John Stott has clearly given the church a treasure of biblical teaching that will feed minds and hearts for decades to come. One of Stott’s most useful books is Basic Christianity, a book that I have often used to train/mentor others. First published in 1958 this is vintage John R. W. Stott. He sets forth a compelling course of simple, yet very rich, study that defends the fundamental truth claims of Christianity. What are the basic beliefs of all Christians and why do they really matter? How do we live out the faith that we confess? Stott’s friend, J. I. Packer, calls this little gem of a book a “disarming introduction to personal faith [a] modern classic.” I agree.
Stott begins this incredibly useful book by saying: “We must commit ourselves, heart and mind, soul and will, home and life, personally and unreservedly, to Jesus Christ. We must humble ourselves before him. We must trust him as our Savior and submit to him as our Lord; and then go on to take our place as loyal members of the church and responsible citizens in the community. Such is basic Christianity.”
It is widely know that John Stott has been engaged in serious ecumenism, especially of the informal and relational sort that I openly advocate, for his entire life. (He has also taken a role in more formal ecumenical discussions within the UK.) Stott remains a resolute evangelical but he is also catholic in every best sense of this ancient term. Stott provides a basis, in the thinking that we read in this quotation, for how we can approach one another when we disagree on significant doctrinal issues. His solution, it seems to me, is obvious: Always begin with Jesus Christ.
Commit yourself totally and completely to Jesus Christ. If we began all relational dealing with other Christians right here I wonder what would really happen? We would have to begin by acknowledging that we were committed “personally and unreservedly to Jesus Christ.” When God taught me to embrace the missisonal-ecumenism paradigm that I now openly advocate in every possible way he also taught me this simple principle—begin all conversations and relationships with others who are professing Christians with Jesus Christ. Make him the whole point of our conversation, dialogue and pursuit. There is much more to the faith for sure but there is nothing quite so central and truly important as this. Why is this so hard for us to grasp?