I have just sat and read John Stott's latest and last book, The Radical Disciple. What a refreshing, challenging and moving read. Stott introduces the idea of discipleship with a preface in which he states his preference for the word 'disciple' over 'Christian.' I think for Stott, it captures what it means to be a Christian, a student of Christ. Throughout the book, for me, the dominant idea is Christ and complete Christian submission to him.
He focuses on 8 areas of discipleship, singling them out because of their importance. These are: 1) Non-conformity; 2) Christlikeness; 3) Maturity; 4) Creation-care; 5) Simplicity; 6) Balance; 7) Dependence; 8) Death. He ends with a personal and very moving note to his readers that this is his last book and says goodbye.
What strikes me in this book is its simplicity. He clearly has a world of Christians in mind who live shallow lives without depth and who have not grasped the nature of what it means to be a Christian, to be 'conformed to the image of his Son' (p. 29). He does not complicate things, but says is simply and well. It could be read by a teenager. This is the sort of book that every church should use as a basis for home group study. Pastor's should preach its essential outline and content, in their own style of course. New Christians should get this very early in their lives, so that their discipleship is founded on the right stuff.
The book is typical Stott, sprinkled with personal stories, well-selected quotes, and most importantly, reflection on the Bible. At points he gives exposition, at others he draws from all over the Scriptures. He shows a holistic theology and avoids controversy and doctrinal dogmatism.
Influenced as I am by the idea of the Christ-pattern as the essential basis for Christian life, namely, living lives according to the pattern of sacrifice, service, humility, suffering, and even death, two chapters stood out to me. The first is 'Christlikeness' and the second, the final chapter on death. Stott really 'gets it' and has done so for years. He gets how to articulate the essentials of the faith in a manner any person can understand. Yet he reveals a huge depth.
The final thought I have is that this book is empowered by the truth that Stott has lived it. He is not some young kid or some mid stage 50 year old telling people how to live, he has done it. He has left the proceeds of his books to multiply his ministry through other writers in God's world. He will die, but from the seed of his death will further arise a whole world movement of people articulating the gospel for their contexts. John Stott is a hero of the faith. He has served gloriously. Thank you John for your wonderful service and for this last chapter.
As a writer I will seek to take up the challenge, and if I can be half the man you are, I will die a happy man. Well done good and faithful servant. Thanks.