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The Living Church: Convictions of a Lifelong Pastor Hardcover – November 7, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Stott (rector emeritus of All Souls Church in London and prolific author) draws on over 60 years in pastoral ministry to outline the essential marks of a living church. Named one of Time's 100 most influential people in 2005, Stott is noted for his efforts in worldwide evangelism as well as his firm insistence on remaining an evangelical within the Church of England. Here he explores biblical approaches to worship, evangelism, ministry, fellowship, preaching and giving that lead to a healthy church, whether traditional or emerging. Stott applies New Testament accounts of the early church and the teachings of Paul to the contemporary context without compromising his evangelical vision. Urging Christians to have more impact on the surrounding culture, he concludes: There is such a thing as goodness: pursue it. The postmodern mood is unfriendly to all universal absolutes. Yet the apostle says there is such a thing as truth: fight for it. And there is such a thing as life: lay hold of it. This short, well-organized book—when Stott says there are five paradoxes to preaching or 10 principles of giving, he promptly follows through—is perhaps most useful for those clergy and laity who are directly involved in ministry. (Dec.)
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"Young pastors with a love for Jesus' church will be blessed by this timely gift from one of the most important evangelical voices." (Mark Driscoll, pastor, Mars Hill Church, and president, Acts 29 Church Planting Network)
"I have relied on John Stott's books for decades as both guides to practice and nourishment to belief. Our church, Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City, has attempted to incarnate all that I, and a generation or more of Christians, have learned from him. This new book promises to be just as helpful in navigating modern controversies and issues." (Dr. Timothy Keller, senior pastor, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York City)
"While many high-profile churches come and go, All Souls, Langham Place, in the heart of London has maintained its spiritual vitality and mission commitment over many decades. Its effectiveness has depended not on a formula for success but on an unswerving commitment to fundamental biblical principles. The Living Church establishes the foundations for a biblically balanced approach to ministry that is comprehensive in its scope and expressed with John Stott's characteristic clarity. It provides a valuable resource for church leaders seeking to revitalize existing churches and for those birthing new faith communities." (Eddie Gibbs, senior professor, Brehm Center for Worship, Theology and the Arts, Fuller Seminary)
"A gem of a book, which every committed Christian needs to read. Here is the heartbeat of a godly minister of the gospel." (David Jackman, president, Proclamation Trust)
"Inspiring and nourishing reading." (Ajith Fernando, national director, Youth For Christ in Sri Lanka)
"Exceptional clarity, profound concern and strong counsel." (Dick Lucas, rector emeritus, St Helen's Bishopsgate, London)
"The reader is given a vision for a church whose roots are deeply biblical and whose touch reaches a dying world." (Amy Orr-Ewing, Zacharias Trust)
"Vintage Stott: faithful, rigorous biblical exposition; crystal clarity; challenging contemporary applications with plenty of punch; great wisdom." (Vaughan Roberts, author, God's Big Picture)
"Gold on every page." (Richard Bewes, rector emeritus, All Souls Church)
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One overlooked and unique aspect is Stott's lifelong celibacy. "The gift of singleness," he said, "is more a vocation than an empowerment, although to be sure God is faithful in supporting those He calls." It is rare to find this calling in the leadership ranks of the evangelical world. Stott is an admirable role model for Christian singles everywhere.
He also appreciated the beauty of God's creation as evidenced by his enjoyment of birdwatching. This provided the inspiration for the book, The Birds Our Teachers.
Being unknown to the average Christian in the US is probably related to Stott being Anglican and from the UK. He lacked a rock star persona but diligently went about changing the world by being faithful to his vocation.
This well-lived life informs the pages of The Living Church. Stott cover the essentials with brevity, balance and by being thoroughly biblical. A clear and simple message that resounds with weight graces every page.
Stott is a master at holding the truth in delicate tension. One example is his summation on fellowship groups: "We are anxious that the groups will not become unbalanced and degenerate into being merely Bible reading groups, prayer groups, study groups or action groups. We want the fellowship groups to be true to their name, expressing the fullness of koinonia. So we keep asking ourselves: are we growing in Christian maturity together? Are we serving the Lord, the church or the world together? Are we increasing in love and care for one another? Then we may say with confidence and joy, 'we had good fellowship together'" (96).
Are there books that go deeper? Are there volumes that are more historical, that examine distinctive, and wrestle more with challenges? Yes, but if you want solid and passionate teaching on the basics like worship, evangelism, ministry, fellowship, preaching, giving, and impact (all chapter titles), this is rewarding.
Stott has written at least one modern classic, Basic Christianity, and this reads like another one. I also enjoyed the three historical appendices, which consists of letters that Stott wrote at different stages in his life. The last is the choice reflection of an 80 year old.
Reading this makes me realize the wealth of insight and maturity that resides in Stott's writings. In an endorsement that graces the cover, Tim Keller writes, "I have relied on John Stott's books for decades." Christianity has lost a great statesman, but Christians everywhere can continue to rely on the treasure found in his books.