Arguing that there’s more to being a Christian than attendingchurch every Sunday, this book will help readers recover a biblical view of discipleship and joyfully embrace God’s mission in every facet of their lives.
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About the Author
Jeff Vanderstelt is a pastor, speaker, author, and founder and visionary leader of Saturate and the Soma Family of Churches. He serves as a teaching pastor and director of missional communities at Doxa Church in Bellevue, Washington. Additionally, Jeff supports church planting globally through training and as a member of the advisory board of C2C Network.He and his wife, Jayne, have three children. You can connect with Jeff at his website, JeffVanderstelt.com, or on Twitter (@JeffVanderstelt).
Read an Excerpt
It Began in a Boat
The sun was shimmering off the smooth water of Hamlin Lake. The lines on our poles hung quietly undisturbed in the water. We hadn't had a bite for a while.
I enjoyed these moments with my dad. Though I loved catching fish, I was also fine just looking at the water and being with my father. And I needed some time for nothing: no sound, no conversation, no work. Just space.
I had been a youth pastor for twelve years, but was at a crossroad. I had served in three churches and had experienced what many would call success in all of them. However, it was clear to everyone around me that I no longer fit the youth pastor role.
I was the director of Student Impact, the high school ministry at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois. I had started off strong there as we restructured the ministry to better mobilize the students for mission to their campuses. At the beginning, it seemed as if I was the golden boy. People loved me. The team followed my lead. The ministry grew considerably. The leadership above me seemed to believe in me. I had taken on a position that needed a catalytic thinker with a new vision and strategy, and I had delivered. But eventually I had found myself in a management position, with a team that was losing trust in me. I didn't fit any longer. I had gotten into ministry because I loved seeing people's lives changed, and I had gone into youth ministry because teenagers, in their youthful idealism, believe they can be a significant part of changing the world. Now I was largely running an organization and becoming more and more distant from people.
As a result, I had fallen into a deep depression and had started seeing a counselor. I was anxious, afraid, and felt like a failure. Most nights, I tossed and turned till dawn, barely able to sleep. My wife, Jayne, had to regularly wash the bed sheets because they were drenched with my anxious sweat. I pondered the purpose of my life and how I could continue in the work I had in front of me. My heart agonized over what to do next. Some nights, I contemplated suicide. We had a newborn daughter and a newly purchased house, but I was clueless about our future. I knew I needed to get away from it all for a few days.
I needed God to speak.
I needed direction.
I needed help.
And I needed to be with my dad on the lake.
"Clearly Something Is Broken"
For some time, we didn't speak. I like that about fishing — I don't have to talk. I needed that quietness.
Finally, Dad broke the silence: "Did you know we just hired a discipleship pastor at our church? Your mother and I really like him. He's been training us to be disciples of Jesus who make disciples. We've been in the church for over fifty years now, but we've never been trained to do that. We've been having these neighborhood parties and getting into discussions about Jesus. Your mother and I are learning a lot and really enjoying it."
My dad continued to share that when his church hired its new discipleship pastor, the majority of the members didn't know how to obey Jesus's command to make disciples. Now, they were seeing that it should be normal for everyone to do it.
As he spoke, I thought of all the years I had worked with youth. I'll never forget the first student I led to faith in Jesus — Lynn. As soon as she believed, her adoptive parents kicked her out of the house. The families in our church took her into their homes and treated her as if she was one of them while she struggled forward in her faith. Her life was messy, but in the mess, she brought many others to join our community of faith.
I pictured many afternoons going through Bible stories after school with Pedro, a freshman, and his friends Jessica, Jennifer, and Adam. I laughed thinking about Jessica, who had no Bible knowledge at all, saying Joseph's new name over and over again — "Zaphenath-paneah, Zaphenath-paneah, Zaphenath-paneah" — because it sounded funny to her.
I remembered Todd, whom I walked with from seventh grade through high school. He was a shy kid whose passion came out on the field of sports. He hardly spoke out about Jesus at first, but eventually he grew to disciple boys younger than him. I thought of Nick, who, as a junior, was the life of the party. God grabbed hold of his life, transformed him, and used him to lead dozens of his classmates to Jesus — in the halls, at parties, or at a restaurant after a football game.
One of those classmates was Stephan. He had a very sad story. His mother had left him on the side of the road when he was a little boy. Eventually, he found his way through the foster system and landed in a boys' home. Stephan came to believe he had a loving Father in God because of Jesus. He went from being a lost orphan to becoming one of God's children.
Name after name, face after face, kept coming to my mind. All of these kids were everyday teenagers whom Jesus had worked in and through to accomplish great stuff.
All of them had become disciple makers.
In other words, all of them could tell the story of God's love for them through Jesus. All were growing in knowing, believing, and obeying the Scriptures. They prayed for people regularly and saw many friends come to follow, obey, and depend on Jesus as well.
Some did it through sports, others in the classroom, and many just by hanging out together and talking about Jesus in normal life. They loved being together and were excited about Jesus, and that excitement spilled out into everyone around them.
As I thought of all these kids and what my dad had just said, I found myself angry and dumbfounded. "How is it possible that someone could be in the church for over fifty years and not know how to make disciples?" I wondered. "What's wrong with the church? I've witnessed teens begin to do this in a matter of months. And why would you hire a discipleship pastor when the whole point of the church is making disciples of Jesus? It's not a separate program of the church! It's the mission of the whole church! Every disciple of Jesus is called to it.
"Clearly something is broken!"
You Are the Church
My dad continued to talk about the training he and my mom were receiving. He spoke about the parties they were throwing, the neighbors who were attending, and the conversations they were having. I was excited for his newfound ministry, but I was also sad, because as I thought about what it was like growing up in our house, I realized my parents had been doing much of this for years.
My parents were the epitome of hospitality. They arranged their lives and home so that people would want to be there. It didn't seem remarkable to me when I was growing up; it was all I knew. They put a pool in the backyard. My dad remodeled our basement and set up a pool table, Ping Pong table, coin-operated video games, and pinball machines. Our house was the place for teenagers to party because the door was always open and my mom always had the pantry fully stocked with food and drink. It was clear my parents wanted people there. It was completely normal to come home from a night out with my friends to find my parents hanging out with a group of teenagers. I'd walk in and hear them having a conversation about sports, school, dating, sex — you name it.
It seemed a little weird when I thought about it: "Why would teenagers want to hang out with my parents and talk about sex?" I wondered. "What do my parents know about sex?"
It also was not unusual during dinner for my parents to bring up a person who was in need of a place to stay: a boy whose parents had kicked him out of the house; a husband who was not doing well in his marriage and needed a break; or an ex-drug addict who needed shelter from peers who wanted to pull him back into the world of narcotics. There were dozens of these stories over the years. After they would share such a story, my parents would ask us four boys: "Should we invite him to live with us? Would one of you like to give up your room for a while?" I can't say that was always easy for us. What teenage boy wants to give up his bedroom to a stranger? However, there are many men today who call Jesus their Lord and the Vanderstelts their family because of the way my mom and dad included them.
"If my parents didn't know how to make disciples, what were they doing all those years?" I asked myself.
As I stared at the water, it dawned on me that no one had ever validated what my mom and dad did. It didn't fit into the mold of church programs. The leadership of the church never told them that they were doing the work of the church in their home. Church had been wrongly defined only as an event: a Bible study on Wednesday or a class and the worship service on Sunday.
People went to church. It was an event or a program. Church wasn't seen as the people of God doing the work of God in everyday life. What my parents did, didn't count — or at least that's what they believed.
That day in the boat was a defining moment in my life. As I look back, I recognize that the Spirit of God was showing me a deficiency in how the church was understood and structured and how discipleship was defined and practiced.
The reason the teenagers I worked with were able to make disciples of Jesus was that they believed they were the church. For them, church wasn't something you go to. Church was something you are.
This is confusing to some because the word church literally means "gathering." So people naturally think it is something you go to — after all, you go to a gathering.
However, when the Bible uses the word church, it is referring to God's people gathered to Jesus to do his work in the world. The teens were the Jesus-gathered people sent to the soccer team, the classroom, and the party on Friday night, to do Jesus's work of loving others toward him. My parents were no different. Neither were those who surrounded Jesus.
Neither are you.
When you read the accounts of Jesus's life in the Bible, you see this. You discover the everyday, messed-up people that Jesus gathered around himself to do his work. You see warriors and women, fishermen and fathers, pagans and prostitutes, the religious and the ragamuffins. And you see Jesus in the middle of all of them, doing the work of God with them in the marketplace, at a party, on a mountainside, in a house — and on a fishing boat on a calm lake where there seemed to be no fish.
He still does his work on quiet fishing boats in the middle of calm waters far away from religious gatherings. He was doing it in me, right there with my dad.
Everyday People Doing Everyday Stuff
It was then that I realized something. The youth I had worked with had experienced something closer to church than my parents' generation had. These kids were the simple, regular, messed-up people that Jesus had chosen to use in everyday life.
My parents weren't alone.
I was one of them as well.
I began to realize that I didn't fit the typical mold of a church leader either. Yes, I could preach on a stage, but I didn't fit the "church-as-event-only" approach anymore. I wanted to see people, all people, all kinds of people in every place, mobilized to be the "Jesus-gathered people" on his mission.
Then I started to think about all the youth I had worked with over the years and considered where they were. It occurred to me that many had come to believe the same thing my parents had. They didn't see themselves as a key part of the church anymore. What they did didn't seem to count. They had graduated into what the kids called "big church." They had gone from actively seeking to reach their peers through the everyday stuff of life to being asked to sit in the bleachers and watch someone else play the game. They had joined the thousands of people who unwittingly believe the lie that church is only an event you attend and that the mission of God is accomplished on a stage where only a few do the ministry in front of the many.
As a teenager, I played goalie on a hockey team that traveled throughout Michigan. At one point, I had the opportunity to step up into a higher division, a change that could have led to a hockey career. However, our family had friends who had played professional hockey, and hearing from them about the lifestyle on the road toward a hockey career made it unappealing to me. Besides, at that point in my life, I was planning to become a lawyer. So I turned down the opportunity, and with that, I stopped playing hockey altogether. I hung up my skates. In fact, I even stopped watching the game. It was a sad moment — a kind of death moment for me. I died to being a hockey player. I figured, "Why keep playing when there is nowhere to go from here but down?" I didn't want a regular reminder that I could have done more but chose not to.
This is what had happened to many of the teenagers I had led. Some of them had just taken their seats. They gave, they attended, they invited, and they served from time to time. But they were sitting most of the time. Some of them had become disillusioned with the church. They had been key players in the game. They had experienced the victories, but they had been demoted to being spectators! I think they figured that if all they were ever going to do was just watch after having played the game, then why should they even be around the game at all? Some had left the church altogether, I'm sad to say. Others had found themselves involved in college campus ministries or overseas work — places that still believed everyone should be in the game — while others had gone on to join new expressions of the church that were calling them back into the game of everyday mission. In many cases, the local churches lost some of their best players.
There I was, in a boat with my dad — and with Jesus. My dad didn't see it, but Jesus had been with him all along — and with me. He had been in all of those acts of love, open doors, and late-evening conversations. Jesus had been in the midst of his church, doing his work through my parents' lives. My mom and dad didn't need to be trained in a new form of discipleship. They needed to know that all those years they had been creating opportunities for disciples of Jesus to be made. They just needed to be equipped in how to engage those opportunities more intentionally with Jesus.
Several times throughout the next couple of days, I shared with my parents how they should see what they had always done as the ministry of the church — they could make disciples of Jesus in their home. A spark was ignited in their hearts and they began to get excited about how God had uniquely designed them for his purposes in the world. What they did mattered! He could use them as they were.
And even though they didn't know it, they had been discipling their own children while they were reaching out to others, so their example had deeply shaped me.
A New Beginning
Months passed after that time on the water, but the thoughts I'd had that day didn't leave me. "Something has to be done about this!" I kept thinking. I believed there was a need to call normal people to see all of life as the context for Jesus's ministry to happen. Everyone could be and should be a part of this. And the everyday stuff of life matters — Jesus wants to see his church engage in all of life for his purposes.
When I finally resigned from my position four months later, I believed I would never serve in a vocational capacity in any church again. The leadership had graciously paid for me to receive a thorough assessment, which revealed that I should be involved in new business start-ups, consulting, or catalytic leadership. The assessors warned me against ever getting into a management position again and clearly directed me away from church leadership unless it was church planting.
At that point, I really didn't think the church had a place for someone like me. I thought: "Why not fall back on your business degree and start a company? Make disciples of Jesus as a businessman and then teach others to do the same. Maybe you could be an encouragement to businessmen like Dad, who were never told business could be done as ministry." I also wondered: "How can Jayne and I partner together for ministry in and around our home? What if we could retrain people to see that the mission of the church can be done in the home and the marketplace?"
The day I stepped down, I received three phone calls, all from people unaware that I had resigned. Each call was an invitation to be a church planter. One of them was from a former mentor of mine. He invited me back to the greater Seattle area to plant churches with him. As he described what he felt called to do and invited me into it, I sensed a nudge from the Holy Spirit: "This is the beginning of what I started to birth in your heart on the boat. I'm in this. Trust me as I lead you into something new."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Saturate"
Copyright © 2015 Jeff Vanderstelt.
Excerpted by permission of Good News Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part 1: Beginnings,
1 It Began in a Boat,
2 Jesus Goes to Poker Parties,
Part 2: Jesus,
3 Jesus Is Better,
4 Jesus Did It Better: We Have Been Saved,
5 Jesus Does It Better: We Are Being Saved,
6 Jesus Will Make It Better: We Will Be Saved,
Part 3: Discipleship,
7 All-of-Life Discipleship,
8 Life on Life,
9 Life in Community,
10 Life on Mission,
Part 4: New Identity,
11 You Do Who You Are,
12 We Are Family: Baptized into the Name of the Father,
13 We Are Servants: Baptized into the Name of the Son (the King),
14 We Are Missionaries: Baptized into the Name of the Holy Spirit,
Part 5: The Everyday Stuff,
15 Everyday Rhythms,
16 An Everyday Plan,
17 Everyday People on Mission,
Appendix A: Missional Community Covenant Template,
Appendix B: Missional Community Covenant Sample,
What People are Saying About This
“I’ve always been grateful for Jeff Vanderstelt’s heart for discipleship. Rather than drawing people to himself, he labors to help others understand the power they possess in the Spirit. He does what all good leaders should do: spends his days equipping others to do the work of the ministry.”
Francis Chan,New York Times bestselling author, Crazy Love and Forgotten God
“Saturate is a compelling and biblically serious picture of Jesus and the mission he has given his people. It is a book that is deeply doctrinal and helpfully applicable. I have known Jeff to faithfully live out the philosophies of life and day-to-day ministry contained in these pages, and have watched firsthand as God produced much fruit. I pray it encourages you.”
Matt Chandler,Lead Pastor, The Village Church, Dallas, Texas; President, Acts 29 Church Planting Network; author, The Mingling of Souls and The Explicit Gospel
“Jeff is one of the smartest, most dedicated, and most interesting disciple-makers I know. In this book, and through the medium of his life story, he effectively passes on the key insights that make him one of the best movement leaders in the country. Saturate is a winner.”
Alan Hirsch, Founder, Forge and Future Travelers; award winning author, Untamed, Right Here Right Now, and ReJesus
“If someone were to ask me where to go to learn about discipleship, I would hand them the Bible along with Jeff Vanderstelt’s book Saturate. Readers will find themselves taking a survey of their lives, seeing the areas that God desires to take captive for his glory. Whether you are a preacher, homemaker, small-group leader, high school student, or new convert, Saturate will spur you on to live a life that will influence others to know Jesus while growing people in Jesus, not just at church, but in all of life.”
Jackie Hill Perry, poet; writer; hip-hop artist
“This is a thought-provoking, heart-warming account of a body of believers taking God’s call to live as family seriously. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted by the details or quibble with the incidentals. This book challenges and encourages all of us to intentionally live on mission in the mundane details and events of everyday life.”
Steve Timmis, Executive Director, Acts 29 Church Planting Network
“Jeff Vanderstelt uses an ordinary experience to give us extraordinary insight into what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. Saturate is a great challenge to all of us to stop doing church and be the church!”
Dave Ferguson, Lead Pastor, Community Christian Church, Naperville, Illinois; Lead Visionary, NewThing
“In Saturate, Jeff Vanderstelt endeavors to provide Christians with an image of God’s grace that is all-encompassing and inescapable. Whether you are new to the faith or a seasoned believer, Jeff’s words will encourage you and focus God’s gospel on every facet of your life. This book will challenge the way you see your Savior, your mission, and your everyday life.”
Ed Stetzer,Billy Graham Distinguished Chair ofChurch, Mission, and Evangelism, Wheaton College
“Jeff Vanderstelt’s passion and commitment to the fame of Jesus are as evident in this book as they are in his preaching. It was so refreshing to read chapter after chapter that lifted high the name of Jesus and to be challenged to do the same more and more in my life and ministry.”
Matt Carter,Pastor of Preaching, The Austin Stone Community Church, Austin, Texas; coauthor,The Real Win
“Saturate is a crucially needed and down-to-earth manual for what is most importantloving God and loving neighbors. What Christian wouldn’t want to know what Jeff Vanderstelt has brilliantly and helpfully given us here?”
Jared C. Wilson, Director of Content Strategy, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; Director, Pastoral Training Center, Liberty Baptist Church, Kansas City, Missouri; author, Supernatural Power for Everyday People