This book is based on a series of lectures given by Dr. Stott at the International Congress on World Evangelization at Lausanne in July 1974. The series of lectures center on the topic of “the nature of biblical evangelism.” Specifically, Stott singles out five missiological terms and focuses on defining each of them. They are ‘mission’, ‘evangelism’, ‘dialogue’, ‘salvation’, and ‘conversion’. The task is certainly great since each word is packed with significance and debate. John Stott carefully traces its usage in Scriptures and throughout history. In an irenic style, Rev. Stott’s lectures are biblical, clear, fair, and constructive. His greatest desire is to call the community of the orthodox faith to join hands and learn from one another.
It is impossible not to be captivated by Stott’s articulate nature as he presents these ideas. His careful research and fair representation of opposing views are noteworthy. Nevertheless, amidst a kind spirit, the author plays no games when it comes to condemning unorthodoxy in mission’s work and the extreme views taken by many. His passion for the work of the gospel and his love for the historical truth of the faith are his greatest strengths. One of the weaknesses of his lectures was his determined attempt to discredit liberation theology (which this reviewer also rejects), however while doing so, it seems that he minimizes the role of cosmic renovation i.e. eschatological victory for the people of God on earth. Stott writes: “…we reject as a proud self-confident dream the notion that man can ever build a utopia on earth (pg. 107).” Somehow the manifestation of the power of the gospel in the world seems to be a utopia on earth. Further, this manifestation is always associated with man-made armies, and not the power of Christ to change. Granted that the reviewer’s critique is of Liberationists’ who desire to bring in Marx’s version of a new world, nevertheless the criticism still stands. Until one begins to expose the ultimate effects of the gospel on earth, missions will be no more than mere formality on our pulpits.
Liberation theology’s emphasis on liberating the oppressed is a desirable commitment, but not at the expense of the gospel of Christ. British theologians like Stott seem to be plagued with the “after,” rather than the “here-now” (so do American theologians). This tends to undermine all intents of renewing this earth to the glory of Christ. Missions is significant because it is attainable.
Another positive contribution to our studies in this book comes in form of a both/and analysis. It is not feed the poor or preach the gospel; it is about both. It is not about evangelism or missions; it is both. Extreme views have tended to differentiate each term and give importance to one over the other. John Stott combines the missiological language into one category affirming that the Christian’s responsibility is to engage all aspects in his ministry.
This is a tremendously helpful book. From the many books this reviewer has read on this topic, Stott’s Christian Mission is a helpful analysis of common terms that are often undefined in most treatises. This is perhaps the most attractive element of this book and will undoubtedly be applied in the reviewer’s ministry. Though this literature has celebrated almost 30 years, it still stings with relevance for today’s evangelistic enterprise. Some have catered to the either/or, hence missing on the all-encompassing brilliance of the gospel. This book is an encouraging reminder that people will still listen to those who honestly seek orthodox catholicity. May we all learn from John R. Stott!
Best Quote: It is once more the challenge of the Incarnation, to renounce evangelism by inflexible slogans, and instead involve ourselves sensitively in the real dilemmas of men.
–John R.W. Stott pg.81