CT article on John Stott & Evangelism

18 10 2006

john-stott.jpgChristianity Today has an interview online with John Stott. Stott has some great comments and then some interesting and rather peculiar statements as well. See if you pick up on them.

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8 responses

18 10 2006
Barry

The first thing I notice is that Stott responds to the interviewers question regarding the “immense growth of the church worldwide” by referring to God’s covenant to Abraham to bless his generations. Is this the same blessing being poured out in church growth today? I don’t believe it is the same covenant and it conflicts with Stotts statement later by referring to church growth not as numbers but as christian maturity.
Of course the other thing is toward the end when he discusses the social responsiblity of the church and where evangelicals need to go. Stott envisions climate change, eradicating poverty, responding to the AIDS pandemic.. etc. as part of the mission of the contemporary church. I think he leaves out a vital compontent and that is a transformed heart. I think the only goal of Christ’s church should be to preach the gospel and disciple other believer’s to grow in the knowledge of Christ. Maybe I am being to narrow minded.

18 10 2006
jimbaxa

Barry said, “I think the only goal of Christ’s church should be to preach the gospel and disciple other believer’s to grow in the knowledge of Christ.”
While this is the primary goal of Christ’s church, the church does have a responsibility to social action, so this is not the ONLY goal of the church. Now, Stott by no means has this right in his list of liberal agendas (although there is a place for Christians to participate in some of these changes), but he does get it right in that Christians ought to have a social agenda that is not the primary focus but is certainly important. Stott shows this necessity by use of the salt and light analogy. More Biblical proof of the need for the Christian to have a social agenda secondary to a gospel agenda is found in the following verses:
“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” James 1:27 Notice that one component of pure religion is social action. Yes, while you are visiting orhphans and widows, you should be preaching the gospel to them, but it is more than just the gospel here.
“Open your mouth for the speechless, in the cause of all who are appointed to die. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:8-9 Notice here that the believer is opening his mouth, not necessarily with the gospel, but with words to defend those who are dying and cannot defend themselves. This is preaching the law to a lost world, and is a necessary part of the church’s duty on earth. The gospel may come in at some point in the conversation, but we start with the law to convict the heart of the murderer not to murder. This verse is very applicable today in a culture where abortion is rampant, the children are dying and are speechless through it all. We as Christians must have a social agenda that includes a stand to protect these speechless ones from abortion, and if we don’t, we fail in part of our duty as a church.
A Christian social agenda must have a serious part in every church secondary to the gospel and always seeking to tie the gospel into the social agenda when possible. Unfortunately, even the true Christian churches in America have often failed here.

18 10 2006
erik

ok, i wasn’t going in either of these directions^good thoughts though^

Jim- I think the examples you site above James 1 & the abortion issue both flow from the application of the gospel. I have a question as far as the social agenda not including the gospel…could you elaborate and perhaps explain?

18 10 2006
jimbaxa

I’ll use the abortion issue as an example of the social agenda because it is the biggest one in today’s culture here in America.
Fighting against abortion is always in the end a gospel issue, however often the primary goal in a given instance is first protecting life. When a Christian stands outside of the abortion clinic to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, the words don’t flow anything like “we are all sinners who have fallen short of the glory of God…the wages of sin is death….” The message is one primarily of law. The sinner entering the abortuary needs to be directly confronted with the law of God which states clearly, “Thou shall not murder.” In most situations, an opportunity for further gospel witness never becomes available as the sinner continues to follow their sin and demonstrates a heart that is hard to the truth. In these cases the Christian is acting out of respect for God’s command in Proverbs 31:8-9, not out of respect for the comands to preach the gospel. Sometimes, an opportunity to speak the gospel is presented, and the Christian jumps on it, but often a different goal is the only one available to actively seek…that is seeking to spare life in seeking God’s common grace in the situation. This issue is closely linked with the gospel and often the two goals are intertwined in action, but often they are separated but always keeping the end goal of the sinner’s salvation in mind.

Another example we could use is when a Christian informs another person of the fact that birth control pills are murder. While this is obviously relating to the gospel in that it is pointing out and exposing sin in the lives of others, it is more than that in that it is the protection of the life of a child. There are two goals involved that are intricately linked but we can’t forget about the social issue in preference for the gospel (we must preach the issues together when possible).

We have all encountered situations where a short political discussion ensues amidst a group of non-Christians where it is obvious that the conversation will not last long enough to present the gospel. What makes me throw my two cents in about why it is better to vote for Pete Ricketts than Ben Nelson? It is a simple desire to stand up for God’s stated will in hopes that the world will be a better place due to the fact that Ricketts is a better politician. It isn’t because Ricketts loves God (because it seems that he does not) but it is because Ricketts will be more effective in advancing a social agenda that is compatible with Biblical truths. It is because Ricketts will work to stop abortion (from a non-Christian perspective) and therefore the speechless will be defended. It is because Ricketts favors economic and social policies that will in the long run be best for the most orphans and widows (even if he is doing it for selfish reasons). We do these kinds of things because we love the orphans/widows/speechless.

These types of actions/words may eventually lead to an opportunity to present the gospel, but they oftentimes never do. In these cases we still work within the framework of this Biblical social agenda in order to honor God.

18 10 2006
Barry

Jim,

Thanks for your comment. I do enjoy nice lively conversation, even in this forum. I will agree that I should not have said that preaching and discipling is the only goal of he church. It should be the primary goal. Jesus tells us in the great comission to go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. (Matt. 28:19) As for the abortion thing. Indeed it is a major social concern especially in Christian and political circles. It is amazing that Christians hone in on this one sin as a call to arms so to speak. Why don’t we have such a hard line on some of the other sins that inpact society like pornography? Personally I would rather be a part of a group of folks counseling young women about the devatation of abortion than standing on a sidewalk and yelling “Thou Shall Not Kill” as she ducks into and abortion clinic.

I understand that we were talking social issues, but you sure went into political mode at the tail end of your comment.
Have you read “Blinded By Might, Why the Religious Right Can’t Save America” by Hal Dobson and Cal Thomas, or “Why Government Can’t Save You” by John Macarthur. They both have great insight into how the church should respond to social issues and politics from a biblical world view.

Blessings,

Barry

19 10 2006
jimbaxa

Barry,

The reason that Christians “hone in” on the sin of abortion more than other sins is because preaching against abortion is not only preaching against sin, but is also defending those who cannot speak for themselves…the babies. Sideawalk counseling outside of an abortuary has two purposes….1)preach against sin in hopes of repentance and trust in Christ…2)defend life. For this reason, the sin of abortion is worthy of receiving special attention from Christians.

Certainly, counseling young women “about the devastation of abortion” is much more fulfilling and much preferred over sidewalk counseling by everyone. However, this does not say that they are not both needed. Given the sin nature of mankind, women are going to decide to murder their children despite all of the counseling that we can give them. There need to be people standing at the gates giving a final warning to the women and a final defense for the babies before the slaughter takes place. We need Christians to actively do both things.

I went into ‘political mode’ at the end to highlight an example of where Christians need to act with a social agenda. Certainly, anytime we vote we are acting with a social agenda, but many Christians need to expand their reach in this area.

I have not read the books your mentioned. I must clarify that I have no illusions of this country being saved by the government but I do know that God will use the government that He established to enact varying degrees of social order. For this reason, Christians should be active voters and therefore seeking to know the candidates/issues well in order to make educated decisions. This is just one area of the social agenda that Christians must have secondary to the gospel agenda and all to the glory of God!

23 10 2006
Barry

Erik,

You never did say what direction you were going in. I am curious to know.

Thanks,

Barry

24 10 2006
erik

here you go Barry…thanks for your patience, I’ve been out of town.

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