Discipleship isn’t easy. It’s not rocket science either, but teaching people to observe everything Jesus commanded is no small task. It can be intimidating, even when both people are committed to the process. In other words, it takes commitment, and we live in a culture that chafes at the idea of signing a 2 year contract for cell phone service.
Jeff Vanderstelt doesn’t shy away from these realities but presses into them in Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus In The Everyday Stuff of Life. In a little over 250 pages he casts a vision for discipleship that is more mindset than method. He begins with his own story before presenting the story of Jesus’ life and ministry as the basis for why we try to make disciples. Jesus is better than anything this life has to offer and the goal of our discipleship is Jesus saturation first in our own lives and then in the lives of those we are ministering with and to.
After these two parts of the book, Vanderstelt turns to unpacking discipleship a bit further. He explains what he understands life on life discipleship to entail and illustrates it with numerous stories from his own ministry. This part serves as a bridge between the Christology of the second part of the book and the ecclesiology and vision for sanctification that comes in the fourth part of the book. He takes a Trinitarian approach here, explain in successive chapters what our baptism into each person of the Trinity entails. From this vantage point, the final part of the book gets more practical in explaining how this vision of discipleship can be enacted in the everyday stuff of life. A couple of helpful appendices serve leaders wanting to implement ideas and principles from the book into their own small group or missional contexts.
For me, this book wasn’t eye opening or mind blowing. Most books of this type aren’t anymore. I appreciate what Vanderstelt is doing, but you could more or less sum up the book by saying discipleship is about being grounded in the gospel yourself and then being intentional about spending time with other people. As you understand the gospel better yourself and see the glory of God in the face of Christ, you will naturally and organically share that with others if you’re intentional about fostering relationships and community.
So while there is a place for sitting down and doing one on one Bible studies as means of discipleship, that really isn’t life on life and really isn’t enough when it comes to really teaching others the ways of Christ. People need models to show them the ways of Christ. That means teaching others to observe all that Jesus commanded requires you seeking to do the same in your own life. As you do that, and invite others into your life, discipleship becomes less of something added into your schedule or more something that just flows out of your everyday rhythms of life. Saturate expands on this and captures the imagination better than pure didactic teaching will. But, if you’re already on-board with this vision, you probably don’t need to read the book.
Jeff Vanderstelt, Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus In The Everyday Stuff of Life. Wheaton: Crossway, April 2015. 256 pp. Hardcover, $19.99.
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Thanks to Crossway for the review copy!