Christian Mission in the Modern World

by John Stott, 1975 (Americanization 2008); updated and expanded by Christopher J.H. Wright, 2015

Work by John Stott explaining how a Christian should live in the world; what our lives should look like as far as Mission, Evangelism, Dialogue, Salvation, and Conversion. He wrote it in 1975, Americanized it in 2008, and Christopher J.H. Wright brought it up-to-date in 2015.

They analyze topics thoroughly. John Stott is presented first, followed by an analysis and update on the same topic by Christopher J. H. Wright. John Stott is easy to read and understand and much of what he writes is inspirational. He never strays from the Bible as his guide and the Bible is the Gospel from beginning to end. Christopher Wright gives a lot of information from scholars and conferences.

John Stott wrote 6 pages on the Great Commandment and the modern-day Evangelical Church that state exactly what Wayne sees, feels, and believes. Stott looks only to the Bible for instructions on how to spread the Gospel and this makes him completely credible and relevant no matter the age.

Here are some of the many insights from this book.

From the first chapter, Mission:

“In many of our Christian attitudes and enterprises we have tended (especially those of us who live in Europe and North America) to be bosses rather than servants.”

“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.”

“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.”

Under The Great Commission: “I venture to say that sometimes, perhaps because it was the last instruction Jesus gave us before returning to the Father, we give the Great Commission too prominent a place in our Christian thinking.”

“Humanitarian activity cares for the casualties of a sick society. We should be concerned with preventive medicine or community health as well, which means the quest for better social structures in which peace, dignity, freedom and justice are secured for all. And there is no reason why, in pursuing this quest, we should not join hands with all people of good will, even if they are not Christians.”

When any community deteriorates, the blame should be attached where it belongs: not to the community that is going bad but to the church that is failing in its responsibility as salt to stop it from going bad.

His examples of “study and action groups” in a vibrant church: House-to-house visitation, evangelizing at hostels or youth clubs or colleges or coffee shops, community relations among immigrants, setting up a housing association to help the homeless, visiting old folks or the sick, helping the handicapped, addressing abortion or pornography.

Christopher Wright expands on Mission, emphasizing that God is a sending God. God’s purpose is to bring the “whole creation into reconciled unity in, through and under Christ.”

Here is what the “Cape Town Commitment” says about Mission:

“We are committed to world mission, because it is central to our understanding of God, the Bible, the Church, human history and the ultimate future. The whole Bible reveals the mission of God to bring all things in heaven and earth into unity under Christ, reconciling them through the blood of his cross. In fulfilling his mission, God will transform the creation broken by sin and evil into the new creation in which there is no more sin or curse. God will fulfil his promise to Abraham to bless all nations on the earth, through the gospel of Jesus, the Messiah, the seed of Abraham. God will transform the fractured world of nations that are scattered under the judgment of God into the new humanity that will be redeemed by the blood of Christ from every tribe, nation, tongue and language, and will be gathered to worship our God and Saviour. God will destroy the reign of death, corruption and violence when Christ returns to establish his eternal reign of life, justice and peace. Then God, Immanuel, will dwell with us, and the kingdom of the world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ and he shall reign for ever and ever. [Genesis 1-12; Ephesians 1:9-10; Colossians 1:20; Revelation 21-22]

Lastly, they both emphasize that “Mission and Ministry are for All Disciples in All Areas of Life.”

In the chapter on Evangelism: “Evangelism is neither to convert people, nor to win them, nor to bring them to Christ, though this is indeed the first goal of evangelism. Evangelism is to preach the gospel.”

Our message is the gospel and Jesus is the heart and soul of the gospel. We have lost confidence in the gospel. We must not. “Nothing hinders evangelism today more than the widespread loss of confidence in the truth, relevance and power of the gospel.” “In a single word, God’s good news is Jesus.”

There is no other religion that offers the forgiveness of sins and the indwelling Holy Spirit; new life and eternity in heaven. And both authors stress the entire Bible is the Gospel; the story of God’s creation and love and saving grace – the story of Jesus from start to end – the good news for all nations. Many people treat the Old Testament as “something from which the gospel actually rescues us.”

“Now of course, as Paul fully acknowledged (in company with Jesus, Moses and all the prophets), the people of Israel failed miserable, proving themselves to be just as much sin-laden, fallen rebels as the rest of the human race. But the purposes of God were not nullified by the failure of Israel. On the contrary, the good news of the Old Testament is precisely the promise and undying hope that Yahweh, the God of Israel, would triumph over evil, would reign as king and would bring salvation to the ends of the earth.”

We have forgotten or never learned the urgency and importance of the gospel and that is why our evangelism lacks power. We must understand that the whole gospel comes from the whole Bible.

True believers repent of their sinful way of life and live a life of goodness. “The gospel declares truth and exposes evil before God’s judgment.” “The gospel has cosmic power through the mighty working of the Holy Spirit.” “In Paul’s most eloquent summary of the gospel, he proclaims that all things in the universe have been created by Christ, and are being sustained by Christ, and will be reconciled to God by Christ through the blood of his cross. That is the breathtakingly universal scope of the gospel (Col.1:15-23).”

Evangelism is sharing the good news. “The good news is Jesus.” Jesus died for our sins, was raised from death, and reigns at the right hand of God the Father as our Lord and Savior. He has authority to command repentance and faith and to bestow forgiveness and His indwelling Holy Spirit on all who “repent, believe, and are baptized.”

We respond to the gospel either by repenting and believing, or by continued rebellion and rejection. When we repent, we turn away from “the idolatries and evil of life lived in rebellion against God, and a turning back to God in radically changed life and behavior…” True faith has obedience to God, meaning changed behavior. You can’t have one without the other. Stott “castigates” those who separate belief in Jesus as Savior from submitting to Him in obedience as Lord. Some do so to emphasize we are saved by grace through faith alone, but Stott says to separate faith from obedience is unbiblical.

The Lausanne Covenant states: “We love the transformation the gospel produces. The gospel is God’s life-transforming power at work in the world.”

In the chapter called Dialogue, he writes about Jesus being the true light of the world, His presence in the world enlightens everyone, everything good and beautiful and true comes from Him. But people willfully reject the light, “because their deeds were evil.” Peter, Paul and John “declare the constant activity of God in the non-Christian world. God has not left himself without witness. God reveals himself in nature. God is not far from any person. God gives light to every human being. But as a whole human race we reject the knowledge we have, prefer darkness to light and do not acknowledge the God we know. That knowledge by itself does not save us; it condemns us for our disobedience. Even our religiosity is a subtle escape from the God we are afraid and ashamed to meet.

Sharing the gospel with others is an opportunity “both to disclose the inadequacies and falsities of non-Christian religion and to demonstrate the adequacy and truth, absoluteness and finality of the Lord Jesus Christ.” But we should never be abrasive or hostile. We must be authentic and humble and have integrity and sensitivity.

“Dialogue is a token of genuine Christian love, because it indicates our steadfast resolve to rid our minds of the prejudices and caricatures that we may entertain about other people, to struggle to listen through their ears and look through their eyes so as to grasp what prevents them from hearing the gospel and seeing Christ, to sympathize with them in all their doubts, fears and “hang-ups.” For such sympathy will involve listening, and listening means dialogue. It is once more the challenge of the incarnation, to renounce evangelism by inflexible slogans, and instead to involve ourselves sensitively in the real dilemmas that people face.”

In the chapter on Salvation, he argues against a health and wealth gospel. Evangelicals must care about the poverty and injustice in the world and do all we can to share God’s love tangibly to right the wrongs in our world.

Salvation is freedom from self, and freedom for God. Salvation is a process: we are justified, but in between our justification and our glorification, there is sanctification: “the gradual transformation of the believer by the Spirit of Christ into the image of Christ…”

“To become Christian is in a real sense to become human, because nothing dehumanizes more than rebellion against God, and nothing humanizes more than reconciliation to God and fellowship with God.”

Regarding “Salvation,” it is a free gift but we are also to give ourselves wholeheartedly to the service of God and humanity and Stott is ashamed at the lack of contemporary believers to “grow up to salvation.” If we don’t practice what we preach, our message will fall on deaf ears.

In his chapter, Reflections on Salvation, Christopher Wright brings up Revelations 7:9 which says the song of salvation will be sung by peoples from every tribe, nation, language, and this could mean throughout history, from the beginning of time, before missionaries could preach the gospel. Not that everyone will be saved, but that God’s grace extends to everyone from the beginning of time – God saves sinners who know they are sinners and who turn away from sin and self toward God.

The last chapter is called Conversion. Repentance and faith in Jesus constitute conversion. We are called to live as Jesus Christ as our Lord, within Christian community after conversion but the state of our churches is so unattractive, why would we want to bring others into it? However, “our Christian duty is to seek the renewal of the church, not to avoid or abandon it. For it still remains God’s church…”

Finally, he stresses that mission, evangelism, dialogue, salvation, conversion, are the work of the Holy Spirit through us. Let God be God as we allow Him to work through us as instruments of His righteousness (Wayne’s prayer: Help us to be instruments of Your love and grace).

Christopher Wright’s Reflections on Conversion:

“For Paul, the gospel (the good news that God promised the world) began in Genesis and is now made visible in the church–and visible not only on earth. The church, according to Paul in Ephesians 3 (meaning, in context, the church as the new humanity of reconciled Jews and Gentiles through the cross) is God’s showcase to the whole cosmos of spiritual powers, proving the truth of “the mystery of Christ” and the accomplishment of God’s great redemptive mission: “Through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose which he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:10-11).

These words of Stott’s from the 1974 Lausanne Covenant: “The church is at the very centre of God’s cosmic purpose and is his appointed means of spreading the Gospel. But a church which preaches the Cross must itself be marked by the Cross…[The church] becomes a stumbling block to evangelism when it betrays the Gospel or lacks a living faith in God, genuine love for people, or scrupulous honesty in all things including promotion and finance.”

More quotes:

The people of God are those from all ages and all nations whom God in Christ has loved, chosen, called, saved and sanctified as a people for his own possession, to share in the glory of Christ as citizens of the new creation…However, few things so destroy our testimony as when Christians mirror and amplify the very same divisions among themselves…The Church from all nations stands in continuity through the Messiah Jesus with God’s people in the Old Testament. With them we have been called through Abraham and commissioned to be a blessing and a light to the nations…The Church exists to worship and glorify God for all eternity and to participate in the transforming mission of God within history. Our mission is wholly derived from God’s mission, addresses the whole of God’s creation, and is grounded at its centre in the redeeming victory of the cross. This is the people to whom we belong, whose faith we confess and whose mission we share.”