I have been reading The Living Church
by John Stott. In this book, subtitled Convictions of a Lifelong Pastor
, Stott shares about maintaining spiritual vitality and mission commitment over a long span of time. I especially appreciate his desire to communicate with both traditional and emerging churches.
Here are a few quotes from the opening chapters:
“It is not that the church’s calling is to ape the world, for it is called rather to develop a Christian counterculture. At the same time, we must listen to the voices of the world in order to be able to respond to them sensitively, though without compromise. “
John Stott, The Living Church
, p. 12
“For the church lies at the very center of the eternal purpose of God. It is not a divine afterthought. It is not an accident of history. On the contrary, the church is God’s new community. For his purpose, conceived in a past eternity, is not just to save isolated individuals and so perpetuate our loneliness, but rather to build his church, that is, to call out of the world a people for his glory.”
John Stott, The Living Church, p. 19.
“We believe that the church has a double identity. On the one hand we are called out of the world to belong to God, and on the other hand, we are sent back into the world to witness and to serve.”
John Stott, The Living Church, p. 20.
“Moreover, the mission of the church is modeled on the mission of Christ. He himself said so. ‘As the Father has sent me, I am sending you’ (John 20:21). His mission meant for him the incarnation. He did not stay in the safe immunity of his heaven. Instead, he emptied himself of his glory and humbled himself to serve. He actually entered our world. He took our nature, lived our life, and died our death. He could not have identified with us more closely than he did. It was total identification, though without any loss of identity, for he became one of us without ceasing to be himself. He became human without ceasing to be God.
And now he calls us to enter other people’s worlds, as he entered ours. All authentic mission is incarnational mission. We are called to enter other people’s social and cultural reality: into their thought- world, struggling to understand their misunderstandings of the gospel, and into the pain of their alienation, weeping with those who weep. And all this without compromising our Christian beliefs, values, and standards.”
John Stott, The Living Church, pp. 20-21.
“. . .what is God’s vision for his church? What are the distinguishing marks of a living church? To answer these questions we have to go back to the beginning and take a fresh look at the first Spirit-filled church in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost. Mind you, as we do so, it is essential that we are realistic. For we have a tendency to idealize or romanticize the early church. We look at it through tinted spectacles. We speak of it in whispers, as if it had no blemishes. Then we miss the rivalries, the hypocrisies, the immoralities, and the heresies which troubled the first-century church as they trouble the church today.”
John Stott, The Living Church, p. 21.