John Stott’s book, Christian Mission in the Modern World, was first published in 1975. It was the published form of a series of lectures on key terms relating to Christian mission, namely, ‘mission’, ‘evangelism’, ‘dialogue’, ‘salvation’, and ‘conversion’. Forty years later, in 2015, this new edition appeared with significant additional material written by Chris Wright. The result is a fascinating volume that will be of value to anyone who wishes to develop their thinking about Christian mission.
What does this book offer the reader?
First, and fundamentally, the book offers the benefits of Stott’s characteristically clear, careful teaching on some crucial theological words and concepts, with application to the tasks of the church in the modern world. Typically, his discussions are steeped in the biblical texts, but they also engage with important trends in modern thought in an incisive yet irenic manner.
Secondly, the new edition introduces the contribution of Chris Wright, uniquely qualified for the task as a long-term friend, colleague, and collaborator of Stott, as well as a significant contributor to mission studies in his own right. In his preface, Wright indicates that he made several contributions to the work. With respect to Stott’s chapters, he has lightly edited them to remove references to outdated debates and also to use gender-inclusive language. More significantly, after each of Stott’s chapters, Wright provides a substantial reflection on the chapter, drawing attention to portions of Stott’s later books where he writes at greater length on certain topics; highlighting and elaborating on points that have proved important in missiology since Stott wrote in the mid-nineteen-seventies; and providing additional bibliographical information (in the endnotes). It is evident from these chapters that Wright regards Stott’s work with great appreciation and respect, as one who reflects on the words of a deeply-valued mentor. Yet Wright does not hesitate to identify occasional points where he differs to some extent with Stott’s statements. I found these chapters fascinating as a testimony to a long friendship that involved both fundamental agreement and honest but respectful conversation about differences.
Thirdly, this edition serves as a useful introduction to the Lausanne Movement (to which the book is dedicated) and its documents. While this short book is not intended to be a full introduction to the Lausanne Movement, Stott’s chapters were first published shortly after the Lausanne Congress for World Evangelization (1974) and Stott quotes from the Lausanne Covenant, of which he was a significant author, on a number of occasions. Similarly, Chris Wright was a key figure in the drafting of the Cape Town Commitment (2010), associated with the most recent Lausanne Movement gathering in South Africa, and he quotes from it frequently in his chapters. These documents deserve to be more widely known, read and discussed. This book will perhaps introduce them to some readers.
For all these reasons, this new edition of a classic book is very welcome. This book would serve as a helpful introduction to mission studies for general Christian readers, but all readers will benefit from listening to this engagement between two gifted leaders in world mission.
[I am grateful to IVP for a free review copy of this book.]