John Stott on Christian 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

Tally Man – John Stott on Romans 12:21

I encountered this quote from John Stott while studying Romans 12:17-21

John Stott, Romans, 1994, IVP, p. 337

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)

“In all our thinking and living it is important to keep the negative and positive counterparts together.  Both are good. It is good never to retaliate, because if we repay evil for evil, we double it, adding a second evil to the first, and so increasing the tally of evil in the world.  It is even better to be positive, to bless, to do good, to seek peace, and to serve and convert out enemy, because if we thus repay good for evil, we reduce the tally of evil in the world, while at the same time increasing the tally for good. To repay evil for evil is to be overcome by it; to repay good for evil is to overcome evil with good.  This is the way of the cross…”

Farewell John Stott

John Stott has gone ahead of us.  Just a few words.  While this blog is dedicated to taking a Fresh Read of scripture for ourselves, that does not preclude comparing notes with other writers and teachers.  The point is to Read it and read it Freshly.

Stott was a very thoughtful writer, who combined scholarship and pastoral leadership in a rather unique way. He was greatly committed to training leaders and equipping pastors all around the world.  He made a few errors, who has not. I do not follow him in a few points, but here is my short list of Stott works worth reading.

“The Letters of John” in the Tyndale series, is a short commentary on I, II ad III John.  His analysis of this rather elliptical book is excellent – and we learn that not all outlines are linear.  It is not an expensive or a long book, but it is worth reading along with the text.

“Romans” published by IVP and “The Spirit the Church ane the World” are excellent commentaries on Romans and Acts.

“The Cross of Christ”  is a very good exposition of the cross from various angles.  It is interesting in particular how he says that much of popular preaching is off base – when Jesus is presented as sort of the good cop against God the Father as the bad cop.  His view of the text and of trinitarian theology in general safeguards us from setting one person of god against the other.

“Basic Christianity” and the booklets “Becoming a Christian” and “Being a Christian” are classics for thoughtful presentation of the Gospel.  I heard Stott agree with a speaker in Milwaukee that these are books from before the post-modern mindset of our times, so they may not be the best presentation for our times.  Stott was not at all offended but rather agreed with the comment.

He brought together “The Bible Speaks Today” series, which is a serious but accessible set of commentaries on various Biblical books.  His own “Guard the Gospel” and “Sermon on the Mount” are good examples of this series.

John, my library and my sermon notes from the last 25 years say, “well done.”