Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Book Review: The Living Church by John Stott

The Living Church: Convictions of a Lifelong Pastor

By John Stott, IVP Books, 2007

Overview—Give a brief overview of the book, including its theme, perspective and approach.

The Living Church is essentially a collection of John Stott's reflections of over 60 years in pastoral ministry. His observations are not the result of technical research, but rather Biblical conviction and pastoral experience. He identifies seven crucial areas of church life (worship, evangelism, ministry, fellowship, preaching, giving, and impact) and applies biblical teaching to the contemporary situation. His "Historical Appendixes" help to give perspective to his comments.

Critique—Offer a brief critique of the book, including elements of strength and weakness.

As both an observer of and change agent in church ministry, Stott's overview of what matters in ministry is time-tested. Stott's strength has always been his biblical foundations. As a student of the Word, the Bible is always Stott's starting place. His compassion for an ever-changing world drives his desire to be contemporary. Keeping these two tensions in balance (a "Radical Conservatism" as he says) have been Stott's strong suite throughout his ministry. I find it difficult to point out specific weakness, for the book is what it was meant to be; convictions of a life-long pastor. I suppose he could have offered more practical examples and anecdotes for his points, but that would have dated what may become a warm-hearted ecclesiology text for years to come.

Application—Offer some specific application to your own ministry— demonstrating the value and relevance of the material in this book.

When trendiness is the order of the day in church ministry, Stott reminds me to "keep the main things the main things". A book like The Living Church is a touchstone to keep one oriented and grounded in ministry. However, I was challenged in his section on preaching to remember that all "expository" preaching is not a running commentary on a long passage, but rather it is an opening up of the biblical text. There is more than one way top exposit a text. Stott helps me remember balance in ministry, tethered neither to past traditions nor new trends, but to God's Truth.

Best Quote—Be sure to include the page number where the quote can be found.

p. 84 - "So how shall we persevere in loving the unlovable? Only, I think, by remembering how precious they are. They are so valuable that the three persons of the Trinity are together involved in caring for them. I find it very challenging, when trying to help a difficult person, to say under my breath: 'How precious you are in God's sight! God the Father loves you. Christ died for you. The Holy Spirit has appointed me your pastor. As the three persons of the Trinity are committed to your welfare, it is a privilege for me to serve you.'"

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