Christian Ministry in the 21st Century Part 2: The Church’s Mission in the World -- By: John R. W. Stott

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 145:579 (Jul 1988)
Article: Christian Ministry in the 21st Century Part 2: The Church’s Mission in the World
Author: John R. W. Stott

Christian Ministry in the 21st Century
Part 2:
The Church’s Mission in the World

John R. W. Stott

London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, London, England

[Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of four articles delivered by the author as the W. H. Griffith Thomas Lectures at Dallas Theological Seminary, November 3–6, 1987.]

Having considered the world’s challenge to the church in the first article in this series, the movement is now reversed to consider the church’s challenge to the world. The traditional word for it is “mission,” which denotes what Christ sends the church into the world to do. This has been the subject of anxious debate during the last two or three decades. On the one hand the ecumenical movement, born in the evangelistic euphoria of the World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh in 1910, has gradually lost its enthusiasm for evangelism and has tended to replace it by socio-political concerns. On the other hand the evangelical movement, which has always stressed the call to world evangelization, seems in the early decades of the 20th century to have mislaid its social conscience, and has tended to concentrate exclusively on evangelism. This has been a sad and unnecessary polarization.

One of the merits of the Lausanne Congress in 1974 is that its Covenant includes an outspoken commitment to both world evangelization and Christian social responsibility. Further, the Grand Rapids Consultation of 1982 made progress in suggesting how the two could be related to each other. Its report declared (a) that social activity is a consequence of evangelism, since “faith works through love”; (b) that social activity is a bridge to evangelism, since “it can break down prejudice and suspicion, and gain a hearing for the gospel”; and (c) social activity often accompanies evangelism as its partner. “They are like the two blades of a pair of scissors, or the

two wings of a bird.” This partnership is clearly seen in the public ministry of Jesus in which κήρυγμα (proclamation) and διακονία (service) went hand in hand. “His words explained his works, and his works dramatized his words.”1

The focus of this article, however, is on the local church and the local community, and in particular on evangelism in the local community through the local church.

Local Church Evangelism

Local church evangelism is not the only legitimate form of evangelism. Ever since Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well of Sychar and Philip sat ...

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