I noted with interest that IVP (UK) has done an interesting bit of publishing recently – updating and slicing up John Stott’s classic The Contemporary Christian for the (laudable) purposes of introducing new generations of readers to his helpful and holistic bible teaching. I’ve been sent the five little books – and today I’m reviewing the first one I read, The Disciple. This should not be confused with Stott’s excellent The Radical Disciple, which is a more personal book.
Whilst Tim Chester’s hand is clear in some parts – not least the new discussion/reflection questions at the end of each chapter – by and large The Disciple is a sensitively updated version of several key chapters from The Contemporary Christian. That said, I think this book (though I haven’t finished the other four in this collection/miniseries!) is a great introduction to Stott’s well known (but often misunderstood) ‘big idea’ of double-listening.
The Disciple applies this premise of listening well to the Word of God and the world of God to the life of the Christian – in a book that is similar in feel (if not theology) to Rowan Williams’ helpful little Being Christian and Being Disciples. Stott rightly notes that “Christian discipleship involves the whole of our personality“, and the emphasis on where emotion can fit in the life of the individual discipleship and the wider church is a helpful hallmark of one key chapter. I was particularly encouraged and engaged with Stott’s framing of the life of discipleship in the language of the now and the not yet, which he puts in helpful terms, though interestingly without reference to (For example) G. E. Ladd despite noting Schwietzer and Dodd as alternate views! This is a strange oversight in terms of depth in a short, readable book that lightly wears learning but is deeply engaged in thinking well.
Whilst this is a short book (less than 100 pages) it accessibly distills some of Stott’s powerful and biblical teaching on discipleship into a format that should connect and resonate with a new readership. Those who have read The Contemporary Christian may well have not done so for years – and so this little volume would likely be a good way back in to reading and enjoying Stott (Some language updates really help him read better!). Stott riffs off a quote that I enjoyed: “As F. W. Faber put it, ‘Deep theology is the best fuel of devotion; it readily catches fire, and once kindled it burns long.’“. The Disciple simply and clearly teaches some wonderful truth focused on Jesus and rooted in the Bible. I’d recommend it whether you’ve read everything John Stott has ever written, or have never heard of him but call yourself a follower of Jesus.
John Stott’s classic The Contemporary Christian has been transformed into five short readable books. I’ve been given review copies of each, and they connect to each other and engage with key issues in a most excellent way. If you’ve liked this review, you may also like the other books in this little selection: