Friday, February 24, 2017

Book Review: Gospel Fluency

Gospel Fluency: Speaking the Truths of Jesus Into The Everyday Stuff of Life. Jeff Vanderstelt. 2017. Crossway. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]

From the foreword: Every human being on earth needs salvation, not only from the wrath to come, but also from the flimsy theology permeating our Christian communities. That might sound a bit extreme, but in essence it is true.

From chapter one: I’m an unbeliever. So are you. “Wait,” you’re thinking. “What are you doing writing a book about the gospel of Jesus Christ if you’re an unbeliever? And what do you know about me? Who do you think I am?” I grew up believing that people fall into two categories: you are either a believer or an unbeliever—; you either believe in Jesus Christ and what he has done for us or you don’t.

Do you know the gospel? Do you need the gospel? Do you love the gospel? Do you live the gospel? Do you SPEAK the gospel, not just in the words you say in front of others, not just in the words you say to justify yourself to yourself, but in the way you live your life? Vanderstelt's book is about becoming fluent in the gospel.

What does it mean to be gospel fluent? In his own words, 
"We need to know how to believe and speak the truths of the gospel—the good news of God—in and into the everyday stuff of life. In other words, we need to know how to address the struggles of life and the everyday activities we engage in with what is true of Jesus: the truths of what he accomplished through his life, death, and resurrection, and, as a result, what it true of us as we put our faith in him. The gospel has the power to affect everything in our lives."
He continues, 
"Gospel-fluent people think, feel, and perceive everything in light of what has been accomplished in the person and work of Jesus Christ. They see the world differently. They think differently. They feel differently. When they are listening to people, they are thinking: “How is this in line with the truths of the gospel? What about Jesus and his work might be good news to this person today? How can I bring the hope of the gospel to bear on this life or situation so this person might experience salvation and Jesus will be glorified?” When they see movies, they see the themes of the gospel, and they also notice which themes represent a false gospel. They begin to evaluate the storylines of their surrounding culture in light of the story of God’s redemptive purposes in Christ Jesus, and they learn to perceive where God might already be at work around them, preparing the soil of a community and individual hearts for the seeds of the gospel to be sown. Most significantly, those who are growing in gospel fluency are experiencing ongoing transformation themselves."
This book is divided into five sections: Gospel Fluency, The Gospel, The Gospel in Me, The Gospel with Us, and The Gospel to Others.

This one is good and basic and fundamental. Don't assume because it covers all the basics that "mature" "advanced" believers can skip it, that this is one for baby Christians. I'm convinced that we need the gospel every day, no matter what. And sometimes it's the people who think they know the gospel inside and out and back again that need the most basic principles of the gospel fleshed out for them...again.

The ideas are really good. The narrative has a lot of illustrations in it--dialogue situations--that I haven't quite decided if I like or not. I think his coaching you through how to speak the gospel to others--or to yourself--in love can come across at first as a little condescending. There were certain passages that I just felt were slightly awkward or unnatural. But. That being said, do I disagree with his theology? No.

I found his ideas thought-provoking for the most part. I liked what he had to say about stories and storytelling especially. "Listening to one another’s stories enables us to learn about God’s work in one another as well. Every one of us has a story, and all of our stories are part of the true story. Really, our story is God’s story. Though we regularly believe they are about us, our stories are really all about him, for “in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28)."

His ideas about gospel fluency stayed with me as I read two books: John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress and Taylor Caldwell's No One Hears But Him. Both would be great examples of gospel fluency, in my opinion. Caldwell's book in particular stood out to me in terms of stories and finding ways to connect the gospel to our lives, our stories, our needs. But Christian and Faithful OR Christian and Hopeful (depending on where you are in their journey) are also great at speaking truth in love into any and every situation.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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