourselves in. Being servants of King Jesus in Tokyo might look very different than being servants of Jesus in Topeka. Proclaiming the gospel in secular New York might look very different than church-saturated Dallas. Our identity is the same, but how it gets expressed is always changing. The mission will not change, but the means likely will. The gospel will not change, but how we proclaim it must.

Yet no matter the place, the culture, or the time, the church is called to be a family of servant missionaries sent as disciples who make disciples.

We are a missional community, a gospel community on mission. Call it what you want. The name might change, but we will not.

This is who we are. This is what we do.

Comment

Jeff Vanderstelt

Jeff Vanderstelt is the visionary leader of Saturate, the Soma Family of Churches, and the lead teaching pastor of Doxa Church in Bellevue, WA. He also travels around the US and the world equipping the Church in the gospel and missional living. He is the author of "Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life." He and Jayne, his wife of 22 years, have three children; Haylee, Caleb, and Maggie.

What is a "Missional Community"?

All-of-life discipleship—learning to follow, trust, and obey Jesus in the everyday stuff of life and training others to do the same—requires submitting to and obeying God’s Word in three key environments: life on life, life in community, and life on mission.

LIFE ON LIFE

God’s means of restoration in your life is others in your life who are committed to bringing your brokenness out into the open and bringing the gospel of Jesus to bear on it. The layers with which we’ve covered ourselves have to be pulled back, and we can’t do that kind of work alone. We have to get close. We have to be seen and known. This is what we call life-on-life discipleship—life that is lived up close so that we are visible and accessible to one another, so that others can gently peel back the layers and join us in our restoration. Jesus lived life with his disciples. He was close enough to really know them. He observed what they believed by watching how they lived. He became closely acquainted with their brokenness so that he could see their wrong thinking, wrong believing, and wrong acting. They were exposed. And as they were exposed, Jesus helped them to be restored.

LIFE IN COMMUNITY

If you look at the life and ministry of Jesus, and subsequently the ministry of the apostle Paul, you certainly would not come to the conclusion that one-on-one discipleship is best. Jesus discipled his followers while they experienced life together in community. We know they “got it” because the story of how they continued to live tells us they were devoted to one another in the day-to-day stuff of everyday life. Jesus’s way of discipleship cannot happen in one-on-one meetings alone. The church is Jesus’s body. It has many parts, but it is one body, so it takes many of us committed to each other’s development to help us each become more like Jesus … We all need many people who love Jesus around us to do this. Every person in Christ’s body is meant to work this way. You are meant to play a part in equipping and encouraging others. God intends for all of us to actively engage in disciplemaking in light of our unique design so that we both do the work and equip others to do it.

LIFE ON MISSION

Jesus didn’t say, “Show up to class and I will train you.” Nor did he say, “Attend synagogue and that will be sufficient.” No, he called the disciples to join him on the mission (“Follow me”), and while they were on the mission with him, he trained them to be disciplemakers (“I will make you fishers of men”). In other words, Jesus taught them the basics of making disciples while they were on the mission of making disciples. They could observe everything Jesus said and did. They could see how he rebuked the religious leaders who tried to make it harder for people to come to God. They were able to watch his compassion and care of people being ruined by sin. They couldn’t overlook his willingness to heal and help the broken. And the power he exerted over demons was clearly on display. They listened, watched, and learned in the everyday stuff of life. After a while, he invited them to share in some of the work he was doing. Sure, they messed up, a lot, but he was there to help, to correct, to clean up—to train them—while they were on his mission. They were in a disciplemaking residency with Jesus. After the disciples had spent time watching, learning, and practicing under Jesus’s watchful eye, he sent them out to begin to practice what he had taught them. He did not send them out alone; they went together. Then they returned and reported to Jesus what they had experienced. All did not go perfectly. So he trained them in the areas of their weaknesses and failures. He did this kind of ongoing training with them for more than three years. As a result, when he finally ascended to heaven, they had been prepared to fulfill the mission. The best training for mission happens while on mission.

MISSIONAL COMMUNITIES

The necessity of these three environments is the basis for what are commonly called “missional communities”: the Christian life—and the gospel identities and rhythms—cannot be lived alone, nor can it be carried out as one person among several dozen or a few thousand, which is the context of many American church gatherings. Instead, the best venue for living as disciples of Jesus happens in the context of a few other disciples, mutually committed to growing each other’s lives and faith, pursuing God’s mission together. Missional communities are not programs of a church; missional communities are the Church. In other words, the way God intends his people to live and thrive as disciples of Jesus is in the context of a community, growing in the gospel and on mission together. It’s in this type of community that life on life, life in community, and life on mission discipleship most easily happen.

(Excerpted from the Saturate Field Guide by permission.)

Comment

Jeff Vanderstelt

Jeff Vanderstelt is the visionary leader of Saturate, the Soma Family of Churches, and the lead teaching pastor of Doxa Church in Bellevue, WA. He also travels around the US and the world equipping the Church in the gospel and missional living. He is the author of "Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life." He and Jayne, his wife of 22 years, have three children; Haylee, Caleb, and Maggie.

A Life of Discipleship

Part of our own discipleship is “paying it forward”: seeing God not only work in us, for our own discipleship, but also seeing him work through us, for others’ discipleship

The person and work of Jesus cannot remain as a mere mental construct, separate from the rest of life. The gospel changes us. It gives us new identities, goals, and pursuits. Jesus’s past, present, and future work redefine how we think, live, work, and act. Because of the gospel, we are disciples of Jesus. By the power of God, the life of a Christian is a life of learning from Jesus, following him, and “growing up in every way into him” (Eph 4:15). In other words, the life of a follower of Jesus is a life of obeying Jesus.

A NEW PERSPECTIVE

When he called the first of his disciples, he said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19). They had been fishermen, but Jesus was calling them to fish for people. They responded by leaving everything—their families, their careers, their futures—to follow Jesus. It started in a boat and went out to the world. Those first disciples radically recentered everything in their lives around Jesus, his teaching, and his mission. Their lives became all about Jesus! He was that important to them.

Then, after he had trained them for more than three years, suffered and died for their sins, and rose from the grave, Jesus told them to meet him on a mountain before he ascended to heaven. On that mountain, he was going to give his final commission to them to make disciples of all people groups. Just as Jesus had called them to follow him, be changed by him, and obey him, he sent them out to call others to follow him as well. He was going to send them to the ends of the earth so that Jesus saturation might happen.

So they met Jesus on the mountain and worshiped him there, but some still doubted (Matt. 28:16-17). They were in, but not all in. Slow down and don’t miss this: Jesus’s disciples had seen everything they needed to see. Jesus had taught them all he needed to teach them. And they had experienced all they needed to experience with Jesus! And yet, some were still doubting. This is good news for me! Though I’ve walked with Jesus for more than twenty-four years, I still struggle with doubts. Maybe you do as well.

We’re not alone! The disciples were still in process—a process that would last their lifetimes. And the same is true of us. That is what discipleship is all about. It is the ongoing process of submitting all of life to Jesus, and seeing him saturate your entire life and world with his presence and power. It’s a process of daily growing in your awareness of your need for him in the everyday stuff of life. It is walking with Jesus, being filled with Jesus, and being led by Jesus in every place and in every way. Read the previous paragraph again—may this be a helpful definition of discipleship!

PAYING IT FORWARD

Once we start to realize that discipleship is an everyday, all-of-life process for our own lives, we’re halfway to understanding God’s call. The other half of that call is seen most clearly in the great commission, where God calls his people— all his people—to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20). Part of our own discipleship is “paying it forward”: seeing God not only work in us, for our own discipleship, but also seeing him work through us, for others’ discipleship. In fact, the Apostle Paul tells us that a primary way we grow into maturity in Christ is through “speaking the truth in love” to and with each other (Eph 4:16). God didn’t design discipleship to primarily happen alone.

(Excerpted from the Saturate Field Guide by permission.)

Comment

Jeff Vanderstelt

Jeff Vanderstelt is the visionary leader of Saturate, the Soma Family of Churches, and the lead teaching pastor of Doxa Church in Bellevue, WA. He also travels around the US and the world equipping the Church in the gospel and missional living. He is the author of "Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life." He and Jayne, his wife of 22 years, have three children; Haylee, Caleb, and Maggie.

Is It Okay to Leave My Church?

Have we finished the work you have for us to do in this place?

Recently I was asked this question: How do you know when/if it’s okay to leave a church? (My husband is a pastor on staff.) The (new) senior pastor doesn’t see Scripture Christocentrically or understand an ongoing need for the gospel. So how can we help with that, and at what point is it better to look for another church?

I know this is a question many will wrestle with at some point in their lifetime during our long walk with the Church here on earth. First of all, it’s always important to ask God, Have we finished the work you have for us to do in this place, and have You (God) finished the work you want to do in us in this place?

In this case, God may be calling you to participate gently and patiently in how he plans to bring reform to the church or pastor. If your work is done, He may be using this situation to release you to another work.

Second, it is very important to share your thoughts/concerns with leadership. In this case, it would be very important for your husband to speak truthfully to the senior pastor about his concern. If he has already done this and the senior pastor has made it clear where he stands, it’s still important to ask if he is open to discussing it more, reading some books/articles together, etc. Make sure you let him know you are open to learning from him about why he believes what he does. Encourage him to help you come to his conclusions versus the ones you have landed with. This kind of openness in learning and dialog is absolutely necessary. If the answer is still a clear “no,” then . . .

I recommend your husband ask the senior or board of elders (if there is a plurality of leadership) what they recommend he do. I often encourage leaders to clarify their convictions to their senior leadership and how they also believe in submission to leaders and unity in the local church. I encourage them to speak about their personal convictions and how they want to be faithful to their obey their conscience/Holy Spirit conviction while also remaining in submission and maintaining the unity of the Spirit.

This could lead to 1) a mutually agreed-upon process of helping you leave the church in a gracious way, 2) a process of further study together, or 3) an agreement to work together allowing for mixed views to coexist.

In all of this, make sure you bathe your decision in prayer, submit to wise counsel, and open your hands to whatever the Spirit wants to lead you to . . . even if it’s not what you had planned.

Comment

Jeff Vanderstelt

Jeff Vanderstelt is the visionary leader of Saturate, the Soma Family of Churches, and the lead teaching pastor of Doxa Church in Bellevue, WA. He also travels around the US and the world equipping the Church in the gospel and missional living. He is the author of "Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life." He and Jayne, his wife of 22 years, have three children; Haylee, Caleb, and Maggie.

Undoing Wrong Thinking

Getting believers to obey God together in the midst of non-Christians is one of the most powerful witnesses to the gospel we have.

I recently sat down with Brian Daniel from LifeWay‘s Groups Ministry blog to talk about helping churches and leaders transition their people toward an all-of-life discipleship environment. I shared with Brian some of what I’ve learned about helping leaders move their small groups toward life-on-life, life-in-community, and life-on-mission disciple-making communities. He asked some great questions.


BrianIn Saturate you refer to All-of-Life discipleship. Let’s begin with a short description of how you define “All-of-Life” discipleship.

JV: In Ephesians 4:15, the apostle Paul states, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” This passage is in the context of Paul describing how the church is called to equip every believer to grow up into maturity and that maturity looks like Jesus. Notice that Paul states we are to grow up in every way. This refers to every aspect of our lives. In other places Paul shows that our eating, drinking, working, resting, and relating are all meant to be done for the glory of God. So, first of all, when I say “All-of-Life” discipleship I am referring to developing each other toward Christ-likeness in every aspect of life. Discipleship is not a program we attend or a curriculum we get through, though both assist in discipleship.

Discipleship happens in the everyday stuff of life with followers of Jesus being committed to life-on-life, life-in-community, and life-on-mission together throughout the week. Life-on-life means we are committed to our lives being visible and accessible. We commit to help each other grow up in every aspect of life by having every aspect of life visible and accessible to each other. Life-in-community means we are being discipled by many people, men and women, expressing a variety of gifts, not just by one person. Life-on-mission means we disciple people best when we are making disciples together, with both Jesus followers and those not yet following Jesus.

Brian: How do you approach topics that may be best explored in gender-specific sub-groups? Is breaking into gender-specific groups fairly regular or more of an exception?

JV: First of all, one of the things I often have to clarify is that a missional community is not an event but a people who love one another like family on-mission together throughout the week. I say this because often people try to fit all of their discipleship work into a weekly event for an hour or two. It’s just not possible to make disciples in that amount of time. Second, to answer your question, most of our groups have another time during the week where they meet in gender-specific groups. We call these DNA Groups. (Discover Jesus together in Scripture. Nurture the truths of Jesus in each other’s hearts. Act in response to repentance and belief.) Our missional community gathers weekly for a family meal on Wednesday nights, the women connect on Monday nights, and our men connect on Tuesday mornings. And we all gather together on Sunday mornings with the rest of the church.

Brian: How are each of these environments resourced? That is, what do group members “do” in each of the environments? Even though life-on-mission would seem to be self-explanatory, I’d love to know how missional “events” are planned and scheduled.

JV: These environments are resourced by people who have been and are being trained to “BE” disciples first. So, first of all, we believe we need to equip the church to see they ARE disciples on mission all of the time. That is one of the reasons I wrote Saturate and Ben and I created the Saturate Field Guide. I find the reason most Christians are not “on mission” is because they don’t believe God has made them His missionary people. When, and if, they believe they truly are missionaries to their neighbors, co-workers, and friends, often they already know what to do.

With that said, some of the work we have to do is to “undo” wrong thinking. For instance, thinking mission is an event is one example. Mission is not an event—it is a lifestyle. We don’t teach people to run events—we teach people to invite unbelievers into their lives and the activities they are already engaged in or join unbelievers in the activities they are involved in. We are not calling people to add more events to their already busy lives. We train them to engage in what they already do with gospel intentionality. It’s not necessarily additional, but intentional. Ideally, getting a few Christians to join together in the activities of everyday life with gospel intentionality is the goal—activities such as eating, playing, and working. I interact with parents all the time who tell me they don’t have time for Jesus’ mission because they are too busy with their children’s activities. What they often fail to see is that the mission is in the middle of those activities. They can disciple their children and the other parents and coaches during their sports events. They can see their children’s school activities as the ministry and engage as disciple-making disciples there.

The biggest thing we need to learn is how to walk in the Spirit, be saturated with the gospel, and ask God to work through our lives to both attract people to Jesus through our visible witness and call people to Jesus through our verbal one.

Brian: I’ve interviewed Jonathan Dodson and Steve Gladen on life-on-life and life-in-community in prior posts. What tips would you have for a group leader who wants to move his or her group more toward a life-on-mission environment?

JV: First of all, if they are already studying the Bible together, move from “personal application only” to communal and missional application. For instance, don’t only ask the question “How will you apply this?” Ask, “If we believe this, how will we apply it together in our community and how will we apply it together on mission?” Start obeying God’s word in community.

Most of the Bible was not written to individuals and therefore was not meant primarily for personal application. It was written to God’s people (plural) and intended for communal application. And God wants his people obeying him together in the middle of a dark and broken world, not inside our Christian cul-de-sacs. Getting believers to obey God together in the midst of non-Christians is one of the most powerful witnesses to the gospel we have. Jesus said the world would know we are his disciples by our love for one another. So let’s start loving God and one another in the midst of a world that needs to see God’s love on display.

Next, the group leader needs make sure everyone knows, believes, and can communicate the gospel in culturally relevant ways—showing that the gospel speaks to every aspect of life. The gospel isn’t just a bridge over the gap of sin so we can avoid hell when we die. The gospel is the power of God for salvation to all who believe, and it impacts every single aspect of our lives today and forever. Group leaders need to immerse their group in the gospel so the group becomes a gospel-fluent people.

And then the group leader needs to regularly remind the group why they exist. They exist to glorify God by displaying what He is like and declaring what He has done. They were rescued and saved by Jesus for a purpose—to make disciples who make disciples for the glory of God and the good of their city. Each group should identify people or even a people group they believe God is sending them to that don’t yet believe in and know Jesus. Then, they should regularly pray for them and ask God how they might intentionally engage in life together with them.

This isn’t about inviting people to attend a church event. This is about a group learning to be God’s people (the church) on mission in the everyday stuff of life with others. For instance, my missional community is presently asking God for how we should engage in our children’s sporting events and school activities to show and share Jesus with the families there. Others are asking how they might together show and share Jesus to their co-workers while at work and through after-work parties they attend together. I know of another missional community that is making their nightlife activity their mission by going to the same restaurants or clubs with gospel intentionality together.

The key in all of this is relationships. You will never get a group on mission by just studying about mission and remaining distant from mission. You need to engage actively together in relationships, while at the same time relating together to God in prayer prior to and during these activities.

Brian: Taking into account life-on-life, life-in-community, and life-on-mission, is there a natural way for these environments to evolve out of a church’s values, or is the expectation that these environments must be very intentionally and meticulously developed? What are the first steps to adopting this approach to discipleship?

I believe the church’s job is to make this normative. It must be embraced by the church leadership, filtered through all its teaching and training, shaped by how it spends its time and resources, and shown in the lives of its leaders. If the leaders are not engaged in this kind of discipleship, then they should never expect the church to get there. Churches also need to make more space for their people to live this kind of life. Too many churches fill their schedules with activities at their buildings, thus filling people’s schedules with Christian activities that pull them out of the mission field. We have made it a point not to create events that prevent people from being on mission throughout the week. In fact, at this point in the church I lead, Sunday is the only day we have scheduled events. Even those events exist to equip or support our people on the mission of making disciples.

The most important thing is getting church leaders and programs to shift toward equipping and supporting the people to be disciple-makers, instead of looking to leaders and programs to make the disciples for the church.

Once that happens, the leadership of the church needs to ask if everything they do serves to equip God’s people. I call this a disciple-making audit. I believe every staff member or leader in a church needs to ask how they can better focus their energies and gifts to equip the people for ministry. Instead of doing the ministry for the people, start equipping the people for the ministry.

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Jeff Vanderstelt

Jeff Vanderstelt is the visionary leader of Saturate, the Soma Family of Churches, and the lead teaching pastor of Doxa Church in Bellevue, WA. He also travels around the US and the world equipping the Church in the gospel and missional living. He is the author of "Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life." He and Jayne, his wife of 22 years, have three children; Haylee, Caleb, and Maggie.

5 Ways To Equip Disciples as Gospel Ministers

Church leader? Your job is not to do the ministry for the church, but to equip the church to be gospel ministers.

Habakkuk 2:14 speaks of a day when “The knowledge of the glory of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.” That is a saturation point–a time in which everywhere you go, the knowledge of the glory of the Lord will saturate everyone and everything. You will not be able to avoid to truths of God.

The Apostle Paul says in Colossians 1:27 that Christ in us is the hope of glory and in Ephesians 1:23 that the church is Christ’s body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. The church is God’s plan for saturation. Christ in us and Christ through us, every day and everywhere, so that through us Christ might be preeminent in everything (Col. 1:18). I call this gospel saturation, in which every man, woman and child has a daily encounter with Jesus in word and deed through his people, the church.

This is why we have been saved. This is why we exist. 

But this won’t happen if we continue to see church as a building or a weekly event we attend. Buildings don’t saturate a place. They take up space. They also can’t move and fill other places. Events won’t saturate the world with God’s glory either. They may be led by or participated in by glory-bearing, Jesus-filled people, but the event cannot travel and fill space. People do.

Church is not a building. Church is not an event. The church is the people of God set apart for the mission of God – filled with his power and presence so that his purposes are accomplished every day everywhere – in the workplace, at school, in cafes and pubs, around dinner takes and on the soccer field.

Do you believe that? Do you believe you are the church? Do you believe the church is actively on mission every day in the stuff of life for the glory of God? We must commit to equipping everyday people for the everyday mission of gospel saturation.

If you are a leader in the church, do you see your job is not to do the ministry for the church, but to equip the church for ministry in the everyday stuff of life (Eph. 4:11-12)?

This is where it begins.

First, leaders need to reconsider their calling. Shift from being a minister of the gospel to being an equipper of gospel ministers. This doesn’t mean you cease from gospel ministry, but it does mean equipping others is a significant part of your ministry.

Second, help people see they are designed uniquely by God and put in the place they live on purpose by God. Too often we create programmatic boxes for people to fit into instead of helping them engage uniquely in ministry where God has already placed them. In doing so, we often pull people out of the mission field and unnaturally try to squeeze them into our ministry molds. I recently spoke with a woman who thanked me for affirming the truth of her unique design and calling. Her passion and skills are in the fashion industry, and her place in life is with a unique class of people who likely will never enter a church building. She started a fashion business as a ministry that has a natural open door for mission.

Third, publicly affirm and commission people in your gatherings for mission outside of the building or weekly event. I was speaking to a local businessman about his work in our city. “It’s clear the church doesn’t affirm business as mission because the only people it publicly commissions are full-time pastors,” he replied. He shared how he had observed seminary graduates publicly affirmed and commissioned for ministry, but never business people. At the church I lead now, we are commissioning all people for ministry. During our Sunday gatherings, we’ve begun to highlight and pray over a group of people on mission in everyday life. In addition, when we baptize people at our church, we state that their baptism is also their commission to the mission Jesus gave us.

Fourth, consider how your language affirms your convictions. When I visit other churches or meet with other pastors, I regularly hear their language affirm that people “go to church.” I regularly remind our people that they don’t “go to church” but they “are the church.” I communicate publicly that it is my job, and the job of our staff, to equip them to go “be the church” on Jesus’ mission wherever he is sending them. So often we send people mixed messages by saying things like, “It’s good to be in the house of the Lord” or “I’m so glad you decided to come to church today.” But the Scriptures teach that God’s people are the house of the Lord. We are his temple. Are you affirming this truth with your language?

And finally, make sure you regularly reaffirm God’s people as the priesthood. I still see a strong clergy/laity distinction in so many churches. We call people to the mission and yet prevent them from doing the ministry. For example, Jesus said to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and then teaching them to obey everything Jesus commanded–which includes making disciples and baptizing them. However, I still see churches affirm that only the pastor can baptize. We call people to make disciples, which according to Jesus includes baptizing, but, we don’t let people baptize. I have watched many people get into the water with their friends or relatives in obedience to Jesus’ command. One woman told me she had never baptized anyone, although she had led people to faith in Jesus before. This was the first time in her life she was free to obey Jesus’ command in this way.

Ask yourself, what ministry are you taking away from the people you lead? What have you prevented them from participating in? I have policy that I try to work by: Don’t continue to do for people what they could do themselves if they were equipped and trained. Baptism is one example, but there are many others.

Remember, the church is not a building or an event. The church is God’s people saved by God’s power who are filled with God’s presence for God’s purposes in the world.

Gospel saturation doesn’t happen in a building.

It won’t get accomplished through an event.

Gospel saturation happens in you and then gospel saturation happens through you…until all the earth is filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord.

Coming Soon: Gospel Fluency

Gospel Fluency: Speaking the Truths of Jesus into the Everyday Stuff of Life

About the book: At the core of Christianity is belief in the gospel of Jesus Christ. But how should the gospel affect our lives after we believe? And how can we speak gospel truths into everyday issues of life? In this book, experienced pastor and speaker Jeff Vanderstelt argues that all people—Christians and non-Christians alike—need to hear the gospel on a regular basis. Teaching believers what it looks like to become truly “fluent” in the gospel so that it becomes a natural part of our everyday conversations, Vanderstelt shows how the good news of Jesus is our only hope for every aspect of our lives.

Click here to pre-order the book—available February 28, 2017.

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Jeff Vanderstelt

Jeff Vanderstelt is the visionary leader of Saturate, the Soma Family of Churches, and the lead teaching pastor of Doxa Church in Bellevue, WA. He also travels around the US and the world equipping the Church in the gospel and missional living. He is the author of "Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life." He and Jayne, his wife of 22 years, have three children; Haylee, Caleb, and Maggie.

Being the Church Everyday

Church is not a building. Church is not an event.

Church is the people of God filled with the presence of God set apart for the purposes of God in the world. For this reason, we must commit to equipping everyday people for the everyday mission of gospel saturation.

Do you believe that? Do you believe you are the church? Do you believe the church is actively on mission every day in the stuff of life – in the workplace, at school, in cafes and pubs, around dinner tables, and on the soccer field, all for the glory of God?

If you are a leader in the church, do you see that your job is not to primarily do the ministry for the church, but to equip the church for ministry in the everyday stuff of life (Eph. 4:11-12)?

Sixteen months ago I accepted an invitation to replant a broken and hurting church. My team and I have been wrestling with helping our body transition from a Sunday to an “everyday” church, praying with members through wounds old and new, and reorienting our people to see themselves as the church – a people saved by God who have been sent out into the world by God for his purposes.

Recently I was speaking with a couple who’re in the process of becoming missional community leaders and I asked them how they thought the transition from Sunday to everyday was going.

“To be honest, we’re a little overwhelmed.”

When I asked why, they responded,

“Well, it used to be that church was one-two hours on Sunday and a few hours on Wednesdays with our community group. But you keep saying that we don’t go to church, we are the church 24-7. That’s a little overwhelming because that means everything counts – we’re always on.”

I said, “Well, you know I didn’t make that up, right? You already were the people of God 24-7 regardless of whether I said so.”

They agreed with some laughter, “Of course, we see that. It’s just that we weren’t really thinking about it before. Now we are.”

I continued, “Well, it doesn’t need to overwhelm you. If you were the church 24-7 before when you weren’t thinking about it, and God was at work in you, whether you knew it or not, think about how much more fulfilling life could be when you are fully aware that he is at work in and through you all the time, even when you’re sleeping!”

I went on to explain that God isn’t necessarily looking for us to try harder or add more ministry demands on our lives. He wants us to walk in greater awareness and dependency on him in the everyday stuff of life and engage what we we’re already doing with gospel intentionality.

This isn’t additional, this is intentional. It’s not about adding more to our busy lives, it’s about engaging all of life for his glory. It’s about fully realizing we have his power because he is present in us and in all we do.

They went on to share all the present activities they were already engaged in and one by one, we began to discuss how they might enter in to the already established rhythms of their lives a little differently.

You can do this too.

Whether you’re a leader or not, God wants you to see that he is present in your life by his Spirit, at work in your life by his power and eager to be glorified through your life for your joy, others’ good, and Jesus’ fame.

  1. Evaluate. Carve out some time to consider all you are presently doing or involved in. What if you were to start seeing those activities and events as the places where God wants to work through you to show his glory and tell his story? That’s what he intends to do through all of his people.
  2. Pray. God wants gospel saturation to happen through you, but it first of all needs to happen to you. Invite him to saturate you with his Spirit and then saturate your world with his glory every day and everywhere. Ask for the Spirit to show where he wants you to focus your time and efforts. Pray through each of your daily rhythms and ask God to open your eyes and heart to where He is already working. Invite him to show you areas that need the good news of Jesus.
  3. Reprioritize. After prayerful reflection of the activities and rhythms of your daily life, is there anything you should cut so you have more time to spend in other areas? Or maybe there is something Jesus is leading you to start doing? Or even keep doing, but in a different way?
  4. Submit and Share. Test what you’re hearing against Scripture and process with your spouse, missional community, friends – anyone you trust to give you wise counsel. Invite them to speak into your conclusions and to partner with you in the work if necessary.
  5. Act. Begin to make the necessary changes. Remember that Jesus is already at work in the relationships and situations in your life. And, in you. You have the power and presence of God.

Walking in obedience brings rest and peace at the soul level. Yes, you will die to self, things will most likely get messy, but Jesus will give you what you need moment by moment. And, in that you will find rest for your soul.

Gospel saturation doesn’t happen in a building.

It won’t get accomplished through an event.

Gospel saturation happens in you and then gospel saturation happens through you…until all the earth is filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord.

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Jeff Vanderstelt

Jeff Vanderstelt is the visionary leader of Saturate, the Soma Family of Churches, and the lead teaching pastor of Doxa Church in Bellevue, WA. He also travels around the US and the world equipping the Church in the gospel and missional living. He is the author of "Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life." He and Jayne, his wife of 22 years, have three children; Haylee, Caleb, and Maggie.

Saying Goodbye to Sunday Morning Christianity

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?

No.

Jesus lived, died, and rose again to save a people who would live everyday, every moment for his glory. A people who understand the gospel permeates every aspect of their life. This begins with understanding ministry isn’t just what pastors do on Sundays and discipleship is much more than a class or program. Instead, every believer has been called:

  • to a life of 24/7 submission to Jesus Christ
  • to join with others on God’s mission as servant missionaries
  • to see ourselves as sent ones

Called and sent . . . into the space God has planted us to bring the experience of Jesus’ rule and reign into a dark world, proclaim the gospel, and make disciples

Imagine your city, neighborhood, schools and workplace proclaiming the glory of Jesus through word and gracious deed so that every man, woman, and child has a daily encounter with Jesus.

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Jeff Vanderstelt

Jeff Vanderstelt is the visionary leader of Saturate, the Soma Family of Churches, and the lead teaching pastor of Doxa Church in Bellevue, WA. He also travels around the US and the world equipping the Church in the gospel and missional living. He is the author of "Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life." He and Jayne, his wife of 22 years, have three children; Haylee, Caleb, and Maggie.