My favorite books are written by older, wiser Christians reflecting on their lives as followers of Christ. Some of the best books on how to follow Christ in the 21st century have been written by John Stott, rector emeritus of All Souls Church in England. His latest book, The Living Church: Convictions of a Lifelong Pastor (InterVarsity), is both a personal memoir of the development of his deepest convictions, and solid, important advice to today’s Body of Christ.
This book is full of pastoral wisdom we desperately need to hear. Of course, if you are going to talk about today’s church, you need to say something about worship. Stott suggests, “Young people tend to be impatient with the inherited structures of the church. Understandably so, for some churches are too conservative, too resistant to change… We must of course listen to young people. But the Holy Spirit’s way with the institution of the church is more the way of patient reform than impatient rejection. So don’t let’s polarize between structured and unstructured.”
But there is more to “church” than worship services. Stott explains that the church needs to be a learning, caring, worshipping and evangelizing community that is more concerned with those outside of its walls than those on the inside. Here’s vintage Stott: “If society becomes corrupt, there is no sense in blaming society for its corruption. That is what happens when human evil is unchecked and unrestrained. The question to ask is: Where is the church? Where is the salt and light of Jesus?”
We need voices like Stott’s to wake us from our complacency and remind us of what is most important. This book needs to be read by everyone who truly desires to see the church be the church in the midst of a hurting world. It is not formulaic or cliché, but solid wisdom from someone who cares deeply about the state of contemporary Christianity.