Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Church unity

Rev. Dr. John R.W.Stott

Out on the balcony, the morning calm is shattered by the sound of pile drivers pounding away nearby with maddening apathy. I'm reading Ephesians 4, reflecting on what it takes to maintain unity in the church. You don’t have to stretch your imagination much to see the gulf between the church invisible and the one that’s visible. While there is a place for healthy disagreements over peripheral issues and traditions, Paul’s injunction to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” remains vital.

One of my evangelical heroes John Stott , that self-effacing Anglican whose books (40 million sold worldwide) speak with quiet authority writes in his commentary on Ephesians, God’s New Society, that the verse in its original Greek carries an urgent tone, making this imperative a continuing and pressing concern for our day. We've got to keep at it, like construction pile drivers, but gently, I said to myself.

Stott locates four truths that God intends for the Church’s oneness:

1. It depends on charity of character and conduct
2. It arises from unity of our God
3. It is enriched by the diversity of our gifts
4. It demands maturity of our growth

Stott goes on to say that the basis of Christian unity is as much structural as it is moral. Expositing Paul’s letter, Stott believes however that it is never the structural but the moral foundation stones of lowliness, meekness, patience, mutual forbearance, and love, that must undergird and supercede any pursuit of unity.

Stott has had a deep influence on me, and when he writes about these things, you know they ring true because he is an exemplar of the very virtues he teaches.

Reading Stott's Commentary - I have owned this one since the mid-80s - I noticed a piece of paper between its pages. Like the book, the paper that I once used as a bookmark is yellowed on the edges. On it I found words I scribbled to myself so many years ago when I first studied Ephesians, hitting me now with a new force:

The more we know God,
the more we love our brothers.
The more we love our brothers,
the more we serve and build them up.
The more we serve and build them up,
the more we die to self-interest.
The more we die to self-interest,
the more we become like Christ.

Related stories:
New York Times David Brooks' article “Who is John Stott?” (if you haven’t already read it!)

David Limbaugh's comment on columnist Brooks' article

David Edwards spoke of John Stott as, apart from William Temple, “the most influential clergyman in the Church of England” during the twentieth century, and Alister McGrath has suggested that the growth of post-war English evangelicalism was attributable more to John Stott than any other person. John Stott Ministries

"Who is the Lord and whom are we going to obey?" Stott calls the Church to radical non-conformity

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Unless I am disillusioned, remembered seeing the listed price as USD89.19 for second hand (almost new)

Now is USD15.99.

Zondervan is retailing it for USD13.99. Guess Evangel could easily get it at USD7.00 to 8.00.

How could Amazon.Com do a number like that.

New Issues Facing Christians Today
Fully Revised Edition

Written by: Dr. John R.W. Stott

Format: Softcover
Page Count: 448
List Price: $13.99 {CDN:$19.99}
Size: 8-1/2 x 5-5/16
ISBN: 0-551-03172-7
Available: February 1999
Publisher: Zondervan

Unless I saw it wrongly.