John Stott, who went to be with the Lord very recently at the time of the writing this review, is counted by many as one of the most influential, wise and learned evangelical thinkers. His impact on evangelicalism – and indeed the Church as a whole – cannot be underestimated. I have enjoyed and benefitted from Stott’s work throughout my whole Christian life, and so looked forward to reading this, his final book, “The Radical Disciple”. The title could as well have been a summation of his life, and the book draws together many themes from his life and ministry, in a relatively short, very hard-hitting exposition of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.
The book is full of radical ideas. First off is an attack on the New Age Movement – and the impact that it has had on Christian thought. Stott observes; “unfortunately, some of this teaching the church, with some Christians urging that we must not only love God and our neighbour, but we must also love ourselves“. He rolls on into the great themes of Christian identity, with a nod to Thomas a Kempis’ great “The Imitation of Christ”, challenging us that our identity should be one that is “content with the glorious truth that we will be with Christ and we will be like Christ“. Would that the Church would heed that glorious call. And we know that this will come to pass, because we can joyfully affirm with Stott that “God’s purpose is to make us like Christ, and God’s way is to fill us with his Holy Spirit“. Because God does not abandon us after our new birth into his kingdom like spiritual orphans. We have an inheritance – and we have an ever-present helper.
The third chapter of the book is simply titled – “Maturity”. Acknowledging the great numerical growth of the Church, Stott laments the lack of maturity. His point is made with quotes from majority world Christian leaders – including a former president of the China Christian Council – and goes on to cement his case with 1 Corinthians 3:1-3; “Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly – mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarrelling amongst you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere human beings?“. Having set the scene – and this notion of immaturity is something I will blog on as well – he then proposes a solution, a plan that we can all follow Christ as radical disciples. This is where the book really takes off – with treatises on justice and the environment and work.
This is not a book that is hard to read – it is a book that is easy to read. This is not a book that is easy to action – this is a book that is hard to action. This is a proper Christian book – that grabs you and excites you but leaves you with great challenges. Throughout the book there is not an inch of compromise regarding Stott’s conviction of the supremacy of Christ and the wonder of his Cross. This is a staunchly evangelical – but progressively world-aware book – one that, if read and acted on, could unleash a radical wave of Jesus’ disciples. It certainly shocked me to rethink both my intentions career-wise, and also the impact that I have on the environment. I would challenge you to read this book, and thank God for the compact, concise and hard-hitting summary of all that Stott has learned and wishes to teach the church. If you call yourself a follower of Christ, can read and are open to being changed, you owe it to yourself and the wider world to read this book.
It really is that good.
It’s available from IVP directly, and obviously through Amazon and normal bookshops.