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Christian Mission in the Modern World [Paperback]

John R.W. Stott
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: InterVarsity Press; New Ed edition (Nov 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0877844852
  • ISBN-13: 978-0877844853
  • Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 21.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,483,429 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must for all those involved in Mission 26 Nov 2005
Quite simply Stott at his best.He thoroughly explores the problems involved in the Church's mission today.He provides good theology along with great wisdom: but most of all he fires the heart and soul to fulfill God's call for the Church and the individual. Worth its weight in gold.Buy at least two copies: one for yourself and any number more to pass on to hungry hearts.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The mission handbook 9 Jun 2013
By ken
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
No one has done it better, period, you may read longer or more detailed books on mission, but none better. This is the standard and a timeless master piece, written by a man ahead of his time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A John Stott Classic! 17 Mar 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It is written by John Stott so must be listened to with care and respect. The combination of genuine, scholarly Christian spoken witness ("preaching" though this is a misused word) with real compassion is much needed and truly refreshing. At 86 I would prefer a larger format but as I have also bought it for my Kindle I tend to read it most frequesntly in that version.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good 14 Nov 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The preciousness of the product is due by the author. It was an online purchase so no problem at all.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Classic on Christian Mission 29 Jan 2001
By Chris Lee - Published on
It's hard to believe that Stott wrote this book in 1976, yet, I read it in 1999 for a Christian Mission class, and it seems so appropriate today. Dr. Stott was on the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelism, and has obviously thought about these and researched this deeply. He comes from an Evangelical Protestant heritage.
This is a particularly insighted book, an introduction to Christian Mission. The change from the plural, missions, to the singular, mission, is indicated by Stott as what all Christians should be doing, that is, both evangelism AND striving for social justice (that is, arguing the case of the orphan, widow, feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, fighting against oppression, etc.).
Stott defines a number of crucial terms and places them within the context of Christian theology, for instance, evangelism just means 'proclaiming the Good News,' specifically that of salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, Stott is very practical and uses biblical theology (such as the theology of the Incarnation gives us an example of what it means to be involved with others, to share their sufferings and concerns, and to understand their culture and be able to dialogue with them at where they are at). And Stott is very good at providing negative examples, or warnings, such as that Christians are also to be 'salt and light,' maintaining their identity as Christians; that the Gospel is not liberation theology (although the influence of the Gospel may be seen in the culture in fighting against social injustices), the Gospel does not ensure health and wealth. Salvation does mean freedom from sin, to serve and obey God.
The book is divided between 5 large chapters that have a number of topics discussed. The first is Mission -- what is Christian Mission? As mentioned, evangelism, theology, social justice are all discussed.
The second chapter is Evangelism, and the priority and meaning (even definitions) of evangelism, and what we as Christians should be doing.
This leads into dialogue, and how we are to dialogue with others. Stott is very practical at the end of the chapter discussing what are some different arenas of dialogue, for example, with Muslims, within Great Britain, and Hindus.
The next chapter is on Salvation, what it doesn't mean, and what it means.
This leads us into Conversion, and discussion on theology (as well as the individual's responsibility) in matters, such as the Christian doctrines of regeneration, repentance, and the effects of conversion on the church, society, culture, and the role of the Holy Spirit (and even the necessity not to be stupid, like assuming that the Holy Spirit will overcome my own stupidity or lack of preparation).
In all, a very solidly theological and practical work, as all of Stott's works are.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Primer on Evangelical Missiology 9 Jun 2009
By George P. Wood - Published on
In 1975, InterVarsity Press published Christian Mission in the Modern World by John Stott. It recently reissued the book as part of the IVP Classics series. Like almost everything Stott has written, the book repays careful reading.

Stott, who is British, is the type of evangelical Christian that we do not often see in America. In America, evangelicals generally work outside the structures of the so-called mainline churches. Stott is a priest of the Church of England and a participant in ecumenical dialogues. He is a pastor, theologian, activist, bridge-builder, and public intellectual. American evangelical leaders tend to specialize in one or two of those areas. Indeed, I cannot think of a precise American counterpart to Stott.

Christian Mission in the Modern World grew out of the 1975 Chavasse Lectures in World Mission that Stott delivered at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. It investigates the meaning of five words in conversation with then-current trends in both evangelical and ecumenical missiology: mission, evangelism, dialogue, salvation, and conversion. As should be expected in a book published more than thirty years ago, some of the persons, events, and documents Stott discusses are no longer current. Even so, however, Stott's insights into the meaning of these words still provoke thought. Let us briefly take a look at them.

First, mission: What is the mission of the church? It is common to distinguish evangelical and ecumenical missiologies by saying that the former is concerned with evangelism and the latter with social action. There is an element of truth in this, although Stott points out that evangelicals are concerned with social action and ecumenicals with evangelism--at least according to the leading documents of their respective movements. Turning to John 17:18 and 20:21, Stott argues that Jesus sends the church into the world to do the same kinds of things the Father sent him into the world to do. Stott therefore defines mission as "Christian service in the world comprising both evangelism and social action."

Second, evangelism: If Christian mission comprises both evangelism and social action, is there nonetheless a priority between them? Stott argues that there is, specifically, that evangelism takes priority over social action. But what is evangelism? Stott defines it as "announcing or proclaiming the good news of Jesus." This proclamation centers around five things: (1) the facticity and significance of certain events, namely, Christ's death and resurrection; (2) the reliability of the witnesses of these events--both the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles; (3) the affirmations that Jesus is both Savior and Lord because of these events; (4) the promises Jesus makes to those who come to him in faith; and (5) the demands of repentance and faith that Jesus requires of those who come to him in faith.

Third, dialogue: Given that evangelism is announcement or proclamation, is there any room for religious dialogue in evangelical missiology? That all depends on what you mean by dialogue. As an evangelical, Stott argues that entering into dialogue with others is a mark of authenticity, humility, integrity, and sensitivity. Dialogue neither requires us to abandon Christ or our faith, but it requires us to identify ourselves as sinners and the people we are evangelizing as the image of God. The goal of dialogue is "mutual understanding," but for the Christian dialogue is also "a necessary preliminary to evangelism."

Fourth, salvation: The crucial issue in both evangelism and dialogue is salvation, but what is salvation? Stott begins by stating that it is not psychophysical health or sociopolitical liberation. These options were common among non-evangelical theologians in the late 1960s and early 70s. Rather, salvation is "personal freedom" along the following three spectra: "from judgment for sonship," "from self for service," and "from decay for glory." I think it appropriate to use the theological terms justification, sanctification, and glorification as synonyms for what Stott is talking about when he uses the words salvation or personal freedom.

Fifth, conversion: Pluralism is the religious attitude of both modernity and postmodernity. Such an attitude has, as Stott puts it, a "distaste for conversion." But the message of Jesus was conversionist in nature. He preached, "Repent and believe the good news!" (Mark 1:15). Biblical conversion, according to Stott, has five elements: repentance, church membership, social responsibility, cultural discernment, and reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit.

As an Assemblies of God pastor, I find Stott's discussion of Christian mission useful as a corrective to missiological tendencies within my own fellowship that privilege evangelism at the expense of social action. Moreover, the theology that underlies Stott's missiology refuses to accommodate itself to a narrow understanding of conversion that focuses on decisions for Christ at the expense of discipleship in Christ. God's grace requires a two-fold response of faith and works, for authentic Christian belief produces changed behavior.

By the same token, however, I believe that ecclesiology is the missing element within Stott's formulation of Christian mission. It is not merely the individual Christian's mission to serve the world through evangelism and social action; it is the church's. It is not merely the individual Christian who practices evangelism and dialogue; it is the church. And when individuals receive the gift of salvation and choose conversion to Christ, they do so within the context of a church. The church, in other words, is God's mission. It is both the effect of God's mission to the world through Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit and the agent of Christ's continuing mission in the world.

Ecclesiology was not as prominent an issue in the early 1970s when Stott wrote Christian Mission in the Modern World. Thirty-four years ago, the church was still a quasi-Constantinian institution in both England and America; in other words, it was a respectable pillar of society. In 2009, we can no longer make that assumption about the church's role. Consequently, we must focus on the churchly character of mission, evangelism, dialogue, salvation, and conversion. But of course, no one should anachronistically fault Stott for failing to take into account these new conditions.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Book Review: Christian Mission in the Modern World, by John Stott 25 April 2010
By Robert Pruitt - Published on
Summary of Stott's Main Arguments

John Stott's book, Christian Mission in the Modern World, is almost prophetic in its addressing issues of defining terms and fighting to keep the meanings of the words we use, especially those words of Biblical significance. Published in 1975, Christian Mission in the Modern World actually addresses issues of perceived changing of the meaning of words, and shifting and subjective realities, and interpretations, of a postmodern world view in missions. Stott is ahead of the times in this work in how he speaks to moderns and post-moderns alike. In beginning of the book, to define his terms, and to speak about meaning to his audience, Stott asserts, along with E.D. Hirsch, that "A text means what its author meant (Stott, p. 14)." So Stott begins to define the terms mission, evangelism, dialogue, salvation, and conversion.

Stott begins his work, in the introduction, with a great sentence, which for me sets the tone; he says, "One can hardly discuss church-world relations and omit the concept of `mission (Stott, p. 11).' "How does one define mission?" is what Stott goes on to explore in chapter one. He makes the point that "Mission is a comprehensive word that embraces everything which God sends His people into the world to do, including evangelism and social responsibility (Stott, p.35)." Stott wants us to see from the onset that these two go together in mission.

Stott's main argument is for missions to incorporate both evangelism and discipleship and social action. Stott begins with addressing the definitions of the terms that he uses like mission, evangelism, dialogue, salvation, and conversion, which are important to understand in the right handling of missions. Stott begins in scripture and seeks to recapture a biblical definition, and the author of scriptures original intent, in speaking of and addressing mission. Stott asserts that "The Living God of the Bible is a sending God (Stott, p. 21)." He is Missional.

Stott argues that physical needs of people must be met in missions, but so do the spiritual needs of people. These two extreme views of mission, evangelism and social justice, go hand in hand and go together harmoniously. The biblical view of missions is one that supports this idea and this can be seen in Jesus and his disciples and how they `did missions.' In scripture, we see a synthesis of `shalom' and evangelism. There is an ecology of these two. Stott begs the question, "Can a distinction be drawn between God's providential action and God's redeeming action (Stott, p. 20)?" Stott thinks not, and I agree with him. He says that "In our servant roles (like Jesus) we can find the right synthesis of evangelism and social action (Stott, p. 25)."

In his chapter on evangelism, chapter two, the focus is again on defining terms and defining and discerning what evangelism is, and what it is not. Stott liberates the term evangelism, and us Christians, from being results based in function, where in order to be successful; we must be converting people to the faith. Stott says that evangelism is sharing the good news with others, no matter what the outcome is. It is not results based. It has been my own personal experience that I have not done evangelism out of fear of the daunting task of bringing someone to the point of conversion, I do not think that I am alone in this. Evangelism is not conversion or a set of methods, as Stott points out; it is sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, however that good news is proclaimed (p. 40).

Stott points out that evangelism is using words to describe the events of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection for our sins (p. 54). The central message of good news that we are to proclaim, in word and deed, is Jesus. We are to send that message of Jesus to people and it should be auditory, not that Stott would totally disagree with St. Francis who said, "By all means preach the gospel, if necessary use words." Stott might tweak this a little and say, "By all means preach the gospel, evangelize, in all the ways that you can `in thought, in words, and in deeds.'" The central message that we are to proclaim in word, and `in presence,' is Jesus, the Word (p. 55). In short Stott says, "Our goal is to present Christ Jesus in the Power of The Holy Spirit that people may be persuaded to come to Him in penitence (p. 56)."

In his chapter on Dialogue, chapter three, Stott begins with the question, "Is there room for dialogue in the proclamation of the good news (p. 58)?" This question evokes strong opinions and polarizing views. It is met with resistance from the evangelical community. The term dialogue, no doubt, has strong negative connotations. The gospel, however, is, as Stott puts it, "non-negotiable" (p. 59). None the less, this should not limit us, or excuse us, to not be engaging in dialogue at all, like many rigid fundamental evangelicals suggest or are inclined to do. Stott proclaims that a true dialogue has authenticity, humility, integrity, and sensitivity and is a token of true and genuine Christian love (p. 80, 81).

Stott notes that dialogue is okay when it is properly understood and that dialogue and discussion are two different things altogether (p. 59). Stott provides for us a simple definition for dialogue which is, "A conversation in which each party is serious in their approach both to the subject and to the other person, and desires to listen and to learn as well as to speak and instruct (p. 61)." He notes that this definition is to be understood within the context of the Living God entering into dialogue with humankind. God himself modeled dialogue with His people throughout scripture from the foundation of the world, should we not emulate Him in dialoguing with the world in an effort to introduce the world to Jesus? Stott argues that "True Christian dialogue with a non-Christian is not a sign of syncretism but is fully consistent with our belief in the finality (and the supremacy) of Jesus Christ (p. 71)."

Chapter four of Christian Mission in the Modern World addresses salvation. "What does salvation mean?" Stott asks (p 82). The very name of Jesus means: "God is salvation." and "God the Saviour (p. 83)." Yet this concept of salvation can be a difficult one to grasp to the point that other words or concepts are introduced to facilitate understanding. Stott says that he would almost like to refer to salvation as "Salvation yesterday and today," but cringes at the idea that we may not have a firm understanding of salvation to begin with to understand its implications for us today, not that they are different, but our understanding could be different. We must understand our salvation and live lives as if we were indeed saved. Stott states that "Our message of salvation is bound to fall on deaf ears if we give no evidence of salvation in a changed life and lifestyle (p. 108)." Our actions must line up with our words and our belief.

Lastly, in chapter five, Stott addresses conversion. Stott asserts that salvation is not possible without conversion preceding it. He says, "Conversion denotes the response which the good news demands, and without which, salvation cannot be received (p. 109)." While conversion is an unpopular word in some instances and in some circles, it is very necessary. Conversion can be differentiated from regeneration, as it can be differentiated from salvation. Conversion is best defined and understood, however, in light of regeneration and in light of salvation.

Stott defines conversion as being faith plus repentance (p. 114). Conversion is our response to the gospel message; while regeneration is God's act in us (p. 114). Conversion is a conscious act on our part, where regeneration is unconscious, and is propelled by God (p. 114). Conversion is more of a process than an event, while regeneration is a complete work of God (p. 115).

Stott asserts that conversion has implications for the believer and the church and that repentance and evangelism, and repentance and conversion go hand in hand (p. 117). Conversion is also necessary to join the church, for church membership (p. 119). Bringing the whole message full circle, that mission goes hand in hand with social action, or shalom, Stott asserts that conversion also has social implications, in that it demands social responsibility (p. 121).

Without the power of the Holy Spirit, missions are doomed to failure from the start. Stott states that "nothing more is needed for the Christian mission in the modern age (and I would add our post-modern age) than a healthy fusion of humility and humanity in our reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit (p. 128)."

Assessing the theological and practical relevance of Christian Mission in the Modern World

I believe that we have lost the essence of our Christian faith in many ways due to biblical ignorance and a relativistic postmodern culture where words have lost their meaning. When you combine these two issues, Biblical ignorance, and relativism and postmodernism, what you have is uncertainty, and a lack of clarity in believers as to what it is that they actually believe. Again, Stott is ahead of his time in Christian Mission in the Modern World. We almost need a book like this for other areas of our faith, along with this one on mission that defines our terms.

Though Stott would say that, "Mission is a comprehensive word that embraces everything which God sends His people into the world to do, including evangelism and social responsibility (Stott, p.35)." However, there are other areas of our faith other than mission that can be explored in this way, like discipleship. I have been particularly interested in studying and teaching discipleship, and what I have discovered is that I have to begin with defining the term for people. Most believers do not have the grasp they should on basic Christian terms and beliefs. This is what makes this book so relevant for today. Though it was written for a modern audience, by a modern thinker, it fits with today's postmodern culture and speaks to biblical illiteracy by going back to scripture and being re-rooted in God's word and God's definitions.

Stott goes to scripture and he defines the terms that are essential for us understanding mission, evangelism, dialogue, salvation, and conversion. This book is simple and practical and theologically sound in presenting its arguments. Stott emphasizes mission and the Great Commission, but he balances it with the Great Commandment. As the saying goes, "You cannot ask for a hand until you touch a heart." or as Stott quotes, "A hungry person has no ears." Evangelism and shalom go together in mission. As Stott points out, scripture does not make a divide between evangelism and shalom, nor should we.

This review was first published on my blog, My Two Mites, and was also posted in


Stott, John. Christian Mission in the Modern World. Inter Varsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. 1975
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Overview of Christian Mission... 3 Feb 2009
By Seth McBee - Published on
It's been a while since I have read John Stott, but this was definitely a book that will make me read more of him. This book is a necessity for anyone that considers themself a missiologist or is wanting a deeper look into what it means for us Christians to be in the world. Stott hammers away in only 190 pages so much depth that any review will leave the subject at hand wanting in a desperate way. It is still hard to believe that this was first written in 1975 as he hits some people today straight between the eyes with his theological and practical conclusions (myself included).

Stott hits on five subjects and really pinpoints them further for great discussion.

The Five Subjects that he hits are:

1. Mission

Stott breaks down the two movements that are most abused, which are evangelism only ministries and social action only ministries. After breaking down why neither of these are correct, he blends the two to show the biblical aspect of how these two need to work together, not separate.

2. Evangelism

Stott lays out what must be considered in evangelism. He shows the priority, the meaning and then unpacks what must be included while presenting the gospel according to Christ and the apostles.

3. Dialogue

In this chapter, Stott again shows the two extremes in dialogue. One where the dialogue is so open that you can't tell that a Christian is in the conversation and the other being where the Christian believes that no dialogue should be had with other religions. Stott shows a balanced view to this and gives great examples how this can work and has worked.

4. Salvation

Stott works to find the biblical answer to what this term means in the Scriptures. He works through what salvation truly is and the areas of difference within this. Some of these would be salvation from political oppression, salvation of sickness and poverty, etc. Then Stott answers the question of salvation theologically and shows why salvation is more than just what we see, but is really the salvation of what we don't see. Namely, salvation from God's wrath in regards to hell.

5. Conversion

In this chapter Stott gives a precedence for conversion to the Christian faith. He fights against the universalists and also those who believe that there is no need to be converted to Christianity because Christ can be found in other religions as well. After this defense, Stott then shows what one is converted to when converted to Christianity.

This book is so well rounded and Stott unpacks the extremes in each case above to even the heretical. He then gives the biblical reasons to balance the extremes or to deny the heretical and comes to conclusions. The arguments are very well thought out and linear so that the reader can follow very easily and understand the concepts and defenses put forth by Stott. I would urge any pastor or missionary to pick up this book. This book is something that would have helped the start of my study on the church's mission before going to deeper studies that I have already looked at. I would hope that people that are in the emergent circles (Rob Bell, Tony Jones, Brian McLaren, etc) and also in the IFB circles would pick up this book to see their errors in the thought of Christian mission. Overall, this "introduction" is a great balanced approach to our mission as Christians as we work, minister, educate and evangelize the world as we know it today. Whether one is abroad or in their own back yard, this book lays a great foundation so that one sees their errors of extremism in any of the above named topics. Highly Recommended.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for "evangelicals" and "ecumenicals" alike 4 Mar 2006
By L. Steubing - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is typical of all of Stott's work: solid, Biblical, considerate and epistimologically sound.

Stott breaks down what 'mission' is, and places each 'piece' back into it's proper place according to Scripture. It is a calling back to 'true' Christianity, which is really no different than 'mission' in the first place.

This book is one that you'll want to keep handy, and read at least once a year, if not more (it's fairly short, and can easily be read in a single day). It is not overly academic, and can be understood by most laypeople.

Buy it... Unless you don't want change in your outlook to Biblical missions, you will not be disapointed.
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