John Stott on Christian Mission

stott.mission

This year the Theologian of the Year sermon is about John Stott, in particular his work in helping define Mission in our time.  Here are quotes from his book:

Christian Mission in the Modern World, IVP 1975

“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 the sending God. “   p. 21

“Today, I would express myself differently. It is not just that the commission includes a duty to teach converts everything Jesus had previously commanded (MT 28:20), and that social responsibility is among the things which Jesus commanded. I now see more clearly that not only the consequences of the commission but the actual commission itself must be understood to include social as well as evangelistic responsibility, unless we are guilty of distorting the words of Jesus.”  P. 23

“The crucial form in which he Great commission has been handed down to us (though it is the most neglected because it is the most costly) is the Johannine.  Jesus had anticipated it in his prayer in the upper room when he said to the Father: ‘As thou didst send me into the world, so I have sent them into the world’ (Jn 17:18). Now, probably in the same upper room but after his death and resurrection, he turned his prayer-statement into a commission and said: ‘As the Father has sent me, even so I send you’ (Jn 10:21).  In both these sentences Jesus did more than draw a vague parallel between his mission and ours.  Deliberately and precisely he made his mission the model of ours, saying ‘as the Father sent me, so I send you’.  Therefore our understanding of the church’s mission must be deduced from our understanding of the Son’s.  Why and how did the Father send the Son?” p. 23

“Now he sends us, he says, as the Father had sent him. Therefore our mission, like his, is to be one of service.” P. 24

“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.  Yet this implication of our Lord’s example is inescapable…” p. 25

“This brings me to the third way of stating the relation between evangelism and social action, which I believe to be the truly Christian one, namely that social action is a partner of evangelism.  As partners the two belong to each other and yet are independent of each other. Each stands on its own feet in its own right alongside the other.  Neither is a means to the other, or even a manifestation of the other. For each is an end in itself. Both are expressions of unfeigned love.”  P. 27

“If we truly love our neighbour we shall without doubt share with him the good news of Jesus. How can we possibly claim to love him if we know the gospel but keep it from him? Equally, however, if we truly love our neighbor we shall not stop with evangelism. Our neighbor is neither a bodyless soul that we should love only his soul, nor a soulless body that we should care for its welfare alone, nor even a body-soul isolated from society  God created man, who is my neighbor, a body-soul-in-community. Therefore if we love our neighbor as God mad him, we must inevitably be concerned for his total welfare, the good of his soul, his body and his community.”  p. 30

“Yet the reason for our acceptance of social responsibility is not primarily in order to give the gospel either a visibility or a credibility it would otherwise lack, but rather simple uncomplicated compassion. Love has no need to justify itself. It merely expresses itself in service wherever it sees need.”  P. 30

Converting the Preacher – Acts 17

athens.smIn a series on the speeches in Acts, we came to Paul in Athens.  A lot has been written on this and much of it is quite good.  Here is the insight for the day.

Paul the evangelist had to be converted.

When he arrived in Athens, Paul’s first response was anger.

16 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols.

He deep in his soul detested idolatry.  As a son of the Covenant, he know the command of God against idolatry.  He knew the history of his people with idolatry and the dislocations that it brought. He was actually part of the diaspora, having been raised in Tarsus, outside of the land of promise.  He knew the immorality often associated with idol worship, from drunkenness to human sacrifice.  So seeing a city filled with shrines to the deities on the nations, he had a visceral reaction.

Yet, when he got to speak, as is recorded in v. 22ff, what was his source of anger, became his bridge to common ground.

22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship…

Paul was not a finger pointer like some outdoor preachers. His method was to reason in the synagogue from scripture that Jesus is the Messiah, and to reason in the marketplace that Jesus is the Christ.  He took as his starting point the very thing about Athens that would cause him to churn with anger.

You might wonder how you could accomplish this trick.  Perhaps you are incensed at the others on a social question such as abortion rights, same-sex marriage, or economic policy.  Those “others” on the issue get your blood to boil.

Can you, like Paul, listen, observe and see how to find common ground?

23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you…

Paul did not convert to idol worship or to the tolerance of it. But he brought himself to see that the Athenians, in their own way, were seekers of God, and were open to what they did not know (v. 21, 22).  It was a conversion of attitude.  It was a conversion from “us vs. them” to “we all are seekers…”

Conversations – Part 2

geisler

 

Norman and David Geisler suggest the use of questions.  They can clarify where there are areas of confusion.  Practice here with asking a question to some famous people who have had things to say about faith.  Below are quotes and a space following the Q for you to think of a good question to ask.

 

 

  1. “In other words, our form of government has no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith, and I don’t care what it is.” – Dwight Eisenhower: Address at the Freedoms Foundation, Waldorf-Astoria, New York, NY, 12/22/52

Q:

 

  1. “There never was a good war or a bad peace.” -Benjamin Franklin (from Humble Libertarian website)

Q:

 

  1. Religion is about turning untested belief into unshakable truth through the power of institutions and the passage of time. — Richard Dawkins,  from Brainy Quote (brainyquote.com)

Q:

 

  1. The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be. Our feeblest contemplations of the Cosmos stir us — there is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation, as if a distant memory, of falling from a height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries.” ― Carl Sagan, Cosmos

Q:

 

 

  1. All major religious traditions carry basically the same message, that is love, compassion and forgiveness the important thing is they should be part of our daily lives. — Dalai Lama- from Brainy Quote

Q:

Conversations – part 1

geislerI am using “Conversational Evangelism: how to listen and speak so you can be heard” by Norman and David Geisler in the adult class.  The first class was on the importance of listening.  I developed this worksheet from their book.  Take the quiz!

The authors say that we need to develop skills of listening.  They indicate that  there are four kinds of contradictions in what people say.

  • Belief & Heart: Their beliefs contradict their heart’s desire. (H)
  • Belief & Behavior: Their beliefs contradict their behavior. (B)
  • Belief & Mind: They hold contractor beliefs (M)
  • Belief & Logic: They believe something illogical. (L)

Indicate below by the letters (H, B, M or L) what kind of sour note is involved below.

___ “There is no absolute truth; everything is relative.”

___  “I long to achieve Nirvana, where I will lose all my identity.”

___   “I believe in survival of the fittest, but I try to life a good life.”

___  “Always avoid making absolute statements.”

___   A car with a Darwin Fish and a “World Peace” bumper sticker.

___ “I believe in Jesus and I hope I will go to heaven.”

___ The law does not allow the idea of “tradition” to define marriage.

___ “Dogma causes war; we should all accept each other.”

___ “I worship at this image of Gaia, because she created us.”

___ “Community is really important to me.  I have to skip church to make snacks for the packer game.”

___ “I believe in academic freedom, but no Religious groups should be allowed on campus.”

___ “All people are basically good, but our economic system is filled with greed from top to bottom.”

___ “The bible is God’s word, but some parts, like Paul talking about women, are just wrong.”

___ “I am a Marxist and I also believe we cannot follow the teachings of  dead white men.”

___ A car with these bumper stickers:  Keep your Laws off my body; Outlaw Sugar.

7 Words for Pastors – #3 “Sinners”

oldest fragment of John

oldest fragment of John

III.  Sinners   John 4:16

 Here are two Chicago stories.

A group of us joined with others to make a bus load of men to go the  Chicago Promise Keepers.  There we would be challenged, as we well knew, to practice racial reconciliation.  As we were traveling through Chicago to our hotel on the lake front, the bus driver took a short cut through the South Side.  We traveled along 58th Street, in a pretty rough part of town.  All along the trip to this point the men in the bus had been talking and laughing.  But as we traveled along 58th Street the bus became silent as we looked out at the boarded up stores, the graffiti, the empty lots and the peculiar people standing about on the street corners.  I could feel the tension in the bus.  Many had never traveled though a place like 58th Street.  Many were silently praying, “Lord, please don’t let this bus break down.”  As soon as we got close to the lake and the neighborhood changed again, the talk and the joking resumed.

 Years before on the South Side of Chicago my urban seminary class took a tour of one of the high rise public housing buildings.  We were led in this by a powerful black woman preacher named Hattie. She took us into a few apartments of people she knew.  I remember one scene in particular.  Hattie saw a man she recognized on the street.  His looked told all that he was an alcoholic and his staggering gait told us that he had been drinking.  She hailed him by name, and when he came close, she said, “John, when are you going to quit ruining your life and come back to the Lord?” And she prayed for him right on the spot.

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 The Third word is John 4:16

“Jesus told her, ‘Go, call your husband and come back.’”

 We know the text well.  Jesus did not bypass the bad neighborhood of Samaria as most of the Judeans did if they had reason to travel to Galilee.  Just as we bypass 58th Street by taking the outer loop around Chicago, they could take the outer loop on the other side of the Jordan.

We know that we need to quit hiding from sinners in the church.  Samaritans were from the Judean standpoint polluted people.  Their race was polluted by intermarriage with gentiles.  Their faith was polluted by the addition of false beliefs and practices from their splintered-off religion.

We have heard that we should go where the sinners are.  But when a bus takes us unawares through 58th Street, we are nervous.  Those people are polluted by drugs, gambling, city politics, crime, and who knows what else.

That is why we take the bypass around the city.

There are those who defend the city and it’s people.  These are the liberals or those hard to categorize evangelicals who are called by God to S. 58th Street.  (“And thank God we are not”, we say to ourselves.)

But here is the word.  How did Jesus meet sinners?  We have seen that he confronted and made uncomfortable Nicodemus, the seeker.  Will he affirm and comfort the sinner?

It looks that way at first.  Jesus chose this route through Samaria on purpose.  He anticipated this appointment.  At the well, alone with the woman, He asked for water.  He told her about “living water” and she was interested in it.  She asked for it.

What did Jesus do?  He made her uncomfortable!  He said, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

Like his conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus’ style was both complicated and confrontational.   It was complicated in that it was an allegory about water, and it got into the theology of worship.  It was also complicated because Jesus turned quickly from his simple truth to her complicated life.

Jesus confronted the woman with the question about her husband.  He knew the full story.  Why did he get into this?  Didn’t he know that we should offer the living water without conditions?  Why would he say something that might drive her away just when he had her interest?

Jesus is like Hattie, or Hattie is like Jesus.  Both go comfortably to the places where sinners walk about openly.  South Chicago was not fearful to Hattie.  Samaria was not fearful to Jesus.  Both engaged in personal evangelism.  Both showed a warm heart and personal concern.  Both confronted.

We follow trends.  Once preachers went to the city at the Soup Kitchens and preached the gospel to the hungry, the dirty and the down and out.  Listen first, they instructed, and eat second.

That is old style evangelism.

Now Christian workers go among the people and offer understanding and sympathetic outrage.  They offer a helping hand and a bag of groceries.  At the holiday season they bring toys for the children.

This is the new evangelism.

Jesus’ evangelism was to go to sinners, to love sinners, to speak to sinners by name, and to confront sinners with the truth.  He confronted the women with the truth of the living water, and with the truth of her own life.

It seems that for John, seekers like Nicodemus and sinners like the Woman at the well need the same approach.

It is seen again in John 8, where Jesus first rescued the woman caught in adultery from her accusers, and then he said to her, “…neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.”  There was grace to forgive and grace to confront the sin that bound her to a degrading life.