Britain’s got talent! I am amazed by the complex diversity of british intelectual heritage. In matter of faith, we have extraordinary opposites: Chesterton and C. S. Lewis on one side, B. Shaw and B. Russell on the other side. I saw this paradox when I spent two months in London (2008). In the heart of London, at one minute from bussy, secular and commercial Oxford Street, I enjoyed every sunday at All Souls Church, Lagham Place, an extraordinary spiritual oasis. The former leader/pastor of this church was John R. W. Stott, one of my favorites Christian author.
My concern in this book is that we who claim to be disciples of the Lord Jesus will provoke him to say again: “Why do you call me “Lord, Lord”, and do not what I say?” (Luke 6:46). For genuine discipleship is wholehearted discipleship, and this is where my next word come in.
(…) There are different levels of commitment in the Christian community. Jesus himself illustrated this in what happened to the seeds describes in the parable of the sower. The difference between the seeds lay in the kind of soil which received them. Of the seed sown on rocky soil Jesus said, “It had no root”.
Our common way of avoiding radical discipleship is to be selective: choosing those areas in which commitment suits us and staying away from those areas in which it will be costly. But because Jesus is Lord, we have no right to pick and choose the areas in which we will submit to his authority. (…)
So my purpose in this book is to consider eight characteristics of Christian discipleship that are often neglected and yet deserve to be taken seriously. (John Stott, The Radical Disciple. Some Neglected Aspects, InterVarsity Press, 2010, p. 13, 15-16)
This eight characteristics are:
- Creation Care
I read the first chapter. The first characteristic for a radical discipleship is nonconformity.
The church has a double responsibility in relation to the world around us. On the one hand we are to live, serve and witness in the world. On the other hand we are to avoid becoming contaminated by the world. So we are neither to seek to preserve our holiness by configuring to the world (John Stott, The Radical Disciple. Some Neglected Aspects, InterVarsity Press, 2010, p. 17)
Both escapism and conformism are forbidden to the believer. According to Lev. 11:45, 18:3-4, Ezekiel 11:12, Matthew 6:8, Romans 12:2, we are called to engage with our culture and its contemporary trends without compromise. Stott identifies four areas in which we need to refuse to conform: pluralism, ethical relativism, materialism, and narcissism.
We must learn to be like Christ, to grow not without depth, as we can see in a lot of modern churches, but in maturity (Col. 1:28-29). We must realize that we are the earth stewards, avoiding the two extremes: of deification of nature and exploitation of nature. We must be “dressed” in simplicity and have balance in our secular and devotional aspects of our life. Learning from Christ’s life, we must understand the dependence on others (God and neigbors) and the paradox of Christianity that death is the road to life.
I found the last words of this book as a plea from a honest and remarkable servant of God:
We cannot conclude better that to hear and heed the words of Jesus in the upper room: ”You call me “Teacher” and “Lord”, and rightly so, for that is what I am” (John 13:13). Basic to all discipleship is our resolve not only to address Jesus with polite titles but to follow his teaching and obey his commands (John Stott, The Radical Disciple. Some Neglected Aspects, InterVarsity Press, 2010, p. 134-135)
In simple, deep and warm words, this book is a good opportunity for a renewal of our devotion to Jesus Christ. Beside to “uncle John”, I hope that radical discipleship will be fully embraced by the next generation.