As a follower of Jesus, I feel like I am on a never-ending journey of trying to see Jesus in everyday life. But this is not always easy. I do not like admitting this. I mean, after all, I am a pastor. I am supposed to have this kind of thing figured out… right? But all too often I look at the world and attempt to be a valuable contributor without thinking about how the good news about Jesus should impact how I live every day. This good news is called the Gospel throughout the New Testament. And there is a problem… All too often the Gospel is thought of, at least in my own life, as an abstract concept or theme that has no direct impact on the everyday stuff of life. What I do is often look at the Gospel as if it were the means by which I entered a relationship with Jesus, but I act as if I have grown beyond it now. I do not like coming out and saying this… but when I look at my life, it is the truth. It is as if I say, “the Gospel was good news… but now? Well, it is still good news. Just not for me. It is good news for those who have never heard it.”
What I have come to see is that when I do not apply the gospel as good news in my life and merely try to press on in my own strength, this is evidence of unbelief in my life. And unbelief is dangerous. While I do not doubt the existence of God or the fact that Jesus was/is who He said He was/is, I too often do not apply the truth of the Gospel in everyday life. The result? I functionally live as if I do not believe. The author of Hebrews talks about this in Hebrews 3 as he reflects upon Israel’s unbelief which prevented them from experiencing the rest that God had promised them. The author of Hebrews warns the readers of the book to not fall into the same trap of unbelief, but to press into the promises God has made trusting that He is faithful. The author goes on to write in the next chapter, “For we also have received the good news just as they did” (Hebrews 4:2a).
But how do we do this? It is here that I have found the Gospel Fluency Handbook extremely helpful. The handbook is designed to study in community. Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to do this when working through it for this review. One of the strong points of the handbook is the structure and discussion questions which encourage communal study and growth. This structure helps put flesh on the content as the reader processes how to apply the information to the everyday stuff of life. One challenging part of the handbook is the high demand it places on participants. Each week, there are three readings and multiple exercises/questions to work through and a weekly gathering to make a priority. As I will note later, these readings are manageable in and of themselves. However, the amount of reading and reflection required of a participant over the course of a week will be very demanding.If a group decides to use this book, which I would highly recommend, it will require a high level of honesty and commitment by each participant. There is an alternative schedule that may be helpful for some groups to consider (see the bottom of page 3). The keys for communities walking through this together will be honesty and accountability.
The handbook derives from Jeff Vanderstelt’s Gospel Fluency, which desires to help readers “move from unbelief to belief, in whatever area(s) of your life you find it difficult to believe God’s promises, and live according to that belief” (page 2). In pursuit of this goal, participants take the following journey:
– Week 1: seeing unbelief in everyday life;
– Week 2: looking at the Gospel story
– Weeks 3 & 4: understanding how the Gospel story intersects with the life of an individual;
– Weeks 5 & 6: understanding how the Gospel transforms how we interact with one another in community
– Weeks 7 & 8: speaking the gospel into the lives of those around us in the everyday stuff of life.
These are big ideas that might seem impossible. However, because of the structure and content, I believe Vanderstelt and Connelly have provided the Church with a resource that sets the stage for groups to begin applying the Gospel to the everyday stuff of life. What is so helpful about the structure?
(1) As noted earlier, the communal bend. Here I want to bring to the forefront the accountability this provides. The community offers an even stronger motivation to press forward, especially when things get hard. This truth is seen in a study like this as well as other areas of life.
(2) The material is articulated well and presented in manageable chunks. The readings each week are only 3-4 pages and focus on a single theme. These sections allow the reader to understand and apply the truth of the Gospel for that day/week. What is important here is not to skip over what is the third helpful piece of the structure.
(3) Penetrating reflection questions. When given the appropriate time and introspection, the reader has no other option but to begin applying the Gospel to areas of unbelief in their life and community.
(4) The exercises. These are designed to be done on the community day and will encourage participants and communities with ways to apply the Gospel that may seem uncomfortable at first, but will allow there to be transparency and an opportunity to speak the Gospel to one another.
This is an excellent resource for individuals, groups, and churches. If you are an individual, I recommend you find a friend to walk through the material with you. This will only increase your ability to apply the truth of the Gospel to combat unbelief in everyday life.
Interested in reading it yourself or with your small group? Check out this Small Group Bundle Giveaway
I received a complimentary copy of this book through Litfuse. My comments are an independent and honest review.