With the publication earlier this yeart of The Radical Disciple, John Stott, the father of the modern Anglican Evangelical Movement, gives his last words to those who are still listening. And at 89, after 56 years of publishing, they are his last; on p 139 he tells us is laying down his pen (‘literally, since I confess I am not computerised’).

The Radical Disciple is a companion to The Living Church (2007), and between them they sum up what it means to be a biblical Christian in the church and in the world. In The Living Church he reminded us of the Bible’s teaching that in their life together Christians are to learn from God’s word, care for others, worship Christ as Lord, and urge others to accept Christ as Lord. In The Radical Disciple, he reminds us of the personal priorities Christians must have if they are to consitute such a church when they work together. The description of these qualities is simple, biblical and incontrovertible. No one will read anything new in this book, but the reminder that this is what following Christ is all about can never be given too often, and it only demonstrates again Stott’s gifts as a teacher that his last words to students would go over the basics in as easily memorable a form as he can find.

Conformity to Christ rather than to the world, growing as a Christian (so easy to ignore by desiring to ‘stand firm’ in what we already know), the rejection of affluence as a life-style, a balance between individual discipleship and corporate fellowship, worship and work, pilgrimage and citizenship, a willingness not just to be humble but to be actually humiliated—the imitation of Christ is as clearly set forth as it can be, and I don’t think I’m alone in being in great need of this encouragement to a deeper commitment to these things.

Who is still listening? Stott seems no longer to be as honored by those who learned from him as he once was. His refusal to support policies that are already resulting in formal divisions between Anglicans in many places around the world has led many younger Evangelicals to think of him as somehow out of date, no longer realistic about the state of the church. A still younger generation, as it sees the inevitable cost of such policies in terms of evangelical witness from within the Anglican tradition, will want to return to these fundamental principles. When that day comes, there is unlikely to be a better teacher of them than Stott.

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