Crossway, 256 pages
April 30, 2015
Transformed recently interviewed Western student Jeff Vanderstelt about his new book, Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life. In Saturate, Jeff discusses the importance of living life with the perspective that every aspect of our lives is sacred and can be used to glorify God.
Why do you think people struggle so much with categorizing things as “sacred” or “secular,” rather than seeing all of life as mission?
I think there are several reasons for this. One is that the streams of Gnosticism are still flowing freely through our churches. We still believe that there is a higher or secret knowledge to be found that makes us more righteous and that what is done in the body or in the everyday stuff of life therefore cannot be as godly. Of course some of our problem is steeped in the Western context and culture. I believe the church has been poisoned by much of this thinking and teaches people that Sunday gatherings are more sacred than the rest of life. We often elevate pastors, church staff, or foreign missionaries as the saints among us and thereby devalue mothers, fathers, students and everyday workers. We lift up studying the Bible as a highly righteous activity but practice the commands as mundane. We put on conferences and events with compelling, inspiring messages and other-worldly moments in worship that feel like transcendent mountain-top experiences but, like Jesus’ disciples, we don’t want to go with Jesus back down the mountain to where his glory needs to be experienced – in the everyday stuff of life.
I’m also more and more convinced that the majority of gospel preaching for so long was about justification and glorification – being made right with God and getting to be with him in heaven forever. However, very little gospel preaching has been about sanctification. Sanctification was either our work to do, or we avoided talking about it altogether so as to avoid works-based salvation. In the first case, we strived at sanctification in our own strength – in our flesh – thus making it to be a “secular” kind of activity. In the second case, we became convinced that any work toward sanctification opposed the gospel, so we preached the cross and our hope in the afterlife as the goal of the gospel. We are then failing to proclaim that the gospel is also about God’s power for sanctification—that it is God who is at work in us both to will and to do according to his good pleasure. On top of that, our view of the end was often a disembodied state in heaven and not a new resurrection embodied state on earth. I believe our view of the future deeply shapes our lives in the present. If we believe we will live new lives in new bodies on a new earth we would value the stuff we do in our present bodies now.
I also believe seeing things as sacred and secular allows us to segment our lives and thus keep Jesus away from what we want to remain our own. If all of life is meant to be sacred, then I don’t get to keep anything from him. He gets it all and all of life is meant to be my sacrifice of worship unto him. Our idolatrous hearts would prefer compartmentalizing our lives so we can both be god of them as well as keep them from intersecting. For it is in the intersections of our lives that our idolatry or hypocrisy is exposed. We feel more in control when we can segment a few hours a week in predictable events as the “I surrender” moments. “I surrender all” all of the time – now that’s a whole different thing. Unfortunately, the world, the flesh, and the devil still have us deceived into believing keeping most of life for ourselves is abundant life.
Lastly, I am convinced this goes back to the brokenness of Genesis 3. Heaven and earth, the holy and the everyday were one. This division stems from our rebellion and it is what leads Jesus to call us to pray: Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. He is rescuing and renewing all of Creation to one day demolish the separation.
At one point in Saturate, you write, “Jesus is not ashamed to associate with a church full of broken people.” Why is it important for believers to allow others to see them in their brokenness?
God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble. A broken and contrite heart he will not despise. The pre-requisite for receiving grace is the knowledge and admission that we need grace. Jesus did not come for the healthy and the righteous but the sick and ungodly – those needing salvation. When those who have not yet come to faith in Jesus see those who know and love Jesus boasting not in their perfect performance but in their weakness so that the power of Christ might be clearly seen, we are displaying the truth of the gospel. We can’t proclaim a message we don’t display and expect people to get it. Jesus was the word made flesh. We are his body and therefore the gospel word must be embodied. Our brokenness displays our need for the gospel and our confession declares our confidence in the sufficiency of the gospel. If people see that Jesus is not ashamed to call us, who are broken, his brothers and sisters, they might also believe he is not ashamed of them either, and finally hear his call to bid them come and be forgiven, healed, and restored.
Why is it such good news that our mission permeates the dailyness of life?
Jesus didn’t just come to save us for the next life. He came to give us abundant, eternal life now. We can live a whole new life in the midst of a dark and depraved world. We do not have to remain victims of sin or powerless slaves unable to abound. No, we can abound in the work of the Lord in every aspect of life. This not only means we are free to truly live, but that we can do everything both for his glory and our fullness of joy. Every part of life can be different now. And, through the hope of this new life – the hope of glory is Christ in us, we get to experience the very real and life-giving presence of Jesus in everything we do. We get to experience heaven on earth now!
How have you seen different personality types (i.e., introverts/extroverts) surface and then adapt to the highly social/relational aspect of the missional communities that you write about?
Introverts and extroverts alike were made for relationships. The brokenness of our world, however, leads both toward sinful patterns. The extrovert can tend to use people to fuel their lives, quickly discarding them when they no longer feed into their ego. They will push the Missional Community to gather together more in larger group settings so as to fuel their sense of importance or significance. The introvert can tend to avoid being with people to avoid losing life fuel. And therefore may try to avoid larger gatherings or meetings with the Missional Community. Both can objectify people for their own purposes and thus devalue the image of God. Redeemed, however, extroverts will often gather more to be around Jesus loving people and bring Jesus into the gathering. They can carry more of the responsibility for ministering to people in larger or more relationally diverse situations. Introverts will often gravitate toward smaller gatherings with fewer people from the Missional Community. They often tend to go deeper with a few and fight for long term commitment to relationship. Introverts in a Missional Community, if given the freedom, will insure we don’t quickly discard people and will encourage the group to see that we don’t always have to be with everyone in a large group setting. The strengths of both are absolutely necessary in a Missional Community.
Jeff Vanderstelt is the visionary leader of the Soma Family of Churches and the lead teaching pastor of Doxa Church in Bellevue, WA. He also travels around the US and the world equipping the Church in the gospel and missional living. He is the author of Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life. He and Jayne, his wife of 22 years, have three children; Haylee, Caleb, and Maggie.