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

“You are preaching on Matthew?”

MatthewCallI got that question recently: “You are preaching on Matthew?”

The idea seemed to be: ” That is odd.”  I am not sure why.  John is probably the most popular gospel among Evangelical Christians, and Luke has more with human interest and social compassion, Mark is very action oriented.  Matthew seems to be the “eh” gospel these days.

From my reading it appears that Matthew was for a long time the most read gospel.  It is the most complete of the synoptics – it has both discourse and narrative.  Yet, while Mark is shorter overall, what Mark includes is given more detail.  Matthew does not mention the lowering of the paralytic through the roof (9:1-9), nor does he mention the fuller sequence of events when the synagogue ruler approaches Jesus about his daughter (10:18ff).  So Matthew was a thorough-going editor who left a lot of snips on the floor by his desk.

Also, Matthew is very missional.  I noted this here.  The thread of Mission is woven though the whole book.  So with all the talk of the missional church, we would well to re-read Matthew to follow his story line and emphasis.

Of course there is the danger that Jesus might walk into your life and point the finger and say, “I mean this mission is for you!”  the painting above is “The Calling of Matthew” by Caravaggio, 1600.  Notice how Matthew (in the beard) seems to be pointing to the left and saying “You must mean him.”

Nope, Jesus meant Matthew.  Keep reading and he may call after you!

Matthew’s Threads

Matthew Threads

I have developed an overall structure that combines the narrative ascent to Peter’s confession of Christ and down from there to the Cross and Resurrection.  This is combined with sections of Narrative paired with Discourse on the themes of

  • Fulfillment (chapters 1-4);
  • Authority (chapters 5-9);
  • Mission (chapters 10-12);
  • Opposition – (chapters 13-16);
  • Discipleship – (chapters 16-18);
  • Judgments (chapters 19-25);
  • Passion and Mission (chapters 26-28).

I have found Craig Blomberg helpful for this.  Now what I am noticing in the text is the overlap of the threads.  While concluding his authoritative teaching (Sermon on the Mount)  for example, the text  moves towards decision, and in the miracle stories on Matthew 8 and 9 there are sections on discipleship (8:18-22; 9:9-13; 9:14-17) which points to the section on Mission in the following chapters.

I find this overlapping of the “threads” typical of Matthew so far.

Matthew and Gentiles

logo.1Matthew has a twin theme of fulfill and extend.  The fulfillment accounts for the Jewish character of this gospel, but it is not sufficient to call this a gospel to or for the Jewish people.  There is a strong theme of extension of the message to the gentiles. The great commission (Gen 28:18-20) is not slapped on the end, but is part of a theme.

Below is a page by page listing of references to Gentiles.   One can also notice when reading the idea of rejection (by the religious leaders of the time) and extension (to gentiles, tax collectors, sinners and others.)

  • 1:1           Son of Abraham (Gen 12, “all the nations will be blessed…”)
  • 1:5           Rahab, Ruth
  • 1:6          Wife of Uriah (the Hittite)
  • 1:11-17   Deportation to Babylon
  • 2:1          Herod – a Jew of Idumean descient appointed by the Romans
  • 2:1-12    Magi from the East
  • 2:13        Flight to Egypt
  • 2:15        Out of Egypt (Hos 11:1)
  • 3:9          John: “from these stones God can raise sons of Abraham”
  • 4:8-0      3rd Temptation – “Nations fo the world”
  • 4:15            “Galilee of the Gentiles  (2:22)
  • 4:24        Fame spread to Syria
  • 4:25        Decapolis (mixed area)
  • 5:14            Light of the World
  • 6:7                Praying like the Gentiles
  • 6:32              Gentiles seek these things
  • 8:5-12       Faith of a Centurion
  • 8:28-33     Gerasenes; herd of pigs
  • 9:9-13         Matthew as Tax collector (agent of Rome); Tax collectors and Sinners
  • 10:4            “go nowhere among the gentiles.” (Israel first)
  • 10:8              you will testify before governors and Kings. (Gentile mission)
  • 11                   Judgment on Israel (replacement theme)
  • 11:21-23     Tyre and Sidon
  • 12:17           “Justice to the Gentiles” – [Isaiah 42:1-3]
  • 12:37           Jonah (missionary to Assyria)
  • 12:42           Queen of the South
  • 13:32            Birds in the branches?
  • 15:21           Withdrew to Tyre and Sidon
  • 15:22-28     Canaanite woman – crumbs
  • 16:13           Caesarea-Phillipi (Roman/Greek name)
  • 17:33f         Taxes; kings of the Earth
  • 18:17            Be to you as a gentile and a tax collector
  • 20:19            Christ delivered to the Gentiles
  • 20:25           Rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; be servants
  • 21:13             Temple as “House of Prayer” (no mention of ‘for the nations’?)
  • 21:43            Kingdom taken away and given to others (replacement)
  • 22:15-21      Herodians; Taxes to Caesar
  • 24:9              Hatred by the nations
  • 24:14            This gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole                                                 worl  …                           testimony to the nations
  • 24:15             Abomination of Desolation
  • 24:38             Noah (pre-Abraham)
  • 25:32            Gathered from all nations; sorted by acts (faith)
  • 26:13            “Wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world…”
  • 27:2ff           Pilate (Roman)
  • 27:65              Guards/Tomb
  • 28:7, 10          Galilee (see 4:15)
  • 28:19-20        “…make disciples of all nations…”