The World: A Mission to be Accomplished is one of a set of five little books developed by Tim Chester out of John Stott’s classic ‘The Contemporary Christian’. Much of what I might say about this book is found in the reviews of the other books, so I’ll focus today on The World.
Simply put, this is the best short book on mission I’ve read in a while. Since my MA in Mission and Ministry started in 2013, as well as other and bigger theological interests (personally, that is!) I’ve tried to read at least three books on mission in any given year. The World demonstrates John Stott’s mastery of communicating profound and complex truth – in this case, on what mission is. For those pondering whether Christian mission is even possible in our pluralistic world, this book is encouraging. For those wondering about how to balance proclaiming the gospel and doing justice, this book offers a balanced and thoughtful response. And this book is thoroughouingly biblical – Stott offers a helpful overview of the Bible as a missionary book, God as a missionary God, and the church as a missionary society.
Written by ‘an evangelical of evangelicals’, to misquote Paul and apply it to Stott, there is a robust challenge throughout to the evangelical movement that we have not always understood mission well. For example, Stott writes that “we must agree that contemporary issues of social justice should be of enormous concern to all Christians, since we acknowledge the dignity of human beings as people made in God’s image. We should therefore be ashamed that evangelical Christians have all too often tended to be in the rearguard, instead of in the vanguard, of social reform.” Amen! This challenge and question is teased out in a wonderful way, as I note in a post about Stott’s view on Politics.
Wonderfully, The World is also a book that makes much of Jesus. Stott notes that “it is true that ‘mission’ itself is not a biblical word, any more than ‘Trinity’ or ‘sacrament’ are. Yet it is a useful piece of shorthand for a biblical concept, namely all that Christ sends his people into the world to do“. This emphasis on Jesus frames the book – with the opening chapter being a tour-de-force on the uniqueness of Jesus Christ, and the penultimate chapter (Before the conclusion which is the same as the other four books in this series) focusing on the Christology of mission.
To close, then, other than the niggles of seemingly identical front and end matter, The World is a brilliant little book. I would genuinely recommend it to anyone thinking about mission, particularly in terms of wrestling with the tension between proclaiming the Gospel verbally and doing the things that Jesus did, or seems to suggest are good. For those of us who struggle with personal evangelism, too, this little book sets our struggle in the wider mission of God, in such a way as to be deeply encouraging.
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: