Last week, I read John Stott’s new book, The Living Church. He has served the All Souls Church in London for sixty years. The inside of the jacket of the book reads as follows:
At the 150th anniversary of the dedication of his church, John Stott gave voice to his dream for All Souls, London, and all souls everywhere: "I have a dream of . . . a biblical church . . . a worshiping church . . . a caring church . . . a serving church . . . an expectant church."
I read this book not necessarily looking for something innovative or even unique. I read this book because I have such a deep respect for Stott who has served with integrity and has given ministers across the globe an example worth imitating. Stott has modeled what it means to do ministry with a keen mind and a tender heart.
Given Stott’s reputation and his example, I read with respect his dream for the church everywhere. The book is Stott’s clear reminder of what the church has been called to be.
The following are a few quotes which I liked in particular:
"Mission" arises, then, not from the biblical doctrine of the church in the world. If we are not "the church," the holy and distinct people of God, we have nothing to say because we are compromised. If, on the other hand, we are not "in the world," deeply involved in its life and suffering, we have no one to serve because we are insulated. Our calling is to be "holy" and "worldly" at the same time. Without this balanced biblical ecclesiology we will never recover or fulfill our mission. (p. 54)
We cannot proclaim the gospel of God’s love with any degree of integrity if we do not exhibit it in our love for others. Perhaps nothing is so damaging to the cause of Christ as a church which is either torn apart by jealousy, rivalry, slander and malice, or preoccupied with its own selfish concerns. Such churches urgently need to be radically renewed in love. . . . (p. 69)
In order to build bridges that are solid, we have to study on both sides of the canyon. It goes without saying that we must study Scripture until we are really familiar with it. But we must also study the world in which we live. Nothing has helped me do this more than belonging to a reading group which began in 1972. We met every few weeks, having read an agreed non-Christian book, to discuss its challenge to our Christian world-view. I call this "double listening," listening to the word of God and listening to the voices of the modern world, its cries of anger, pain and despair. (p. 100)