Tag Archives: John Stott

don’t convert culture

In both West and East it is vital for us to learn to distinguish between Scripture and culture, and between those things in culture which are inherently evil and must therefore be renounced for Christ’s sake and those things which are good or indifferent and may therefore be retained, even transformed and enriched.

In the West, according to the authors of God’s Lively People (Fontana 1971),
‘our congregations demand from every new member not only a conversion but also a change in culture. He has to abandon some of his contemporary beliefs and to accept the older patterns prevalent among the majority of the congregation. The new Christian has to learn the old hymns and to appreciate them. He has to learn the language of the pulpit. He has to share in some conservative political opinions. He has to dress a bit oldfashioned… In brief, he has to step back two generations and undergo what one may call a painful cultural circumcision’ (p.206).

Similarly Bishop David Sheppard writes that ‘few are able to be as objective as the shop steward who said that churches require you to do a crash course in middle-class behaviour, rather than to learn Christian maturity’ (Built as a City, p. 50).

John Stott, Christian Mission in the Modern World, p. 122-123.

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the matter of vocation

Consider what the realistic outworkings of ‘mission’ are likely to be.

I begin with vocation, by which I mean a Christian’s life-work. We often given the impression that if a young Christian man is really keen for Christ, he will undoubtedly become a foreign missionary, that if he is not quite as keen as that he will stay at home and become a pastor, that if he lacks the dedication to be a pastor, he will no doubt serve as a doctor or teacher, while those who end up in social work or the media or (worst of all) in politics are not far removed from serious backsliding! It seems to me urgent to gain a truer perspective in this matter of vocation. Jesus Christ calls all his disciples to ‘ministry’, that is, to service. He himself is the Servant par excellence, and he calls us to be servants too. This much then is certain: if we are Christians we must spend our lives in the service of God and man. The only difference between us lies in the nature of the service we are called to render. Some are indeed called to be missionaries, evangelists or pastors, and others to the great professions of law, education, medicine and the social sciences. But others are called to commerce, to industry and farming, to accountancy and banking, to local government or parliament, and to the mass media, while there are still many girls who find their vocation in home-making and parenthood without pursuing an independent career as well. In all these spheres, and many others besides, it is possible for Christians to interpret their lifework christianly, and to see it neither as a necessary evil (necessary, that is, for survival), nor even as a useful place in which to evangelize or make money for evangelism, but as their Christian vocation, as the way Christ has called them to spend their lives in his service. Further, a part of their calling will be to seek to maintain Christ’s standards of justice, righteousness, honesty, human dignity and compassion in a society which no longer accepts them.

John Stott, Christian Mission in the Modern World, pp. 31-32.

Note: This book was written in 1975, and some of his language may seem out of step with our current norms. Please consider the intent behind his words, not his choice of words, which were culturally acceptable at the time they were written.


save the drowning without getting wet

We believe so strongly in proclamation that we tend to proclaim our message at a distance . . . We appear to be giving advice from the security of the shore to men who are drowning. We do not dive in to help them. We are frightened at the thought of getting wet, and besides, this implies many dangers. We forget that Jesus did not send His salvation from heaven,; He visited us in our humanity.

John Stott
quoted in Passion for the Heart of God, page 153