John R. Mott: Why Christians Must Rise Above Separatism

My good friend Lon Allison, director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, edited a small book titled: John R. Mott: That the World May Believe. This 95-page gem is worth the time of every Christian I know. It sells for only $3.95 and I urge readers to get a copy from EMIS (Books & Resources Tab) through the Billy Graham Center. Read it several times. It even makes for great devotional, daily reading. If you want to fire your own heart for mission and Christian unity it is a marvelous resource.

Ws_about_mott Allison introduces Mott’s life and then breaks his main contributions down into four parts: Evangelism, Student Mobilization, Cooperation and Spiritual Formation. He provides a very brief introduction to each of these four parts and then gives the reader a number of quotations from Mott’s various out-of-print books. There are gems and treasures here for those who embrace mission and unity, or what I call missional-ecumenism.

I want to share a few of Mott’s comments about evangelism and Christian unity in this last of three blogs on the life and impact of John R. Mott, my personal role model for missional-ecumenism.

The Triumphant Apologetic

The larger evangelism which we long to see will result inevitably from a large unity. On the authority of Christ himself real unity is an absolute essential to the realization of the highest evangelistic objective . . . our Lord in his high-priestly prayer prayed that we all might be one, not as an end in itself, but “that the world may believe.” Thus the unity of his followers constitutes the triumphant apologetic.

Rising Above Separatism

If Protestant missions continue, as they have been for decades and still so largely are, a disunited complex of separate, individual bands or bodies of missionaries, and of scattered indigenous Churches, working with more or less varying aims and methods, what hope have we of triumphant success? At such a time duplication of independent effort, or lack of concerted plan, is a criminal waste. Piecemeal application of the cooperative principle is not good enough. Something more radical and far-reaching is necessary to give substantial reality even to the many scattered pieces of helpful cooperation already existing. There is imperative need of a more masterly diagnosis of the situation, or a clear definition of the aims or ends to be realized, and of the program to be carried out.

The Christian forces must unite on a much more comprehensive scale, and this at an accelerated pace, for if we perpetuate the luxury and inefficiency of our divisions, we shall surely miss the day of our visitation and the realization of our largest possibilities. Is there any reason that can stand before the bar of experience, of sound and unselfish judgment, and of sensitive conscience why the Christian forces of today should not unity and concentrate as never before on the areas of population and of human relationships which have not been brought under the sway of Christ?

Only as we thus transcend our denominational, party, national, and racial boundaries and barriers can we hope to fulfill the mandate of our Lord. Surely a way can be discovered by which, notwithstanding all the admittedly grave difficulties, our different Christian bodies can rise above their separatism and cooperate in a real world expansion of the Christian faith. The time is ripe for a great and striking emphasis upon the Kingdom of God as preached by Jesus Christian emphasis which shall be truly relevant to present-day needs and conditions, which shall dominate all other considerations and incentive, and which shall become contagious and irresistible.

No words better express the vision of my life, mission and my forthcoming book, Your Church Is Too Small, than these words of John R. Mott. Now you know why he is my role model. And now you can better understand why the famous atheist Christopher Hitchens despises him for being awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1946.