Can We Trust the Gospels?

Recent Posts

Past Posts Archived by Date

Search this site


Search this site


« Allen Levi!! | Home | Rereading a Classic: Christian Mission in the Modern World by John Stott, Part 2 »

Rereading a Classic: Christian Mission in the Modern World by John Stott

By Mark D. Roberts | Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I make it a practice to read classic literature on a fairly regular basis. These days, I often read the classics my children are reading in high school. Thus, in the last year, I’ve read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Ernest Hemmingway’s Farewell to Arms. Sometimes I’m re-reading, as in the case of Gatsby. Sometimes I’m reading a classic for the first time, as in the case of Farewell.

I also try to read or re-read classic Christian literature. Often, this happens when a friend mentions or recommends some fine book. I think to myself, “I need to take another look at that book.” And so I do. These days, the Amazon Kindle often makes it easier and cheaper to find and read classics. (Will the iPad help?)

My friend Steve recently mentioned a book I haven’t thought about for a couple of decades, though it made a major impression on me when I first read it. Near as I can remember, I read John Stott’s Christian Mission in the Modern World when I was in college. It profoundly impacted my thinking about the mission of God and his people, including me. In fact, it may be true that no other book, besides the Bible, has had a greater influence on my understanding of mission than Stott’s classic.

Today this book retains its profound relevance, even though some if it is dated. Stott wrote Christian Mission in the Modern World at a time when there was a raging debated about whether mission was primarily (or exclusively) a matter of evangelism, or primarily (or exclusively) a matter of social actions. In the late 60s and early 70s, the church was strongly polarized in this matter. Today, in the “postmodern” world, there are still Christians who see mission only in terms of evangelism, and others who see it only in terms of seeking justice. But vast numbers of Christians have come to reject the either-or that was so common four decades ago. The fact that so many of us have a more wholistic view of mission, especially those who are in the evangelical wing of the church, is due, in no small measure to the influence of John Stott.

Today and tomorrow I want to put up some excerpts from Stott’s classic book. The references will be to Kindle numbers, not pages. (This is one of the biggest, in my view, the biggest flaw in the Kindle. But I’ll save this rant for a different day.) I hope you will read these quotations seriously, because they are well worth the effort. Better yet, read the book.

Quotations from Christian Mission in the Modern World:

Life is a pilgrimage of learning, a voyage of discovery, in which our mistaken views are corrected, our distorted notions adjusted, our shallow opinions deepened and some of our vast ignorances diminished (KL 104-105, “Kindle Location”)

From the traditional view of mission as exclusively evangelistic and the current ecumenical view of it as the establishment of shalom, we ask if there is a better way, a more balanced and more biblical way of defining the mission of the church, and of relating to one another the evangelistic and social responsibilities of the people of God. (KL 206-208)

All of us should be able to agree that mission arises primarily out of the nature not of the church but of God himself. The living God of the Bible is a sending God. (KL 222-223)

The primal mission is God’s, for it is he who sent his prophets, his Son, his Spirit. Of these missions the mission of the Son is central, for it was the culmination of the ministry of the prophets, and it embraced within itself as its climax the sending of the Spirit. And now the Son sends as he himself was sent. (KL 234-236)

Now he sends us, he says, as the Father had sent him. Therefore our mission, like his, is to be one of service. He emptied himself of status and took the form of a servant, and his humble mind is to be in us (Philippians 2:5-8). He supplies us with the perfect model of service, and sends his church into the world to be a servant church. Is it not essential for us to recover this biblical emphasis? (KL 268-270)

It comes more natural to us to shout the gospel at people from a distance than to involve ourselves deeply in their lives, to think ourselves into their culture and their problems, and to feel with them in their pains. (KL 279-280)

More tomorrow . . . .

Topics: Book Reviews |

2 Responses to “Rereading a Classic: Christian Mission in the Modern World by John Stott”

  1. Kozak Says:
    February 3rd, 2010 at 8:19 am

    It seems to me that the “shalom” view has won out in mainline churches, including my Lutheran church. Every “mission trip” announced is a service trip to build something or run a clinic. It’s lovely, but it could have been Doctors without Borders, i.e. nothing specifically Christian about it (although secularists love to ignore their intellectual and moral debt to their Christian heritage)

  2. Ted M. Gossard Says:
    February 6th, 2010 at 9:24 pm

    Good to read those words again. Coming across so rich to me. Has been years and years since I read my copy, as well. Thanks.


Thanks for your willingness to make a comment. Note: I do not moderate comments before they are posted, though they are automatically screened for profanities, spam, etc., and sometimes the screening program holds comments for moderation even though they're not offensive. I encourage open dialogue and serious disagreement, and am always willing to learn from my mistakes. I will not delete comments unless they are extraordinarily rude or irrelevant to the topic at hand. You do need to login in order to make a comment, because this cuts down on spam. You are free to use a nickname if you wish. Finally, I will eventually read all comments, but I don't have the time to respond to them on a consistent basis because I've got a few other demands on my time, like my "day job," my family, sleep, etc.

You must be logged in to post a comment.