Gospel Fluency and the Catechisms

Discussion in 'The Confession of Faith' started by Myson, Jan 8, 2018.

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  1. Myson

    Myson Puritan Board Freshman

    Hello all!

    If any of you have heard of Jeff Vanderstelt (former pastor of Soma Communities and current pastor of Doxa Church in Bellevue, Washington) the title may pop out to you. If not, the term "Gospel Fluency" refers to a discipleship method that he and his church coined (later developed into a book) that has to do with "one anothering" in the local congregation. The idea is to be so steeped in the knowledge of the gospel and its implications that we naturally know how to share it and apply it through evangelism, encouragement, rebuke, prayer, etc.

    As a loosely Calvinist church leader, who is heavy in the missional movement, Vanderstelt doesn't have heretical or off-color beliefs about the gospel, only (I personally would say) ungrounded ones. That is, because his church is a-historical in terms of theology and tradition and not part of any denomination, his understanding of the faith is less than full. So, there may be a lot of talk about being accepted, but little to no talk about the Sabbath, or the meaning of baptism etc.

    The benefits of this Gospel Fluency are plenty. It 1. Encourages everyone to be knowledgeable about the gospel. 2. Encourages love and discipleship among every church member. 3. Encourages a distinctive church culture that is rooted in Christ and is 4. Simple enough for everyone to understand.

    Despite this, what I've noticed is that this method is essentially just catechesis, and rather surface level catechesis at that. For someone who doesn't subscribe to the Westminster Standards, I couldn't fault him for it. However, I do feel that there is a big need for 1. More catechesis within our churches worldwide but more importantly 2. A deeper understanding of the Catechisms (I'm specifically referring to the Heidelberg and Westminster Shorter and Larger Catechisms) among all church members to know them well enough to know how to counsel those who are hurting, advise those who are inquiring, evangelize the lost, and "preach the gospel" so to speak to ourselves. So, forgive me for such a long post, but my question is, does anyone know how a new church might go about fostering that kind of culture in their people?

    Teaching the catechism, not just as a memory tool or as something to "know" about the faith, but letting it sink in enough to color how we see the world and one another, and easily accessible for evangelism and counseling and discipleship?

    Does your church use Catechisms in this way? Is it improper to even use Catechisms this way? As a new member of a new Reformed church and someone who didn't grow up in the Reformed faith but had some experience under a church that used "Gospel Fluency" I'd welcome any and all discussion on the topic! Thanks
  2. Rutherglen1794

    Rutherglen1794 Puritan Board Sophomore

    I can't add much of anything to this discussion, but what I will say is that, from my own personal experience, watching my pastor 'apply' the gospel and its implications to every situation in his life, and in his counsel of me, has been the best avenue of learning these things for myself.

    I have thought more than once about how I want to be able to do as he does in this area.

    So, I guess I will say that having the eldership of a church model these things is of vast importance to a congregation's ability to do so as well.
  3. Andrew P.C.

    Andrew P.C. Puritan Board Junior

    To be honest, I’m not totally sure what “discipleship” means in this context. Historically (and biblically I’ll add) the church has always seen the Word and Sacraments as the way one is a disciple. The session/consistory are the ones who should be discipling their flock.

    In regards to the catechisms: it is always beneficial to go through the catechisms and (more importantly) understand the biblical passages that teach such doctrines. It’s not just about knowing the doctrine but also knowing the scriptures. The catechisms are a help but the scriptures are the final rule and authority. I’m sure you know this, but it’s important to remember this.

    I’d say you would have a hard to getting catechisms to be used in a non-confessional church. Quite a few confessional churches have a hard time using them as well.
  4. Myson

    Myson Puritan Board Freshman

    That's helpful. That's also something I found lacking in the previous church I was a part of, which was the lack of emphasis on the sacraments and the preached word. My church currently is a church plant and we're just now getting started, and are seeking to be confessionally rooted in our traditions, especially since we're in an area where literally no one is (very rural, with your options being Baptist with new music or Baptist with old music).

    To be clear, what we are trying to do is kill the notion that discipleship (i.e. following the commands of Jesus) is a Sunday-only endeavor, which is much of our current culture. Furthermore, we are seeking to encourage one another to obey and enjoy Jesus in their daily lives. My question has to do with how we might blend our theological tradition with our current context of theologically illiterate people who neither obey, evangelize, are pleased with, or acknowledge Christ in their daily life who would see Sunday worship as a checkmark rather than a pattern for all of life. Does that make more sense?
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