"The Radical Disciple" by John Stott

John Stott, The Radical Disciple: Some Neglected Aspects of Our Calling. IVP Books, 2010. 142 pgs. 


There is nothing like thought provoking, insightful, clear, and concise writing to cleanse the mental palate after having been exposed to such unmentionable rubbish as was the subject of my last book review.  I have already mentioned that this book probably felt better merely because I read it immediately after reading Twilight.  I have no doubt that this is true, but I don't think this review is much affected by that.  

That said, I picked up this book a few months ago because I had heard it was to be John Stott's last book (this is confirmed by Stott in the Postscript, which was both sad and interesting).  I recently noticed it on my "To Be Read" shelf and decided it looked like just what I needed right now.  I was not disappointed. 


In The Radical Disciple John Stott lays out, and explores, eight core aspects of following Jesus which he believes are commonly neglected.  His thesis is that we are all called to radical discipleship but that we avoid answering this call by being selective in our obedience.  Instead of doing all that we are called to, we settle for what we are comfortable with. As a remedy Stott lays out these eight areas as essential pieces of discipleship which we need to pay attention to. 

His eight areas are as follows: Nonconformity, Christlikeness, Maturity, Creation Care, Simplicity, Balance, Dependence, and Death.  Even a cursory reading of that list ought to make most of us squirm in our seats. After going through these features of discipleship, Stott concludes with the call to obedience, as well as a moving postscript on, of all things, his hope that books will still have a place in our future. 


The Radical Disciple is a powerful book.  It is filled with wise words well delivered.  Stott's eight selections are well chosen. Together they hit on some of the core needs of the church and the culture: Nonconformity in the face of consumerism, and celebrity, driven conformity; Christlikeness in the teeth of a world which tells us to 'be yourself' rather than imitate anyone; Maturity in the midst of a burgeoning population of "emerging adults/extended adolescents", as well as churches filled with spiritual infants; Creation care for a church that still fails to see the centrality of the earth's renewal to the Christian hope; Simplicity instead of greed and abundance; Balance and dependence over against burn out and independence; and Death in a place and time where we do our best to avoid this topic/reality at all costs.  

This is a book I will be reading again. I will read it again because I read it too quickly the first time, because I need more time and more exposure to begin to apply these things, and because Stott has written in such a way that his words are pointers to the life of Christ.  

My only criticisms are these: First, I wish he said more about all of these 8 aspects of discipleship. Secondly, his chapter on simplicity could have, and should have, gotten much more practical than it did.  While I appreciated having the text of the "Evangelical Commitment to Simple Lifestyle" (which is pretty much the entire chapter on Simplicity), that chapter was definitely lacking.  It points out the need for a broadly applied lifestyle of simplicity, but little else.  I suppose I will have to return to, and reread, Richard Foster on this subject (unless anyone can recommend something better).


Recommended, 4.5 of 5 stars.  Well written, theologically sound, spiritually uplifting. If you seek to be a disciple of Christ then this book will aid you in your journey.  You should know, as a final word, that you almost can't go wrong with a book by John Stott.  


adriel said...

nice. let me know when it's available :) Almost done a few of the books you suggested.

Andrew said...

It's available now, pretty much. I will grab a few notes from it on Tuesday (possibly for my sermon on Sunday) and then I can pass it on to you. Assuming you are around on Tues that is :)