Archives For John Stott

I think rather highly of the late John Stott for a number of reasons. First, there’s his longtime involvement with The Lausanne Movement, including his role as “chief architect” of the Lausanne Covenant. I think we can all still learn a great deal from his understanding of the relationship between evangelism and social action. And I’m grateful for the way he devoted so much of his life work to the church in the Global South through Langham Partnership. Then again, maybe my interest is really just a case of American Evangelical Anglophilia.

The Radical Disciple: Some Neglected Aspects of Our Calling (IVP) was Stott’s final book, as he said it would be, calling it a “valedictory message” to his readers. He explains the choice of words in the title by emphasizing that being a disciple of Christ has to do with being under discipline and “implies the relationship of pupil to teacher.” Disciple, then, is a stronger word than Christian. And radical, which comes from the Latin word for root, emphasizes that our commitment isn’t haphazard, flimsy, or temporary. Radical disciples are rooted ones, under the discipline of Christ. And this book challenges us on our tendency to want nothing to do with that kind of life:

Our common way of avoiding radical discipleship is to be selective: choosing those areas in which commitment suits us and staying away from those areas in which it will be costly.

While many of Stott’s readers have certainly been following Christ for decades, others — like the 18,000 or so who’ll attend Urbana 12 later this year (which always features a great selection of Stott’s work) — are much younger in their faith. One way or another, I think all of us are prone to the sort of selective discipleship Stott is concerned about.

Some — particularly older readers — may be a bit uncomfortable about the chapter on creation care as an essential aspect of discipleship, dealing with questions of population, depletion of resources, waste disposal, and climate change. Based on the biblical teaching that the earth is created by God and has been entrusted to us as its stewards, Stott urges us to avoid the twin errors of either deifying the earth or exploiting it. Rather, he says, we’re called to cooperate with God to conserve the good creation and to develop its resources for the common good.

Younger evangelicals (like myself) are probably more likely to affirm the importance of creation care, but I have a hunch that many of us haven’t really considered how creation care fits into God’s cosmic mission to redeem all things. So even those who are already inclined to “go green” could learn a lot from Stott on this. If creation care truly is part of discipleship, it can’t be reduced to a passing fad. Remember, discipleship is costly; that’s something those who have been Christians for a while know very well.

If the environmental chapter seems to border on the trendy, the other “neglected aspects of our calling,” it seems to me, are anything but popular. They are, however, all essential to biblical teaching, to Christ’s radical call to follow him:

He calls us to nonconformity under his Lordship, ruling out escapism and conformism as available options.

He calls us to Christlikeness in his incarnation, his service, his love, his endurance, and his mission.

He calls us to grow, but to be far more concerned with depth and than with impressive numbers.

He calls us to simplicity as a community and in our personal lifestyles, allowing us to better respond to the needs of the poor and giving credibility to our evangelistic witness.

He calls us to a way of life that holds in balance “our comprehensive identity” as followers of Christ: both individual discipleship and corporate fellowship, both worship and work, and both pilgrimage and citizenship. 

He calls us to dependence instead of rugged individualism, recognizing that we’re intended to belong to a family and to a church, both characterized by “mutual burdensomeness.”

Finally, he calls us to a Christian understanding of death, not as something to be ignored or feared, but as the road to life — “one of the profoundest paradoxes” we’ll ever encounter.

I think it’s clear that the multifaceted calling of discipleship doesn’t come easy to any of us, just as I’m sure it didn’t come easy to John Stott. But it’s our common calling, and it’s attainable. We’re called to follow Christ, and we’re given the grace to follow. Fortunately, grace takes many shapes and sizes, and I’m convinced the help we need is often found at least partially in those around us and in those who see the world from a different vantage point.

I for one hope my generation will do better at setting an example in speech, in conduct,  in love, in faith, and in purity – beginning with myself. And I pray we’ll humbly, eagerly and intentionally seek to learn from those Christians who have been at it longer than we have — even if they drive a gas-guzzling Buick instead of a Prius.

[Photo credit: John Yates via digdeep1962.blogspot.com]

1. Chris Wright interview
Chris Wright, Old Testament scholar and head of the Langham Partnership (a ministry started by John Stott), was interviewed on the UK-based Nomad Podcast about mission in the Old Testament and gives his perspective on what appear to be ethical conundrums in the Bible. Here also are my notes from a talk Wright gave when he was in town earlier this year.

2. 25 years of refugee resettlement
My former boss, Sheila McGeehan, is profiled by Church World Service for her decades of work resettling refugees in Lancaster. I love the way refugees and immigrants have turned Lancaster City into such a unique, vibrant place, and though she’s too modest to take credit, Sheila has played a big part in that:

Not many people can claim to have resettled thousands upon thousands of refugees to their hometown – but Sheila McGeehan can. Since she began her work with the Church World Service Immigration and Refugee Program (CWS/IRP) 25 years ago, she has introduced refugees from all around the world to Lancaster, Pa. – the “tranquil, prosperous, safe, pretty” city she loves. In turn, newcomers from Russia, Vietnam, Sudan, Bhutan, Ethiopia, Burma, Bosnia, Iraq and numerous other countries have transformed this small city in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country into what McGeehan calls a “very cosmopolitan” community, population 55,000-plus.

3. Science in a fallen world
Jason Summers, a real-life scientist, has written a new essay for Q Ideas, calling Christians to faithful engagement in science:

Taking seriously our uniquely human role as practitioners of science, Christians must approach science with a deep grounding in theology and proper understanding of its practice in society. The most significant questions about how science is to be practiced in a fallen world will be settled on the field that spans the two poles of antithesis and common grace. But, if we are to have meaningful input in answering these questions we must heed Pope’s admonition to “check yourself before you wreck yourself” (as a more recent poet has phrased it). Overemphasis of common grace in the practice of science diminishes the unique epistemic perspective of Christians to the extent that faith is made private. In contrast, an overemphasis of antithesis magnifies issues of “ultimate explanation” to the extent that artificial barriers are created to use of valid theoretical constructs. Both distortions are barriers to creating a God honoring culture of science within a society that is pluralistic and fallen, but redeemed and image-bearing.

4. The most read books in the world
A guy by the name of Jared Fanning created an infographic featuring the ten most read books over the past fifty years. Some would be expected, but some are a bit more puzzling. (HT Jesus Creed)

5. Jeppe on a Friday
Here’s the trailer for a “collaborative neighborhood documentary,” set in Johannesburg, South Africa and showing “a day in the lives of eight residents of this area on the brink of massive change.” It looks really fascinating. (HT polis)

Repaso is intended as a thought-provoking compilation of news and commentary from the past week related to the intersections of faith, development, justice and peace. As always, I welcome your thoughts on any of the links and ideas in this roundup!

[Photo credit: eattheblinds.com]

1. Why American Evangelicals love the British
Molly Worthen has an interesting post at the new Religion & Politics blog (tagline: “fit for polite company”) about people like us and why we’re so hung up on guys like C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and John Stott. We Americans apparently have an intellectual inferiority complex, for one thing. Whether you buy all her arguments or not, it’s a good read. Here’s a bit of what she has to say about Stott:

John Stott represented British evangelical moderation at its very best. He spent much of his career advocating dialogue among evangelicals, Catholics, liberals and charismatic Christians. He recognized early on that the center of gravity in global Christianity had shifted to the developing world, and worked to break down the ethnocentric mindset of evangelicals in Europe and North America and convince them that preaching the Word and fighting for social justice were two sides of the same coin… Just as Tolkien and Lewis baptized the world of myth, magic and fantasy for evangelicals whose churches had long proscribed such things as demonic, John Stott helped evangelicals recover a capacity for compassion and civil conversation that was lost in the fog of the culture wars.

2. Doxology and desire
Sandra McCracken makes amazing music and she also happens to write beautiful essays, like this one at Art House America:

So with each passing day, I am becoming more attuned to the particular DNA I have from each of my parents — biology and theology — pushing me forward on the journey of conservation. I might be unqualified, but everybody has to start somewhere. Rather than burying my head in the sand like I am inclined to do, I have to lean into my discomfort. I’d rather deepen my longing, not assuage it. And I look to the great hope that all things will one day be restored and renewed. I want to honor and care for God’s creation not because of a marketing team pulling on my checkbook, but because of a doxological pull that tugs on my conscience.

3. Pastors and their people
I’ve decided I want to read everything Rich Mouw has written. I first read this and then this and, most recently, this. In a recent essay at Faith & Leadership, hosted by Duke Divinity School, he writes about the gap between the worlds in which pastors and their congregants live. He describes a conversation with a successful businessman who lamented the fact that his pastor didn’t understand the challenges he faced day to day:

I have thought much about that conversation. If I were that man’s pastor, what could I do to speak more directly to his felt needs as a businessperson? One thing I would not do is to preach detailed sermons about economics. My lunch partner made it clear that he was not asking for that kind of thing, and I agree with him. What this person was asking for was more sensitivity to the kinds of complexities he faces on a daily basis — a reasonable expectation. And his pastor could respond to this need in helpful ways without becoming an expert on corporate finance.

4. Kristof and Hybels have a chat
Last Sunday, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof was interviewed by Bill Hybels at Willow Creek Church about oppression against women and opportunities to right those wrongs. It’s a fascinating conversation, and the 40 minute video is (for the moment, at least) here. If you’re interested, here also is my review of Kristof’s book on the subject.

5. Wisdom & Wonder mindmap
Fellow Kuyper nerds will be interested to see this amazing mindmap by Steve Bishop of the first four chapters of Wisdom & Wonder: Common Grace in Science & Art. It all makes sense now.

6. Tom covers Bob
Some of you may have seen this already, but during a stop in Nashville this week, N.T. Wright picked up a guitar and played a Bob Dylan song, citing its “wonderful biblical imagery” and its solid eschatology. What a treat (though, admittedly, this might just be evidence of my own Anglophilia).

Repaso is intended as a thought-provoking compilation of news and commentary from the past week related to the intersections of faith, development, justice and peace. As always, I welcome your thoughts on any of the links and ideas in this roundup!

[Photo credit: a man lights his pipe and enjoys a pint at the Eagle and Child, where The Inklings met to plot goodness - via amazon.com]

 A lot of the content that appears on this blog has to do with books I’m reading, events I go to, writing projects I’m working on, and other stuff I think might be worthwhile for the kind of folks who’d read a blog like this in the first place. That tagline at the top — “exploring the intersections of faith, development, justice & peace” — is as much for me as for you, reminding me to only post stuff that somehow fits within these set parameters (I make occasional exceptions in Repaso, my weekly roundup of all kinds of good stuff from around the internet).

From time to time I do a series of posts about a given topic that has something to do with those intersections. Two years ago this month, I did a six part series on the “Seek Social Justice” study produced by WORLD Magazine and the Heritage Foundation. Last April I ran a five part series on John Perkins and the Christian Community Development Association, focusing specifically on Perkins’ book, Beyond Charity: The Call to Christian Community Development. I’ve done a couple of other smaller series as well, like a three part look at Nicholas Wolterstorff’s book, Until Justice and Peace Embrace, which I posted last October.

These series have been meaningful for me, allowing me to reflect for a few weeks at a time on a particular thinker, theme or issue. And I’ve received positive feedback from them, which is always nice, and leads me to believe they’re helpful for others as well. So with all of that in mind, I introduce my next series

Those of us in the evangelical stream of Christianity who are interested in one way or another in the intersections of faith, development, justice and peace, stand on the shoulders of a lot of faithful women and men who have gone before us. Not so long ago, there were significant roadblocks for those seeking to understand how an evangelical, missional Christian faith might relate to and inform one’s understanding of what it means to serve the poor, mediate reconciliation between actual enemies with weapons, seek the welfare of the city, and to otherwise contribute to the common good in meaningful and tangible ways. We’ve come a long way from the height of the fundamentalist-modernist divide in the early twentieth century North American church, and no, it hasn’t primarily been my generation that has brought this about; we’re just starting to reap the benefits of the faithfulness of others. Rather, I’d suggest it has a lot to do with the Lausanne Movement and some of its key early leaders, people like Billy Graham, Rene Padilla, Samuel Escobar, Carl Henry and John Stott.

The First Lausanne Congress was held in Switzerland in 1974, with 2,700 participants from more than 150 countries. TIME called it “a formidable forum, possibly the widest ranging meeting of Christians ever held.” Here’s a three-minute video about that first gathering.

After the congress, a group of theologians and other Christian leaders drafted The Lausanne Covenant, with John Stott as its “chief architect” (more on Stott’s important contributions here). It’s a remarkable document, and it’s worth reading slowly and thoughtfully. For the purposes of this blog I want to highlight one section in particular, titled “Christian Social Responsibility.” Here’s how it reads (I know it’s a lengthy excerpt, but trust me, it’s worth it):

We affirm that God is both the Creator and the Judge of all people. We therefore should share his concern for justice and reconciliation throughout human society and for the liberation of men and women from every kind of oppression. Because men and women are made in the image of God, every person, regardless of race, religion, colour, culture, class, sex or age, has an intrinsic dignity because of which he or she should be respected and served, not exploited. Here too we express penitence both for our neglect and for having sometimes regarded evangelism and social concern as mutually exclusive. Although reconciliation with other people is not reconciliation with God, nor is social action evangelism, nor is political liberation salvation, nevertheless we affirm that evangelism and socio-political involvement are both part of our Christian duty. For both are necessary expressions of our doctrines of God and man, our love for our neighbour and our obedience to Jesus Christ. The message of salvation implies also a message of judgment upon every form of alienation, oppression and discrimination, and we should not be afraid to denounce evil and injustice wherever they exist. When people receive Christ they are born again into his kingdom and must seek not only to exhibit but also to spread its righteousness in the midst of an unrighteous world. The salvation we claim should be transforming us in the totality of our personal and social responsibilities. Faith without works is dead.

(Acts 17:26,31; Gen. 18:25; Isa. 1:17; Psa. 45:7; Gen. 1:26,27; Jas. 3:9; Lev. 19:18; Luke 6:27,35; Jas. 2:14-26; Joh. 3:3,5; Matt. 5:20; 6:33; II Cor. 3:18; Jas. 2:20)

There were three papers presented at that first Lausanne Congress that, according to pastor, professor and missiologist Dr. Al Tizon, “laid the theological foundation for evangelicals to engage wholeheartedly in ministries of community development, justice for the poor, advocacy for the oppressed and the transformation of society, alongside ministries of evangelism, personal discipleship and church expansion.”

Those three presentations were by Rene Padilla (“Evangelism and the World”), Samuel Escobar (“Evangelism and Man’s Search for Freedom, Justice, and Fulfillment”), and Carl Henry (“Christian Personal and Social Ethics in Relation to Racism, Poverty, War and Other Problems”).

Over the next three weeks, I’ll take each of those papers/presentations in turn, providing a bit of background on Padilla, Escobar and Henry, respectively, and drawing out some of the key concepts and arguments they make. I think you’ll see that what they had to say in 1974 is in many ways just as relevant to us today, if not more so. And just as they served to correct some of that generation’s blind spots having to do with the intersections of faith, development, justice and peace, they can do the same for us today. Following these three installments, if all goes well, I’ll take a look at some of the more recent contributions of the Lausanne Movement, specifically related to the 2010 Cape Town Congress.

I’m excited about this series. I hope you are too.

[Photo credit: Wheaton College Archive]

1. Two views on the Cuban travel ban
The Miami Herald recently had dueling op-eds on the topic of the Cuban embargo and travel ban. Miami, as many know, has a large Cuban-American population and this issue, always a contentious one, is only heightened there. Humberto Fontova writes “Why we remain resolute against traveling to Cuba,” while Elissa Vanaver represents the other view in “Cuba: Why we made the trip, and what we saw.” Neither of the writers seem particularly fond of the Castro regime, but have different ideas of how to best respond.

2. John Stott on worship and witness
Q Ideas, in partnership with the Evangelical Environmental Network, published an old sermon by John Stott on worship and witness:

The works of the Lord are to be the subject of our witness. Worship and witness belong together. We cannot possibly worship God—that is, acknowledge his infinite worth— without longing to go out into the world to persuade other people to come and worship him. Worship leads inevitably to witness, but witness leads to worship, too. It is a continuous cycle of worship leading to witness leading to worship and so on. The two cannot be separated. In both worship and witness, the works of the Lord are paramount.

3. Religious pluralism and “holy ground”
Philip Jenkins, who introduced many of us to the shifting center of global Christianity toward the South and East and away from the West, writes for Christian Century on religious pluralism and “holy ground.” It’s not a new issue, of course, but growing religious extremism, coupled with changing religious demographics due to migration, has made it all the more timely. It’s something Miroslav Volf addressed in his book A Public Faith, which I reviewed here.

4. Ken Myers on the church as “polis”
Ken Myers, host of the Mars Hill Audio Journal (which I’m thoroughly enjoying this year thanks to a Christmas gift from my in-laws), wrote a book on faith and culture that’s now being re-released more than 20 years after its original publication. Here’s an excerpt from the introduction:

The Church is not simply in the business of getting individuals saved. The Church’s task is to nurture and shape its members into disciples, who observe everything their Lord—the Lord of heaven and earth—has commanded. Of course, the Church must be eagerly active to bring in new members. But it must deliberately be a body the membership in which makes a difference. It must offer a way of life—a culture—which is distinct from the world’s ways. And it must seek to baptize its new members into Christ and into his body, which means that they must be exhorted to abandon their old memberships and allegiances.

5. Participatory public art in a favela
The polis blog, which I continue to love, has an interview with  Boa Mistura, a group of five Spanish artists who call themselves “graffiti rockers.” They spent some time living with a family in a favela in Sao Paolo, Brazil, saying they “wanted settle in the slum, dissect it, smell it, live it and love it.” They ended up working on a public art installation with neighborhood residents, painting words like “love,” “beauty” and “firmness” in Portuguese in bright colors on walls. It’s fascinating stuff.

Repaso is intended as a thought-provoking compilation of news and commentary from the past week related to the intersections of faith, development, justice and peace. As always, I welcome your thoughts on any of the links and ideas in this roundup!

[Photo credit: Boa Mistura via thepolisblog.org]