Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015
Saturate by Jeff Vanderstelt, a pastor in the state of Washington is a practical down-to-earth book on how to love God and love neighbor. It could be said to be representative of “the missional church movement” of the last couple of decades. I liked it because it describes one of the best models I’ve seen on how a church can reach out to their city using missional communities, which they call “DNA” groups, because they engage in three activities – Discover, Nurture, and Act.
Each DNA community consists of around 20-30 adults and children. It’s challenged to choose an outreach focus and work together to show the love of Christ and eventually speak the love of Christ to that particular group, which could be a neighborhood, a school, or a needy sub-culture in the community, etc.
Each community group was challenged to eat together often and to invite their friends and family to join them. They were also challenged to listen to God and listen to others as they spent time together. Bless others, celebrate together, and recreate. The author truly believes that these actions on a regular basis bond the group and help them to reach out to the lost around them.
What makes Saturate most intriguing are the transparent stories Vanderstelt shares about his life and ministry. He is quick to admit his faults, but he always brings it back to Christ. He shares story after story of people, like a reclusive elderly neighbor named Nikki, coming to Christ because members of a DNA community built relationships of love with them and served them in tangible ways. Every story of conversion was a thrill to me. I love reading how God’s Spirit changes lives today, just as He did in New Testament times.
In case you’re thinking this is just a book of stories and testimonies, let me end with an excerpt that has some biblical content.
When we started (the church in Tacoma), we were not as certain about this (our mission) as we are now. Sure, we proclaimed the message of the gospel for salvation, but we didn’t believe that we, ourselves, still needed it. ‘The gospel is for those who don’t yet know and believe in Jesus,’ we thought. The gospel, we believed, is primarily good news for your afterlife, not your present life.
At this point, I was providentially introduced to Tim Keller’s teaching on the gospel, and how the person and work of Jesus is sufficient not only for the beginning of my Christian life, but also for the middle and the end.
Paul reminded the church in Rome of the confidence we can have in Jesus and his work. In Romans 1:16-17, he writes, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for the salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
The gospel is the power of God for salvation. Salvation from what? What do we need to be saved from?
God wants to save us from the penalty of sin – salvation from what we have done; the power of sin – salvation for what we are called to do today; and the presence of sin – salvation for our future.
It is past, present, and future salvation. And it’s all available to us by faith. We come to experience the effects of God’s salvation by believing the gospel. …
If we are going to be effective in seeing people and places saturated with the good news of Jesus, we first have to know and believe the gospel. We need to be saturated with the truths of the gospel before Jesus saturation can happen through us.