What do you believe about discipleship and evangelism? Do you think it is a job for few paid professionals or the hyper-religious? Even if you do believe it is the role of every believer, do you feel equipped to train up someone else in the fullness of the gospel?
My views on this have changed drastically over the last few years due in large part to the teachings of Jeff Vanderstelt. Now not only do I understand my responsibilities as a believer or missionary servant, I also have the language and training to carry out those duties. More importantly I have been opened to a much deeper understanding of what the gospel is and how it transforms my day to day life.
For these reasons I was pretty stoked to receive a review copy of the Saturate Field Guide by Jeff Vanderstelt and Ben Connelly. I am always looking for ways to incorporate Jeff’s all of life gospel training into what I do at New Creations and I was hoping that this field guide approach would offer me an off the shelf way to do that.
In one sense this book was exactly what I wanted it to be an all in one- practical and theological guide to life on mission. Prior to this book I used Soma Community’s DNA guides + youtube and conference videos + bits of other books and blogs to teach others the whys and how to’s of life on mission. If you have been using and sharing Jeff’s materials for a few years then I imagine that this is going to be the guide that you have been waiting for also.
It systematically walks you through the big topics you need know to get up and running all the while having you walk through the steps of forming a community. I read though the entire book before reviewing and while I am sure there must have been great debate on what wouldn’t fit, I am impressed with the amount they were able to fit in. But even with the richness of the teachings in the book, they are not the real gem.
Interestingly the pages I consistently said “Wow, this is great!” to were the question pages . The questions and exercises bring to this book an element of gospel conviction that I didn’t think was possible in written form. They reinforce what was taught or the verses that were shared in a way brings about the paradigm shift required for Gospel driven living.
That being said I think it is easy to forget how much people struggle with that paradigm shift. If you have a group of mission minded folks that already understand the gospel and some ‘mission-ese’ then the book is easy to pick up and follow along- you have already made the shift you just need to whats and how-to’s. However I usually do not run into entire groups of these types of people. Generally I am speaking with a person that knows “there has to be more” and a small group committed to their insular mentality where no one grows and no one goes, but they all cling to ‘their way’ regardless of how it is challenged in scripture. Ironically while this type of group would most benefit from the Saturate Field Guide I could easily see them jumping ship the first chapter because of the volume of content, commitment and the piercing introspective questions.
I wholeheartedly believe mobilizing the existing ‘small group’ crowd into equipped and engaged members of God’s mission is the most effective method of returning a sense of urgency to the body and multiplying the kingdom. So if you are part of a small group looking to buy another small group curriculum and someone, like myself, told you to try the Saturate Field Guide, do it! Do not be dissuaded by just how much is packed into week one. In fact, do not be thrown off by the week system at all. If you have to spend one month on each week to make sure that everyone has wrestled through the material and questions, then do it. Worst case scenario is that people just look over the material before meeting up each week. This is not going to bear much fruit.
You are asking people to learn a new language, adopt a new lifestyle and change paradigms about church and being a christian that they many have held onto for their entire lives. It is ok if this does not fit neatly into 8 weeks. Keep at. Commit to finishing the book even if you don’t follow the pacing. Give people time to repent, confess and be transformed. The Field Guide will ask the tough questions and lead people through the process, you just need to stay with it even when it gets uncomfortable and challenging.