Jeff Vanderstelt and Ben Connelly, wrote Gospel Fluency Handbook: A Practical Guide to Speaking the Truths of Jesus into the Everyday Stuff of Life for those who’ve realized they disbelieve God, His goodness and His gospel in areas of normal, everyday, busy life. We sat down with Jeff and Ben to hear more about their hopes for readers and the motivation behind their writing.
You open Gospel Fluency Handbook, a book written for Christians, with a quote from Jeff’s book Gospel Fluency, which reads, “I’m an unbeliever. So are you.” What do you mean by this broad statement directed to readers?
Jeff: I struggle with unbelief on a daily basis. I slip in and out of believing God’s word about me and trusting in his work for me. Jesus gave his life to make me a new creation. He died to forgive me of my sins and change my identity from sinner to saint, from failure to faithful, and from bad to good and even righteous and holy. However, I forget what He has said about me. I forget what He has done for me. Sometimes it isn’t forgetfulness. Sometimes it’s just plain unbelief. I know these things. I just don’t believe them.
I am an unbeliever. Not every moment, of course, but I have those moments. So does everyone. I’m certain of it.
What does it mean to be gospel fluent?
Jeff: When I think about fluency I think about unconscious competence. I am answering this question in English not consciously trying to think through a vocabulary list or stumbling over how to put together thoughts. I am fluent in English. To be fluent in the gospel is to know it so well it becomes like a mother tongue. I am able to filter all of life through the truths of the gospel and am readily able to speak those truths into any situation or struggle we are facing at any time.
Ben: As with any other use of the term “fluency,” gospel fluency is a growing ability to see all of life and consider the many situations in our day-to-day through the lens of the promises of God and the good news of Jesus. Just like learning a new language, most of us start with an unawareness of how the gospel can apply to the hard and mundane aspects of daily life and conversation; in this way, the gospel is “unnatural” to us. As we rehearse basic truths of the gospel, as we practice different disciplines and as we ask God to give us more and more knowledge of Himself, His promises and His truth, the hope is the gospel becomes more and more “natural” and automatic.
In a world so hostile toward Christianity, what advice do you offer readers for courageously proclaiming the gospel?
Ben: Gospel proclamation can often feel like a big, scary, “one-shot-to-get-right-before-all-is-lost” reality. Certainly, some are gifted evangelists and see fruit in big, overt, even public gospel presentations. The reality is that many Christians aren’t gifted as evangelists but are still part of God’s great commission. For most of us, then, there are moments in many conversations every day to share bits of what we believe to be true about Jesus with those who don’t believe. If the gospel truly is good news in the everyday stuff of life, then sharing how specific aspects of that good news applies to certain situations, even in small ways and throughout time, can be meaningful and fruitful.
Jeff: I want to remind people that Jesus promised the Spirit would both witness to our hearts about the truths of Jesus needed in the moment, as well as bring words to mind about what we should said. We need to cultivate listening hearts to the Spirit’s prompting and try not to force conversations where the Spirit is not leading or opening doors. Also, remember we don’t save people. God does. We are called to be Jesus’ witnesses about what he has done and is doing in our lives and in what he has done and is doing in the world. As we regularly speak of what Jesus has done to one another, it becomes more natural to do that with people who don’t yet know and love Jesus. Lastly, we must speak in love.
Sometimes people are offended not because of the message of the gospel, but because the messenger is offensive in how they bring it. I ask myself regularly, “How can I share the good news to this person so it actually sounds like good news?” If it doesn’t even sound like good news to me, I have probably lost the heart of the gospel being good news for others. Remember the gospel is good news to those being saved and foolishness, not bad news, to those perishing. In most cases, the gospel should sound either too good to be true or not necessary because they don’t believe they need it yet. However, it should not come across as bad news.
This handbook is based on content from the book Gospel Fluency. Do readers need to have read Gospel Fluency to use this guide?
Jeff: While the content of the handbook accompanies my book Gospel Fluency: Speaking the Truths of Jesus into the Everyday Stuff of Life, published by Crossway earlier this year, the handbook can be used as an independent resource.
Content from Gospel Fluency is summarized in each week’s readings, and for participants who want to go deeper, each week indicates corresponding chapters in Gospel Fluency, if they choose to read and study further.
What do you hope for readers to gain from reading and working through the handbook?
Ben: The first goal of the Gospel Fluency Handbook is to help readers become fluent in the gospel — in other words, to help them move from unbelief to belief, in whatever area(s) of their lives they find it difficult to believe God’s promises and live according to that belief.
The second goal, which we hope naturally flows from the first, is to help readers speak the truths of Jesus into the everyday stuff of life as we together become a more gospel-fluent people. To that end, we’ve crafted this resource as an interactive guide to walk readers step-by-step into immersing their minds, hearts, souls and lives in the gospel. It’s not a book; books are generally designed to give information and to be read cover to cover, often in just a few days. This is an eight-week interactive study.
What is the format of Gospel Fluency Handbook, and how is it intended to be used? Can it be used for individual study, or should it be used in a group setting?
Jeff: Each week of the Handbook follows a simple format: three sets of personal readings and reflections, about the same length as this introduction, and then a weekly guide for group discussion and exercises.
The majority of each week is comprised of three readings, which are excerpts from Gospel Fluency and related scriptures, to read and reflect upon. Each reading is followed by a personal reflection: questions to answer prayerfully, thoughts to respond to and ways to help you practice the content of that reading. Each set of readings and reflections should take no more than 30–45 minutes to complete. After the third reading and reflection of each week, there’s a blank page titled “Look Back,” simply for you to reflect on what you’ve learned throughout that week.
A theme throughout both Gospel Fluency and this handbook is our need for others. After completing the three readings and reflections each week, the week closes with a guide for groups to discuss, help each other and practice that week’s concepts together. We recommend your group meets weekly and that each week includes a meal. Each week’s discussion and exercises will take at least an hour; plan well to give yourself ample time to walk through them well. One suggestion is to focus your time together on the exercises, rather than trying to address everything given in each week’s group discussion. Pick a couple questions from those given each week, and move through them quickly enough to give yourselves plenty of time for that week’s group exercise.
There is a video series to go along with the handbook; how do they enhance the reader’s experience with the material?
Jeff: This nine-part video series enhances and deepens the learning experience for groups using the Gospel Fluency Handbook. Week by week, I articulate and summarize key ideas, themes, and principles as groups engage and process the handbook together. Additional concepts and training will enhance learning for groups as they move toward becoming a community centered on being fluent in the gospel.
Purchase the Gospel Fluency Handbook here.
When you share the gospel does it sound like good news?
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