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In the first chapter of Saturate, Vanderstelt addresses a problem plaguing many evangelical churches today: the misunderstandings of discipleship and the church. Many Christians don’t understand that they are the church and that discipleship isn’t merely church attendance or engagement in programs.
The author then casts a vision for Christians to be properly discipled and to live a life saturated by Jesus, “because people need to see what it means to follow Jesus in everyday life.” His goal is to teach people how to live their normal, everyday lives with gospel intentionality. He explains how a right understanding of our identity and security in Christ liberates and motivates us to live on-mission.
Vanderstelt makes it clear that we, the readers, are not supposed to try to re-create his stories. Instead, he uses anecdotes as ways to demonstrate specific truths. And in doing all of this, he not only realigns the reader’s perspective of discipleship, but he is actually discipling the reader. In other words, it’s not just a book about discipleship, it is a book that disciples.
Another strength of the book is its broad accessibility. I would be confident handing this book to any teenager in my youth group or to any mature believer in our church. Saturate will undoubtedly be a tool the Spirit uses to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry, [and build] up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-13).
One omission from the book that I would have found helpful was how the concept of missional communities could conflict with or complement the traditional church structure. However, this would be a great conversation to have with someone as you read this book together.
Eric Fadel is pastor of worship and youth at Cornerstone EFC in Casper, Wyoming.
Saturate challenges the status quo of ministry/mission in the local church: “What if we could retrain people to see that the mission of the church can be done in the home and the marketplace?”
Anyone seeking to begin implementing this method of mission will necessarily need “to believe the gospel in order to step out and obey Jesus.” Without faith, we cannot change into Christ’s likeness, nor conquer our fears, nor have His strength working through us—all to withstand the “intrusive and expansive” nature of living a life that makes disciples.
Saturate is best read by pastors and lay people together. Beginning missional community in an established body of believers is difficult. Grasping a vision that is already fleshed out is often easier, so a book like this is helpful. God has already been at work in my church and in my heart to move in the direction of “saturated with Jesus” community. He laid a handbook in my lap. “What if we could retrain people . . . ?”
Janet Rodgers is a lay leader at Trinity EFC in Minot, North Dakota.
While not bypassing pastors as a piece of the audience, Vanderstelt engages the laity, daring them to imagine a larger role for themselves in mission. His theology could be more complex, but that would betray Vanderstelt’s audience and thesis: everyday believers without seminary training are key to the mission of the church.
Vanderstelt puts the weight of ministry on missional communities—small groups of believers doing life and ministry together in their neighborhoods in a covenanted manner. Instead of one two-hour meeting, missional communities meet multiple times throughout the week to eat, worship, study the word, serve and recreate. They deliberately reach out and wrap nonbelievers into the life of the community, so that evangelism is always taking place.
This model depends on a robust model for the priesthood of all believers, and forces the church to re-examine commitments to centralized ministry. For a more academic look, this book could be paired with Reggie McNeal’s Missional Communities, in which Vanderstelt himself is highlighted. For a slightly different model, David Janzen’s Intentional Christian Community Handbook examines missional communities from the perspective of the New Monastic movement.
Whether you are skeptical of new church models or an early adaptor of new community forms, Saturate lays a powerful and thoughtful challenge. Congregations should wrestle with this discipleship framework, even if they do not abandon traditional gathered models.
Michael Mauriello is associate pastor of Village Church of Lincolnshire (EFCA) in Lake Forest, Illinois. He spends much of his year investing in Village Church’s growth groups, so reading this fueled his imagination.