The online Bible teaching ministry of John Brand

The Radical Disciple

I am not one of those many who have been hugely influenced by John Stott. I have appreciated the few of his writings that I have read, with his measured, precise turns of phrase and his ability to clearly explain and apply biblical truth. However, with his recent death, I decided to read this, his last written work, and confess to having been surprised by it on three fronts.

First, I was surprised by the eight characteristics of Christian discipleship that Stott chose as those “which are often neglected and yet deserve to be taken seriously.” Such a selection is always going to be subjective and personal, but I found it fascinating. Stott chooses Non-conformity, Christlikeness, Maturity, Creation-care, Simplicity, Balance, Dependence and Death. It made me wonder what my eight would have been and I must give some thought to it and perhaps return to it here on the blog at some point in the future.

Secondly, I was surprised by the way in which Stott weighted his chosen topics. I am not sure whether I ought to read too much into this but I was struck by the fact that while the average page count for the eight subjects was 12 pages, the chapter on simplicity took 20 pages, and came straight after 12 pages on Creation-care.

Thirdly, I was surprised that these eight characteristics were thought of as being the marks of radical discipleship. Stott says that his concern “is that we who claim to be disciples of the Lord Jesus will not provoke him to say again: ‘Why do you call me, “Lord, Lord,” and do not do what I say?’ (Luke 6:46) For genuine discipleship is wholehearted discipleship” He includes two telling quotes, one from a Hindu professor, who, identifying one of his students as a Christian, said, “If you Christians lived like Jesus Christ, India would be at your feet tomorrow”, and the other from a former Arab Muslim who said, “If all Christians were Christians there would be no more Islam today.” Challenging stuff.

But what struck me about the choice of these eight characteristics as being marks of radical discipleship was that I thought to myself that these (or, in my opinion, most of them at least) weren’t radical, just intrinsic to being a disciple. I think the fact that Stott highlights them as being marks of radical, “deep rooted” discipleship, shows up the poor state of the Church today and the poor spiritual condition of the ‘average’ believer. That is not a criticism of Stott; it is a comment on Christians, certainly in the west. If I discussed this list with my Sudanese brothers, or if we were able to do so with first century believers, I doubt they would see them as being radical – just normal.

IVP (15 Jan. 2010) Review written in 2011

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