We had the pleasure of talking with Jeff Vanderstelt about the recording of his new audiobook Gospel Fluency. The interview was recorded and be played below. Enjoy!
ANNOUNCER: Welcome! You’re listening to an exclusive author interview brought to you by christianaudio.com.
CHRISTIAN AUDIO: Hi thanks for listening! I’m Vicki Morgan interviewing for Christian Audio and I’m having a great conversation with author, speaker and ministry leader Jeff Vanderstelt about his new audiobook Gospel Fluency. If you find it hard to talk to others about Jesus, if you get nervous, if you lack confidence, or have difficulty defending your faith, Gospel Fluency will help you become a more powerful, fluid, and believable witness. But it goes a lot deeper than that, as you’ll find out in this interview.
Jeff Vanderstelt is the lead Pastor of Doxa Church in Bellevue, and the visionary leader of the Soma Family of Churches and Saturate. Jeff is the author of Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life, The Saturate Field Guide and most recently… Gospel Fluency which is now available on audiobook. Jeff’s primary mission is to train disciples of Jesus to make more disciples of Jesus… thereby equipping the Church in the gospel and missional living. When he isn’t preaching or mentoring church planters, he and his wife along with their three children share life with their missional community.
Jeff, thank you so much for taking time out of your schedule to call in today!
JEFF VANDERSTELT: Well, thank you. It’s good to be with you.
CHRISTIAN AUDIO: Well Jeff, I have to admit, I thought this interview was going to be easy. I thought to myself, Gospel Fluency… okay, know the Gospel and share it. But as I learn more about your new audiobook, and as I watched many of your videos, I realize that Gospel Fluency calls us not only to memorize the Gospel but then to make it a living, breathing, believable part of who we are.
JEFF VANDERSTELT: Yeah, it’s not so much just knowing a bunch of facts but actually developing a whole way of thinking and understanding the world and even speaking in a way that it’s normative for you to think about the Gospel, communicate the Gospel, and speak to the everyday stuff of life with the Gospel in mind and with the Gospel content in your conversations.
CHRISTIAN AUDIO: So essentially, you’re asking us to become so fluent in the Gospel that we can express every thought through it, like when we become fluent in a new language, we can express every thought we have in that new language.
JEFF VANDERSTELT: That’s right. You think about when someone learns a language, they might do vocab study and grammar study and all those other things. But the best way to learn is to be immersed in a culture to the degree at which you start to hear it regularly, think it regularly. You take in the world almost through the filter of that new language. I remember when I learned Spanish and as I became more fluent in it, I found myself not just translating Spanish into English in my head but actually thinking and feeling and having emotions expressed in Spanish, watching through the world and thinking through the world and using actually Spanish terms to describe what I was seeing and feeling and experiencing. And I think when people become so Gospel-fluent, they start to translate and understand their world in light of the lens or filter of the truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
CHRISTIAN AUDIO: And unfortunately, a lot of us don’t. We still see it dimly through the lens of the world. Even in the way we relate to people. For instance, when you’re getting to know somebody we introduce ourselves, we ask them what they do. But you’re saying we need to even rethink that.
JEFF VANDERSTELT: Yeah. It’s interesting, the world’s philosophy is “what you do is who you are” whether it’s your vocation or your behaviors. And so the things I’ve done in my past define me. But the beauty of the Gospel is that in it, God actually speaks a new Word over us in Jesus Christ and does a new work for us through His life, death, and resurrection. So, it’s not what we do that defines who we are, but it’s who God is and what God has done that defines who we are. The Gospel actually transforms all of that. And so that means we’re actually going to not only see ourselves differently because we’re going to ask, “Okay, if God defines me and God’s work in Jesus Christ defines me, not what I’ve done, then how would that not only change how I perceive and understand me … but how does that change how I perceive others?” And now I’m beginning to listen and pay attention to what it is they’ve been looking to to define themselves that’s something other than the work of God and the personal work of Jesus Christ.
And so I’m even listening with ears to say, “Where have they put their hope, where have they put their identity, where have they put their significance?” And as I discover they’re putting it in something other than the person of and work of Jesus Christ, that’s what’ll help me know how to come alongside of them and encourage them to find in Jesus something far more effective and lasting and eternal and even transformative than anything else they’ve ever had in their life.
CHRISTIAN AUDIO: Well that’s a lot to think about and Gospel Fluency really does bring to mind that scripture about renewing our minds. So why do you think some of us will easily spend two hours watching a movie, but when it comes to learning scripture, we have hard time? Why do some of find it so difficult becoming truly fluent in scripture?
JEFF VANDERSTELT: What I’ve found is people will put energy or time into the things that they love most, or what they actually think will most affect their life in ways that they want. And so, more and more I’ve come to realize that we have to just ask what are the affections of our heart? What do we actually love? What do we believe actually works, you know … even pragmatically, what changes us? And my observation is that most people spend their time around what they love most. As Jesus says “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” And so I think there’s a big part of it where they just don’t even know how beautiful the Gospel is, how amazing Jesus is, how much the Word of God can give us such great life and hope and transformation. And we all know that when we’ve engaged in it, just like anything, when it brings us really powerful things, we have to remind ourselves that, “That was a good activity and I want to go back to that.” But I think there’s also a spiritual element to this, in terms of spiritual warfare, that the evil one does not want us to have transformative abundant life. So he’s going to do everything he can to get us to go elsewhere to find what we can really only find in Christ.
So I think there’s a variety of things. There’s what do you love? Have you paid attention to your affections? Do you know what you’ve been looking to to give you what you really need, and then do you remember a time when Jesus met your need, and can you go back to that first love? Because when you remind yourself over and over again of the great love of God in Christ, if that captures your heart you’re going to want more of that again because it’s connected to what you love. And so I tell people “You talk about what you love and then you love what you talk about.” And so some of us need to talk more about the Gospel … so we remember why we love it so much. And then as we get ourselves more and more into the truths of Jesus, we’ll want to talk more and more about Jesus, which will help others want to love Him as well, because of His great love for us.
CHRISTIAN AUDIO: So when we share the Gospel with somebody but we don’t follow through with that person and help them grow in Jesus … is it because our love is with other things?
JEFF VANDERSTELT: Yeah, I think first of all, one of the reasons why people just spout off the Gospel and then don’t follow it up with anything is because very likely they didn’t really love the person that much in the first place. When we had our first-born child we didn’t just give birth. My wife didn’t just give birth and then we said, “Well, that’s done, let’s move on to the next thing.” No, we brought our daughter home; we cared for her. She’s now 14, you know, almost 15 … where we love her. And we pour our life into her. And so I think for some people it’s almost like, “Well, I have to share the Gospel because the Bible tells me so” and, “I want to obey God, but gosh, it’s, you know … okay, I’ll do it.” Instead of saying no. God’s inviting you in to the process of bringing new birth, spiritual new birth to a child of God who’s going to spend eternity with Him. The very same thing that led them to come to new life in Christ, which is the Gospel, is now the thing that you want to help them grow up in so that they become full, mature adults in Christ.
And so I think it’s back to the love. If I really love people because Jesus first loved me, then when they come to new life in Christ, I’m not satisfied with them just crossing the line of faith and getting baptized. I want them to grow up to know the fullness they have in Christ just like I want my daughters to become full, mature adults. And so, yeah, I think that’s like … we do it because we think we have to. Instead, no, we get to join God in the work of transformation of a soul! And then to see that person grow up in maturity in Christ and really love Jesus. Man, I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to keep doing that unless you just love yourself, and you don’t really love anybody but yourself.
CHRISTIAN AUDIO: Jeff, you have a way of saying things that really brings it home … Gospel Fluency is a great motivator for wanting to grow in Christ and to know what it’s like to love Christ and to love others. Along those lines, I think it was in one of your videos, you said that the church needs to “mature.”
JEFF VANDERSTELT: Yeah, my observation is, unfortunately, we maybe have adopted the wrong metrics for the church. I think, yes, we want new people to come to faith, and we love it when we see people get baptized. And there’s nothing wrong with a church getting big. But unfortunately, we don’t actually stop and say, “Wait a minute, what kinds of disciples have we developed? Are these the kinds of people who not only come to faith in Jesus but grow up in maturity to the point at which they can now make disciples of Jesus?” And Jesus’ effectiveness in His ministry wasn’t measured by His numbers but rather by the kinds of disciples He had who could then go and make other disciples. And I think some of the concerns I have is that people don’t have deep, deep roots in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and so they’re so easily swayed and led away by so many other things because we haven’t really grown them up in the maturity in Jesus.
CHRISTIAN AUDIO: The word maturity kind of makes me think of what Matt Chandler said when he reviewed Gospel Fluency. He said, “As cultural shifts and attractional ministry fades, Jeff Vanderstelt will be a faithful guide for us all.” What did he mean by cultural shifts and attractional ministry? Was he referring to a maturing of the church?
JEFF VANDERSTELT: Well, I think what Matt is referring to is that, we’ve for many, many years, especially in the United States, the church has had a privileged position in society where they had favor … where at one point the church was the center of new community development. You’d always find a church in the middle of a new town. And so there was kind of a central piece that Christianity got to play in this country. And yet, now we are in a place where that’s just not the case. And the culture is not asking, “How is the church going to help me in this?” They’re not even thinking about going to the church. They’re not thinking about getting help from Jesus and Christianity. They don’t see the Bible as necessarily something they should even look to as an authority in their life.
I’m in the northwest, in Seattle, we’re a little bit ahead maybe. Like where Chandler’s at in Dallas, and that is that people out here just say, “I don’t know why anybody would be a part of a church.” And that’s going to happen across the country more and more because of, just the secularization of our society. And so I think what he’s saying is the idea of attractional ministry is if you build it, they will come … because they all think they should go to church. That’s just not the case anymore. So now we’ve got to actually train our people to go be the church in everyday life and bring the Gospel to bear on the stuff that people are facing so they see Jesus has not lost relevancy whatsoever. You need Jesus more than you ever knew. Maybe you don’t think you need to go to a building on Sunday, but you do need to hear about Jesus, and you need to get His transforming power in your life. And so we’re going to have to equip the church to be the Gospel fluent people I think God has always wanted us to be so that every man, women, and child can have a daily encounter with Jesus in word and deed, whether they come to a building on Sunday or not.
CHRISTIAN AUDIO: That brings me to my next question, it’s one of the most convicting statements that I heard you make in reference to Gospel Fluency. You said, “The areas of deficiency in our belief in the Gospel show up when we are called to love others and make disciples.” I’ll read it again. “The areas of deficiency in our belief in the Gospel show up when we are called to love others and make disciples.”
JEFF VANDERSTELT: Yeah, the point of that statement is, as soon as, you know, you read the Bible and it says go love your neighbor, and you go, “Yeah, but I don’t want to love my neighbor. My neighbor is a jerk, you know. My neighbor is hard to deal with.” And then, it’s that moment when you go, wow. That’s where I needed the Gospel because the Gospel says before Jesus even came to the Earth, God knew you, God knew you needed help. When Jesus died on the cross for your sins, you were an enemy of God, not a friend of God. And so God wasn’t afraid to cross the street, as it were, of the universe and dwell amongst us and then give His life for us. Sinners that we were, He loved us while we were still sinners. And if that’s true of His love for me, then I can go love my neighbor who maybe isn’t the easiest to deal with. The Gospel implicates me in that moment.
And what I find is when you call people to obey the scriptures that call us to love one another, to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us, to go and make disciples, the stuff that’s broken inside of you starts to get squeezed out like when you squeeze a toothpaste roll, the stuff comes out. And I think the commandments and mission of God, if we were to actually obey them, show our insecurities that the Gospel can address, show our fears that the Gospel can address, show our sin that the Gospel not only brings forgiveness to but freedom from so we can live a new way. And so the beauty of Jesus’ mission is it leads you to your need for Jesus, the very call to God to do the work that He sent you leads you to the end of yourself and the beginning of Jesus to say, “Man, I am in need of help. I’m so unloving. Not only do I need You to forgive me for being unloving, but I need You to pour Your love into my life for Your Spirit.” And that’s what the Gospel says will happen … that we are not only forgiven, but we’re transformed by the power of Jesus.
CHRISTIAN AUDIO: And that’s what you’re calling us to … to be fluent … and the love develops as a result. And we can’t say enough about the importance and the timeliness of the message in your audiobook Gospel Fluency. It’s a crucial and a vital source for maturing, preparing and solidifying our belief in Jesus Christ.
So, how can our listeners get in touch with you and get some support for their journey to becoming fluent in the Gospel?
JEFF VANDERSTELT: Well, they could go to gospelfluency.com where we tell you a little bit more about the book and some of the resources. If you want a lot more help, saturatetheworld.com is a place where we have lots of training, lots of videos, lots of online help to really support you in your development in Gospel Fluency. So that’s gospelfluency.com or saturatetheworld.com. Those would be the two places you could go online. And you can also follow me on Twitter @JeffVanderstelt.
CHRISTIAN AUDIO: Well, great. Thank you so much for taking the time to interview with us today.
JEFF VANDERSTELT: Well, thank you so much. Thanks for having me.
CHRISTIAN AUDIO: If you want to get ahold of Jeff Vanderstelt’s new audiobook, Gospel Fluency, you can get it at christianaudio.com. And if you’d like a free audiobook sent to you each month, just join our mailing list. I’m Vicki Morgan. Thanks for listening!
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