There is a lot of talk these days about being radical. In the mainstream media the term is closely linked with terrorists, violence and political or religious extremism. In the Church however there is an increasing  interest in radical Christian faith and a return to a deeply rooted discipleship. This renewed interest is emerging across many denominations and church movements.

John Stott's The Radical Disciple

John Stott’s 52nd and final book is a call to deeper discipleship

John Stott‘s new book ‘The Radical Disciple: Some Neglected Aspects of Our Calling‘ (from IVP) taps into this rising interest with a call to renew a Biblical, incarnational, counter-cultural pursuit of Jesus. As his 52nd book and final ‘swan song’ to the church, he lays out “eight characteristics of Christian discipleship that are often neglected and yet deserve to be taken seriously.” The eight characteristics of a robust faith he addresses are:

In the book he comes across not as one who is gloomily criticizing the Church at large for it’s failures, but as an aging apostolic father in the faith who is gathering his children around to humbly impart his blessing and prophetic legacy to a new generation. This legacy serves as signposts for a future state of the Church that will surpass the shallow, disembodied nature of our faith that plagues us worldwide today:

“There is no doubt of the phenomenal growth of the church in many parts of the world…At the same time we should not indulge in triumphalism, for it is often growth without depth. There is a superficiality of discipleship everywhere, and church leaders bemoan this situation…” [p. 38-39]

Elsewhere in the book, the author points out that one of the main sources of our shallowness is our dim and myopic view of Jesus:

“…Away with our Jesus clowns and pop stars! Away too with our political Messiahs and revolutionaries! For these are caricatures. If this is how we think of him, then no wonder our immaturities persist.” [p. 44]

“…the poorer our vision of Christ, the poorer our discipleship will be, whereas the richer our vision of Christ, the richer our discipleship will be.” [p. 47]

He also reminds us that the Gospel of GOD’s kingdom embraces the restoration of the entire created order:

“…GOD’s plan of restoration includes not only our reconciliation to GOD and each other, but in some way the liberation of the groaning creation as well.” [p. 50]

There is much to be said about Rev. Dr. John Stott‘s legacy of Biblical wisdom presented in his farewell address but the highlight of the book for me was the reproduction, in his chapter on simplicity, of a document that emerged in the 1980’s at the International Consultation on Simple Lifestyle gathering which took place  in England and developed out of the 1974 Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization. The document, which was first brought to my attention by another father in the faith, Tom Sine, recently,  is titled ‘The Evangelical Commitment to Simple Lifestyle‘ and begins with this word:

“…All Christians claim to have received a new life from Jesus Christ. What lifestyle, then, is appropriate for them? If the life is new, the lifestyle should be also. But what are to be it’s characteristics? In particular, how is it to be distinguished from the lifestyle of those who make no Christian profession?…” [p.65]

John Stott‘s final book is honestly not radical in of itself. His call to deeper discipleship and an incarnational, maturing faith is not an extreme message. The aspects of our Christian faith that he calls for renewal in are foundational realities in a life given to be a follower of Jesus. But in contrast to the prevailing tide of nominal faith today- these basics may in fact emerge as radical after all.

(Editor’s Note- Disclosure: Sustainable Traditions receives free review books from Intervarsity Press including the book reviewed above. SustainableTraditions.com is an independent website free to express opinions and reviews unhindered by any contractual requirements to any publishers or organizations.)

 

J. Fowler

J. Fowler is the website editor and co-founder, along with his wife Pamela, of the Sustainable Traditions project. The Fowlers live with their seven children on a farm near the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

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