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Review – The living church: convictions of a lifelong pastor

January 2008 | by Ray Evans
The living church: convictions of a lifelong pastor
John R.W. Stott
IVP
192 pages; £8.99
ISBN: 978-1-84474-183-0

Written from the vantage point of a preacher in his 80s, here is a lucid, well-ordered and biblically grounded book about the church. It is typical John Stott – rich fare for the mind and soul. It comes warmly recommended by a host of evangelical leaders.

This is not a long or comprehensive book. Instead Stott chooses to describe four essential marks of a healthy church – learning, caring, worshipping and evangelising. Then he spotlights seven areas in more detail: worship (glorying in God’s name); evangelism (mission through the local church); ministry (the twelve and the seven); fellowship (the implications of koinonia); preaching (five paradoxes); giving (ten principles); and impact (salt and light).

The book is rounded off with a call for more ‘Timothys’ to meet the needs of the twenty-first century.

All these areas are opened up by Stott’s masterful handling of Bible passages, wise analyses of some current cultural trends, and deft use of illustrative material. Many of the sections would greatly help any preacher working through the themes or the Scripture portions.

His outlines make it look so easy – evidence of the skill of the preacher/craftsman. Yet they also speak very directly and convincingly to individual Christians about God’s priorities and will for their lives and for the well-being of their local church.

The book ends with three historical appendices on significant milestones in his life, including a short piece, ‘Why I am still a member of the Church of England’. I found this particular section confusing and disappointing.

Considering all the good things he says earlier about the local church, this note about his convictions for remaining in his own denomination begged many questions about true church unity and relationships with evangelicals outside of it.

So, in general, a good and helpful read for the life of a local church, even if some key things are passed over. But not a book I would turn to for any help on inter-church fellowship and wider church unity.

Ray Evans
Bedford
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