Love, Fellowship, and the Church (Stott)

Reading through parts of John Stott’s Basic Christianity again is a pleasant exercise. This afternoon I was reading the section Stott wrote about the church. The whole section is too long to share here, but I’ve put some parts of it below. May it be a source of encouragement and direction for you today!

Sin tends to pull us out of harmony with other people. It alienates us not only from our Creator, but also from our fellow creatures. We all know from experience how easily a community, whether a college, a hospital, a factory or an office, can become a hotbed of jealousy and ill feeling. We find it very difficult ‘to live together in unity’.

But God’s plan is to restore our relationships with one another as well as with himself. So he does not save independent, unconnected individuals in isolation from one another; he is calling out a people to belong to him.

This is made clear right from the start in the early chapters of Genesis. God called Abraham to leave his home and relations in Mesopotamia, and promised to give him both a land for his inheritance and descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and the grains of sand on the beach. This promise to multiply Abraham’s offspring and through them to bless all the nations of the earth was renewed to his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob.

…At last the Messiah came. Jesus of Nazareth announced the arrival of the global kingdom which had been anticipated for such a long time. Many would come, he said, from north, south, east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God’s people would no longer be isolated, but a society whose members would be drawn from every nation on earth. ‘Go …’ the risen Jesus told his followers, ‘and make disciples of all nations.’ The sum total of these disciples he called ‘my church’.

…Of course, the pages of the church’s history have often been spoiled by foolishness and selfishness, even by outright disobedience to the teaching of Christ. Still today some churches appear to be dead or dying, rather than vibrant with life; and others are torn by divisions and plagued with lovelessness. We have to admit that not all those who call themselves Christians show either the love or the life of Jesus Christ.

Even so, the Christian should be part of the local Christian community and be committed to sharing in its worship and witness, however imperfect it may be. For the church is the place where we find the new quality of relationship which Christ himself gives to those who belong to him.

 John Stott, Basic Christianity, New edition (Nottingham: Inter-Varsity Press, 2008), 134–135.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015