Book Review: Living Radical Discipleship

Living Radical Discipleship Book Review

Regular or historic readers of this blog may know or have observed that John Stott is a big influence on the way that I like to read and write and try to follow Jesus. The book I’m reviewing today echoes that – drawing as it does on The Radical Disciple [link to my review – written long before my current work!] and mentioning and building towards John Stott on Creation Care, finally compiled by the editor of this book, Living Radical Discipleship. This short (around 110 pages!) book packs a big punch – with 8 essays/reflections on different things inspired by John Stott and his commitment to radical discipleship.

The book came out of a symposium at Wheaton – but it isn’t overly academic in style. That makes it, I think, readable for everyone, but it will be particularly valuable for those of us thinking about following Jesus with a reasonable chunk of our (natural) lives ahead of us, and also for church leaders perhaps seeking to navigate tensions that are touched on in these pages. The book is divided into three sections:

  • Commitment to Majority World Leadership – this section has a more personal reflection from Mark Labberton and a chapter about the work of Langham Partnership by Chris Wright.
  • Christian Social Engagement – Myrto Theocharous writes about the Image of God and Justice, David Zac Niringiye discusses the Gospel and the Public Square, and Jason Fileta talks about Relentless Love and Justice in Radical Whole-Life Discipleship
  • Creation Care – Ruth Padilla DeBorst invites us to see and to hear what is going on around us, Kuki Rokhum charges us to think about what loving our neighbour looks like in the wider world, and Laura Yoder considers what it means to apply the Lordship of Christ to the question of creation care.

As this is a short book, my review won’t go in depth on each chapter. instead, I’ll share a couple of standout quotes. Labberton challenges us that “Everything in John’s life was about going deeper in Christ, wider in Christ, further in Christ“. I love that challenge. Chris Wright’s chapter looks at the holistic and comprehensive vision Stott had for maturity and transformation – and is a sobering reminder of the centrality of God’s Word in God’s Church. Myrto Theocharous’ chapter is one close to my heart and interest (See this paper, ‘Dignity Demanding Love‘ for more) and so I was intrigued by her distinction between the image of God being more about what we do than who we are. Whilst I might disagree, particularly with reference to severely mentally disabled human beings, and other folk made in the image of God who cannot ‘do’ in the way our culture might imagine, I found her idea that “Being in the image of God means that a person is charged with the burden of the world” to have a deep ring of truth around it, certainly within the concerns of this book. David Zac Niringiye rightly, in my view, demonstrates from Stott (and Scripture!) “that social engagement is not an add-on but rather participating in the work of the kingdom of God by those who have entered the kingdom of God, and that it is integral to the proclamation of the gospel“. I loved Jason Fileta’s closing words: “My prayer is that we too will wrestle with our own discipleship in our own contexts, and come to live justly because we love relentlessly” (emphasis added).

The section on creation care is haunted by the ghost of the unpublished (At the time of publication) John Stott on Creation Care – and is well worth reading (Though, as the Commissioning Editor, I would say that!). In her extended afterword to that book, and her chapter here in Living Radical Discipleship, Ruth Padilla DeBorst “invites us to explore the interconnectedness of creation, to acknowledge our need for interdependence in the global church, and to take step towards mutual accountability within this web of life“. Kuki Rokhum’s chapter includes the challenge, with deep precedent in scripture, that “Many have sacrificed God’s world at what I call the ‘altar of convenience’…” Laura Yoder closes the book by inviting us to consider what we have not seen and whom we have not heard.

I’m very grateful to Langham publishing for sending me a review copy of this superb little book. As I said near the beginning of this review, this is a book that is well worth reading – apparently Christianity Today agrees – and would make, I think, a good discussion book for a group focusing on justice and the Bible within a church context. I’ll be recommending it, drawing on it future blog posts and some academic papers, and will be keeping an eye out for future work from all the contributors (Which is not something I say about every edited collection!).

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