The Radical Disciple: Some Neglected Aspects of our Calling
InterVarsity Press, 2010
Final words almost always have a sense of gravitas to them. So when a pastoral theologian, author, and evangelical heavyweight like John Stott says, “I am laying my pen down for the last time,” one pays close attention to the contents, context, and hard-fought wisdom that will most certainly flow from such a fount.
In his final book, The Radical Disciple: Some Neglected Aspects of our Calling, Stott compiles a list of eight characteristics that ought to mark those who follow Jesus. These include some familiar themes from Christ’s life and ministry, such as nonconformity. Stott urges the church that “over against the challenge of pluralism, we are to be a community of truth, standing up for the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. Over against the challenge of materialism, we are to be a community of simplicity and pilgrimage. Over against the challenge of relativism, we are to be a community of obedience. Over against the challenge of narcissism, we are to be a community of love.”
Stott is always pastoral and his gathered insights read like a seasoned mentor passing along salient pieces of time-honoured truth to an eager apprentice. As such, this book will find good traction in a broadly-based catechetical kind of audience – post-Alpha is one example of a group with whom its deep simplicity could be wisely appropriated.
Part of this is driven by Stott’s chief concern for evangelicals and Anabaptists alike: that 21st-century Christians have, on the whole, experienced “growth without depth.” This leads him to list Christlikeness, maturity, simplicity, and dependence among his eight core characteristics.
In some sections, such as the chapter on creation care, he quotes extensively from extant source materials, such that long-time Stott readers will find nothing new here. In other sections, such as the chapter on balance, he does such excellent work at beginning to plumb the depths of how “we are called to both individual discipleship and corporate fellowship” that I would have loved to hear more on the profoundly simple tensions that form Stott’s portrait of normative Christian living.
Of particular interest and quality, however, is Stott’s final chapter on how Christians are continually called to discover life through death. Only a senior saint with the weight of glory drawing ever close could offer such insight and hope, and support it with such a significant legacy.
As parting thoughts go, this book will be a rich inheritance for the evangelical community for decades to come.