Book Review: Gospel Fluency
Gospel Fluency: Speaking the Truths of Jesus into the Everyday Stuff of Life
Houston, we have a problem. Well, Lighthouse, we have a problem. We’ve forgotten how to speak to people about Jesus. Namely, people outside the church, outside our community, and outside our comfort zones. We need more than a crash course on sharing our faith—we need a semester abroad of gospel immersion in order to become gospel fluent. Enter a new (well, not that new) book, Gospel Fluency by Jeff Vanderstelt, the Pastor of Vision and Missional Communities at Doxa Church in Bellevue, Washington.
What is gospel fluency? Jeff Vanderstelt puts it this way, “We need the gospel and we need to become gospel-fluent people. 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 is true of us as we put our faith in him. The gospel has the power to affect everything in our lives.” (23) That’s easier said than done.
People don’t often realize that gospel fluency takes work, hard work. But being able to speak the truths of the gospel is also a work of grace in our lives that leads us back to Christ and points us to our dependence and faith in him. Every Christian is called to be gospel fluent because the gospel has transformed everything about our lives. Yet, many of us struggle to see how the gospel applies to our trials, our joys, our suffering, and our everyday routines. And that makes it difficult for us to share the gospel with our neighbors and coworkers. Well, Gospel Fluency is a great launching pad to help us think through and evaluate how we live out the gospel in our own lives, and speak about the gospel to others.
The Battle Within: Sharing the Gospel Starts with Us.
Ever wonder why we talk about preaching the gospel to ourselves everyday? Or do you struggle to apply the gospel in the midst of trials? Well, it’s often because there’s a battle waging within each of us––a battle for our heart and minds. And until our hearts truly love the gospel and the person of Jesus Christ, we’ll have difficulty speaking gospel truths to others. Jeff Vanderstelt points to the fact that we all struggle with unbelief, which downplays the importance of the gospel in our lives. Unbelief creeps in when we sin, when we turn to idols, when we believe something else is better than loving Jesus. “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” (29). We each need heart surgery for unbelief.
In Gospel Fluency, we see that the fruit of our lives comes from the root. Our beliefs motivate us and provoke us toward outward action, whether good or bad. We talk about things we love. We avoid things we believe are bad for us. We seek things that are good. So, when it comes to the gospel, do we truly believe that it’s good news? Or do we avoid speaking about the gospel with believers and unbelievers because we think things will end poorly? This book is a call for us to evaluate our hearts when it comes to talking about the name of Jesus.
The Fruit of Fluency: Speaking the Gospel Regularly.
Imagine moving to a new country and trying to speak a new language. It’d be a struggle to say the least––I’d have a hard time finding my way, locating a place to stay, ordering food (!), and connecting with the people. Many Christians struggle with talking about Jesus because we’re trying to speak a language that we haven’t practiced at all. But the Lord has given us gospel-centered communities––the local church––as a practicing ground for gospel fluency. How many of us are practicing?
In James 2:17, we see that true faith produces works. “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” Our faith must produce something. Our genuine belief must change the way we live and the way we speak. When we speak about Jesus to one another in the local church, we’re better equipped to be fluent outside the church. We’ve practiced and it’s natural. It just becomes part of our everyday lingo. And this is how it should be for people who love and trust in Jesus for all things. Gospel Fluency is not just a call for us to evaluate our hearts, but a call to a culture of gospel fluency within the church. Imagine that!
At Lighthouse, we’re blessed to have a gospel-centered community of brothers and sisters that are committed to loving and fellowshipping well for God’s glory. But there’s the danger that our comfortable conversations could be devoid of Jesus altogether. Does Jesus invade our conversations? Is he on our hearts, and therefore our minds? Do we speak to unbelievers about the gospel? Are we encouraging one another in gospel fluency?
A Worthwhile Read
I picked this book up on a whim at a counseling conference as I was thinking about Praxis’ upcoming preaching series through the book of Acts. But it’s been an encouragement and a challenge to me, and it made me want to be more thoughtful in the way I love Jesus. It’s fitting for a series through Acts where we’ll be talking about evangelism and mission––so I’m encouraging our group to read through this book in their accountability or small groups to supplement our study of God’s word. This book will give legs to what we’ll be hearing on Thursday nights––practical applications and ideas that will push us to become a more gospel fluent group. My hope is that all of us will speak of Jesus and the gospel so much that sharing the gospel with people outside our community becomes a natural outflow. With hearts set on Christ, we can’t help but speak about him to others.
Brian Chang (email@example.com) serves as an Associate Pastor of discipleship at Lighthouse, as well as shepherding Praxis, the post-college/young adult ministry. His passion is to help deepen believers’ conviction and understanding of their beliefs. He is grateful for the humble examples displayed by the church family, as well as their patience with his many flaws (especially when it comes to taste in food). In his free time, Brian enjoys reading about church history, writing book reviews, playing basketball, working on bicycles, and spending time with his wife Kristin.