The following is an excerpt from the book Gospel Fluency by Jeff Vanderstelt.
I spent the second semester of my junior year in college studying in Spain to fulfill my language requirement. Prior to leaving Michigan, I took a crash course in Spanish, learning some basic grammar and common phrases. It was similar to our mission teams’ preparations. However, I was not going just for a week of serving with a group of English-speaking students. I was going to attend college in Spain, where the majority of my interactions would be in Spanish for more than four months. I lived in a home where my host mom knew no English. Some of my professors spoke only Spanish, and the majority of the people in the town where I lived were unable to speak English at all. For the first month, I went to bed exhausted every night. Communication was tiresome. I had to listen very closely to people as they spoke Spanish (way too fast at first), process every word and phrase, translate into English, think about what I wanted to say in English, translate that back into Spanish in my head, and then speak it while trying to remember how to maneuver my mouth to say every word correctly. It was exhausting! So during this time, I learned to listen a lot and talk very little because talking was just too tiring.
After a few months of being immersed in constant Spanish for every moment—hearing it everywhere I went, reading it on every sign, listening to radio and television broadcasts in Spanish, and speaking it most of the day—I woke up one morning realizing I had been dreaming in Spanish. Something had changed. It became more normative for me to see something and describe it in my head with Spanish words and ideas.
Gradually, I stopped translating every word and phrase because I started thinking in Spanish. I even remember calling my parents in Michigan and, without thinking about it, talking to them in Spanish until they interrupted me and reminded me that they couldn’t understand what I was saying.
I was becoming fluent.
I believe such fluency is what God wants his people to experience with the gospel. He wants them to be able to translate the world around them and the world inside of them 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.
They see the world differently. They think differently. They feel differently.
When they are listening to people, they are thinking: “How is this in line with the truths of the gospel? What about Jesus and his work might be good news to this person today? How can I bring the hope of the gospel to bear on this life or situation so this person might experience salvation and Jesus will be glorified?”
When they see movies, they see the themes of the gospel, and they also notice which themes represent a false gospel. They begin to evaluate the storylines of their surrounding culture in light of the story of God’s redemptive purposes in Christ Jesus, and they learn to perceive where God might already be at work around them, preparing the soil of a community and individual hearts for the seeds of the gospel to be sown.
Most significantly, those who are growing in gospel fluency are experiencing ongoing transformation themselves.
They are experiencing ongoing change as the truths of the gospel are brought to bear on their thoughts, beliefs, emotions, and actions, transforming them into greater Christlikeness every day.
They are growing up into Christ in every way because they are learning to hear and speak the truths of Jesus Christ into everything.
They are becoming gospel fluent.
The gospel is becoming their native tongue because it was through the gospel that they were born again. It is by the gospel that they find themselves growing up into Christ. And they are convinced that the gospel will keep them to the end and perfect them into the true image of Christ.
To use theological language, the gospel is becoming their native tongue because it brought about their regeneration, justification, and adoption; it is bringing about their sanctification; and it will bring about their eventual glorification. It is the beginning, the middle, and the end of their new life in Christ.
The gospel is everything to them.
Content taken from Gospel Fluency by Jeff Vanderstelt, ©2017. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187, www.crossway.org.