The Living Church – Chapter 1 In the next few weeks I’ll be posting on John Stott’s excellent new book: The Living Church. Stott is a writer, pastor, and teacher who is well worth reading.
This chapter sets out what Stott calls God’s vision for the church. Question: What would you see as necessary marks or traits of God’s church? Stott is a person who is about church through and through. His vocabulary for the church is ‘God’s new community.’ Stott argues that all believers should be committed to church, its mission, and its renewal because God is committed to these. Each of the three are essential.
But what is a living church and God’s vision of church? Stott offers us a picture from Acts 2:42-47:
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
‘The early church,’ Stott states, ‘was radically stirred by the Holy Spirit.’ In following Luke’s recounting we notice four marks of this Pentecost event, which will help us in shaping the church today.
First, a living church is a learning church. ‘Devoted to the apostolic teaching,’ according to Stott, didn’t mean that people left their intellects behind in exchange for a mystical experience or that because the Holy Spirit had arrived they no longer needed a teacher. True, says Stott, the New Testament apostles are no longer with us, but we do have in the New Testament their teaching and witness.
Second, a living church is a caring church. ‘Fellowship’ is to be taken seriously and we’re to make a difference in extending generosity wherever possible.
Third, a living church is a worshipping church. Joy and reverence are to be combined in a mixture of both formal and informal structures.
Fourth, a living church is an evangelistic church. Mission and outreach are to identify the people of God.