When I was in seminary, the most generally dreaded classes were Greek and Hebrew. This wasn’t because most students didn’t want to be able to read the Bible in the original languages. It was because learning a new language is hard work and when you’ve got four semesters of two different ones to tackle, it is even harder. What made it all slightly easier was that we didn’t have to achieve fluency in either. We mainly needed to read it well and pronounce words correctly, but that is far from fluency. Jeff Vanderstelt explains true fluency like this:
You gain fluency in a language when you move from merely translating an unfamiliar language into a familiar one to interpreting all of life through that new language. In a sense, the new language becomes the filter through which you perceive the world and help others perceive your world and theirs (40).
This level of fluency is something I’ll probably never achieve in Greek or Hebrew, but Vanderstelt believes that “this is what God wants his people to experience with the gospel” (41) and wrote Gospel Fluency: Speaking the Truths of Jesus into the Everyday Stuff of Life (Crossway) to help explain how that might come to be true.
While not strictly a follow-up to his first book titled Saturate, Gospel Fluency does build on some ideas from it. The book begins by explaining this notion of fluency before entering into several chapters that lay out the gospel story in detail. The remaining three parts of the book apply the gospel fluently to readers’ lives at the personal, as well as communal, level.We must be able to speak both languages—gospel and pop culture—fluently . . . to take the message of hope into every space.
The subtitle of the book, Speaking the Truths of Jesus into the Everyday Stuff of Life, offers insight for further application. Vanderstelt is primarily focused on applying the truths of the gospel to individual readers and their immediate Christian contexts (like a church or small group). However, since he’s helping readers to speak “gospel” fluently, it shouldn’t stop there.
As anyone who has actually learned a language in school knows, you first gain fluency by speaking about common ordinary things, but then can use the language naturally elsewhere, in other circumstances. The richness of the gospel means that it has something to say in every aspect of life, even in realms often kept separate. Pop culture is one such space. Our mission sums it up: “Christ and Pop Culture exists to acknowledge, appreciate, and think rightly about the common knowledge of our age.”
Although Vanderstelt doesn’t dig very far into what it would look like to speak gospel fluently in relation to pop culture, this is what we do here. In many cases, this involves speaking the gospel fluently about the various artifacts of culture we encounter in everyday life. Movies, television, books, the Internet, music, political discourse, games—all these and more are telling and shaping our culture’s story. There is great opportunity here to speak life into it. To do so, there is often translation involved. We must be able to speak both languages—gospel and pop culture—fluently. We must be able to take the message of hope into every space, including pop culture, which is exactly what Vanderstelt is championing.
Growing in our gospel fluency is key to thoughtfully presenting the truth of Christ to every aspect of culture in our day.
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