Reading Books Together: Saturate (Chapters 1-2)
Reading books is helpful. Challenging at times, but helpful none the less. Even reading books that just aren’t very good can be somewhat helpful. I don’t think this book, Saturate, will be unhelpful at all given what I’ve read in the introduction and first two chapters. Why do I say that?
Over the past two years I have been thinking quite a bit about the Christian life and what it could look like. Am I really pursuing the things that God would take pleasure in me pursuing? Am I enjoying the Lord as much as I could be? What can I do to be on mission for the Lord? Why is it so hard to simply follow Jesus and have that impact my world? I have asked many more questions than that, but these are ones that have stuck with me. I want to do great things for God, and yet I feel very ordinary and feel as though I need to be something more than ordinary. I think of all the Christian biographies I have read or stories I have heard about men and women of the faith who seem to be conduits of the Lord’s will and work, and I find myself wanting that. But at the end of the day, there is just me, a normal, ordinary and unimpressive person who isn’t quite sure what it means to have Jesus in and informing every part of my life, and especially, how to be on mission with a wife, four kids, bills, health issues, and various other day to day things that I encounter or have to think about.. That is why I am thankful for books that remind me of the truth and what God has to say about it all.
Who This Book is For
This particular book is not written for the upper echelon of Christian men an women who are doing everything right all the time. (In fact I would argue that no such person exists…) In the introduction to this book, Jeff Vanderstelt tells us exactly who this book is for:
This book is for you—the normal, unimpressive, everyday person, young or old, male or female—because Jesus means to carry out his mission of filling the world with his presence through you. You are meant to do this. The mission of Jesus is yours to participate in. It has always been God’s intention to choose normal, everyday people, and to show his amazing power and glory through them. He’s not looking for the most impressive person because he already is that person.
The mission of Jesus is a glorious mission, and I want to view it that way. I don’t need to be impressive and neither do you. What a relief! What I can do though, is follow Jesus and trust him to do the amazing stuff. Then I can just stand back and be in awe of him, rather than think about myself and what I’m trying to do or be.
Participants vs Spectators
Earlier this week I went on a fishing trip with my Dad. It was a great time for me to stand in the middle of a river, in the quiet of Eleven Mile Canyon and reflect on the things I just wrote about. I find it amusing that in the first chapter of this book, Jeff writes that it was during a fishing trip with his father that he came to a realization that maybe he had been thinking about things wrong. He had been leading the youth in his church for years, and saw them go from being heavily involved to being somewhat apathetic as they moved on into “adult church”. He realized that they were becoming spectators rather than participants. He explains what he means briefly in this video:
He says it well, all of life has a purpose. Church isn’t an event that we go to, it is us. You don’t need to be the pastor or a leader to be a participant in the greatest mission every given. I was greatly impressed with the example of Jeff’s parents as I read the first chapter. They didn’t allow themselves to simply grow older and fall into a pattern of doing what they had always done. On the contrary, they pursued being and making disciples, even to the point of inviting people to stay with them in their home at the cost of Jeff giving up his room so that person would have place to stay so they could be cared for. That is amazing hospitality, and it is challenging to read about. How willing would I be to do that? They were participants, not spectators. And they did it in the everyday life that they had.
A Celebratory Community
Speaking of everyday life, we all eat, and we enjoy eating multiple times a day. It is an important part of our daily lives. I greatly appreciated Jeff’s take on feasts and parties in chapter 2, because it takes something seemingly normal and insignificant meals and shows how they can be a time of worship to the Lord. He writes:
At one of these dinners, about three courses into an amazing five-course meal, it dawned on us: “This is a great picture of the kingdom of God!” While immersed in the feast of food and life together, we recalled Jesus comparing the kingdom of God to a feast where everyone is invited in (Luke 14:12–24). Together we started to imagine what the church would be like if we all believed we were a picture of God’s kingdom breaking into the world in ways that felt like a party. One of us said: “If the church believed this, it would radically change what we do and how we live! We would be known as the most celebratory people around. Word would spread. People who wouldn’t normally want to come to a church event would come to our homes. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?”
What would it be like for us if this was our life? What would it say about us as believers? Are we so thankful for the gospel and the provision of God that we would be called “celebratory”? I hope we could be! He mentions that Israel had a lot of parties, but they were never supposed to be the center of attention for that party, God was. When we come together celebrate God on Sunday mornings or during weekly Community Group meetings, are we actually celebrating him or are we just following our weekly ritual? Jeff writes:
God doesn’t just want us to feast or celebrate as his people. He wants us to remember him, keeping him central to the party by showing kindness, love, and mercy to all those who lack a reason to celebrate. We are to be the “good-news people” to the world, who show the good news in our lives and invite others to receive it into theirs. The celebration is to be for God. The party is to be about God. After all, it is meant to tell the world what he is like. The Israelites forgot who they were and why they had been called to be God’s people. Their feasts became empty, heartless, ritualistic events. They were partying without the life of the party, celebrating without a reason to celebrate. That led to self-absorbed consumption and heartless activities without love. The same can happen to us if we forget to keep God central. Church becomes an empty, heartless religious event.
Jesus is the center of our events, parties and gatherings. But if we forget him, we have left out the life of the party.
Church is More than a Building
As Jeff points out, church can often seem disconnected from everyday life. We have our “church hat” that we put on and then we have our “everyday life hat” that we put on. But this ins’t how it is supposed to be. When we invite people to church, we aren’t inviting them to a building, but rather, we are inviting them to meet people. Specifically we are inviting them to meet people who can help them to meet and know Jesus. If the church is people and not a place, than there is no opportunity to wear two or three or four different hats. Jeff explains:
“Some think it’s a building you go to,” I would say as I drew a picture of a building. “Others think it’s the programs and events that happen there [here I would draw circles inside the building, representing activities], while others think it’s mainly the leaders who run those events [at this point, I would add some stick figures inside the building]. They think the job of those leaders is to get people to invite their friends to the building [here I would draw stick figures and arrows pointing toward the building]. They also encourage people to give their time [I would draw a clock], their money [a dollar sign], and their skills and gifts [a gift-wrapped present] to support what happens primarily in the building.”
Next, I would draw arrows going out of the building. “Though we might gather together in a building,” I would say, “the church of Jesus is the people of God saved through the person and work of Jesus Christ for his purposes in the world. God’s intent was never to have us define church merely as an event on Sunday. We don’t go to church. We are the church sent out into the world.” Then I would draw stick figures, a clock, a dollar sign, and a present beside the arrows coming out of the building.
Then I would say: “Jesus wants us to live all of life fully for his glory in the world—every part and every person. Jesus didn’t live, serve, suffer, and die so we could just attend a Christian event. He lived and died so we could become his people who are sent into every part of the world on his behalf. He wants all people everywhere to see and know about him, and he wants everyone to know that everything is to be done for his glory. We now see our time, our money, and our unique abilities as means to serve both the people who are the church and those in our cities who don’t know the great news of God’s love for them in Jesus Christ. All of life counts and everyone matters.
For those of you who prefer videos, here is one with Jeff explaining the same thing:
All of Life Submitted to Jesus Christ
Something one of our pastors, Mike Bonnell, often says is the words “all in”. We have even joked about making him a t-shirt with those words written along the front of it, and maybe the back too! Is your everyday life filled with the purposes of God, or are you wearing many different hats? I can tell you that if it is the latter you will soon find yourself to be exhausted. However, if you go “all in”, seeking to follow and worship Jesus in the everyday stuff of life, your life will be full and you will have more meaning and purpose than you ever thought possible.
What to Read Next
This coming week we will read part 2, which contains chapters 3-6. We’ll do our summary towards the end of the week. I hope you have found the book helpful so far, and if you haven’t started reading it, please pick up a copy on Amazon either on Kindle or in print. I think I remember reading that the average reading time for the entire book is just under 5 hours, so don’t be overwhelmed.
Also, feel free to comment below on what you have been taking away from this book or strike up conversations about it with others in our community. Talking through it together can be a helpful way to process what we read.
And as a final reminder, as great as books can be, please make sure you are spending time in THE BOOK (ie, the Bible) first and foremost. You could read all of the best Christian books in the world and still starve yourself as a Christian if you never feast on the word of God itself. Take the time, it will be worth it.