Gospel Fluency in a World of Improv

What is it that you long for as a pastor, evangelist, or Christian leader?
Gospel Fluency in a World of Improv
Image: Photo by Peter Pryharski on Unsplash

What is it that you long for as a pastor, evangelist, or Christian leader?

My heart desires to see zealous followers of Jesus among all peoples. I would love for all believers to live out the abundant life (John 10:10) provided by Jesus as evidenced by the inner transformation (2 Cor. 5:17) made possible by the gospel (Acts 3:19; Joel 2:13) and the resultant good deeds that proceed from a life surrendered to Jesus (Heb. 13:16; James 2).

I long for a day when cultural Christianity will give way to a gospel-fluent Christian life as evidenced by both immersion and fluency in the gospel as the norm.

In 2017, Jeff Vanderstelt published a challenging book called Gospel Fluency, in which he wrote very practically about speaking the truths of Jesus into everyday life.

As simple as this appears, it is not an easy task for Christians to apply the gospel to their everyday lives. Jeff states that God wants us as believers to be able to translate the world around us and the world inside of us through the lens of the gospel—the truths of God revealed in the person and work of Jesus. “Gospel-fluent people think, feel, and perceive everything in light of what has been accomplished in the person and work of Jesus Christ” (Vanderstelt 2017).

Immersing Yourself in the Gospel

In 2007, my wife Lara and I accepted a call to Open Baptist Church in Gaborone, Botswana, where we served for four and a half years alongside a wonderful pastoral team.

This was an exciting time in our lives, yet we had much to learn.

Lara had grown up in one home her whole life and now in her second year of marriage was making a cross-cultural move to the beautiful (and hot) country of Botswana, far away from all she had known and from all our friends and family.

We ministered in an international church comprised of people from over 48 nations most Sundays. It was a wonderful experience for us as we threw ourselves into ministry and into loving the people from these various cultures from around the world.

We quickly realized that if we were to be effective in our ministry there, we needed to immerse ourselves in the cultures around us. We needed to surrender our own cultural biases and assumptions to embrace those around us more freely and share the gospel with them.

I started to learn Setswana (local language) and greetings in various other African languages, and we became more intentional about our posture toward people, cultural practices, beliefs and values.

I wonder what our world would look like if Christians thought more along these lines when it comes to showing and sharing the Good News.

It sometimes feels like we’ve become masters of improv when it comes to showing and sharing the Good News as Christians when we should focus on the art and discipline of becoming fluent in the gospel and its implications for our world.

Perhaps there’s no better time to think through this than at the new year and just having celebrated Christmas. John 1:14 reminds us that Jesus became a man (yet without sin) and made his dwelling among us. I love the way Eugene Peterson phrases this:

The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.

What would it look like if we embrace this kind of gospel fluency instead of some version of Christian improv?

When the Gospel Became Improv

In what way have many Christians embraced gospel improv over gospel fluency? The art of improvisation in live performance is spontaneous, fun, and somewhat entertaining.

Don’t get me wrong, I love experiencing the humor and candor that emerge from improv, yet when it comes to showing and sharing the Good News, Christians cannot improvise.

There is a sense in which we have abandoned gospel fluency for a relevant, fun, and light-hearted gospel that appeals to the culture around us.

Postures Toward Gospel Fluency this New Year

What would it look like for you and I to take a step toward showing and sharing the gospel this new year? Below are a few thoughts.

  1. Saturate yourself in the biblical text and commit to reading through the Bible throughout this year. The gospel is not heavenly improv; it is eternally scripted, and we need to become increasingly fluent in this area.
  2. Biblical convictions about what we’re celebrating are very important, but we must remember to embrace a humble spirit and use this opportunity to advocate for the real gospel. Perhaps use this time to hear the stories of others and learn about their lives as you share of your own.
  3. As a Christian, be spiritually discerning and allow God to lead you to those in need. Where is God at work? If we truly believe the gospel has the power to transform, we should ask that God would lead us to those who need it the most. Pray for opportunities and boldness.
  1. Be prepared to share personally how Jesus has changed your life and how his coming his made a difference in your world. Perhaps see this happening in more relational ways with your neighbors and friends than shouting it from the street corners.
  2. Be preoccupied with love rather than outrage or busyness. Remember the truth of John 3:16 which so many people are able to recite from memory. God loves us. God gave his son. Let’s be defined by love in a broken and outraged world.

Let’s use this year for great gospel fluency that can change our world. If you are a committed evangelist in North America, Latin America, Africa, Asia, Oceania, Europe, or the UK, we would love for you to sign up here and be encouraged as you proclaim the Good News in the many ways the Lord leads you. If you’re interested in exploring the concept of an evangelism team contact us here.

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