Continuing my series on the dangers of polarization and the need to value both extremes in the Christian life, John Stott in Balanced Christianity affirmed both Intellect & Emotion, Conservative & Radical. He wrote about two other seemingly polar opposites.
3. Form & Freedom. He noted the postmodern tendency to rebel against rigid institutional forms and a universal feeling after freedom and flexibility. Many were looking for churches without tradition. There was a desire for worship that was contemporary, high-tech and personal. New church planters rejected the historic, mainline denominations in favor of independent, nondenominational congregations. He affirmed the biblical basis for baptism, Holy Communion, and the pastorate, which give structure to the local fellowship of believers. He valued the ministry of the Holy Spirit as the dove, who comes powerfully in quietness, silence, reverence and awe as much as in exuberant, joyful, loud music. While valuing the independence of the local church he saw the danger of neglecting the riches of the past and the universal. “When this happens, the local church has become so self-contained as to despise the church of God in time and space.” We cannot ignore history and the need for unity with other Christians with whom we share a common faith. I can remember going with John to have fellowship with the local parish clergy at St. Charles Borromeo Roman Catholic Church in Fitzrovia, near All Souls Church. For many years he worked with the World Evangelical Fellowship on theological discussions with the Catholic Church. He was comfortable with both independents and institutional Christians.
4. Evangelism & Social Action. He identified the tendency of some Christians to become exclusively preoccupied either with evangelism or social action. He was encouraged by the recovery of the doctrine of creation and our duty to our neighbor. We should be concerned for the body as well as the soul, the spiritual, physical and social well-being of others. We are called by Jesus to proclaim the Gospel and to make disciples. We are also called to respond to the human needs of those to whom we are ministering as the opportunity presents itself. All too often Christians have turned a blind eye to the social conditions of others, or, on the other hand, have supplied physical needs while neglecting spiritual needs. At All Souls Church he reached out to evangelize the neighborhood by training lay visitors who were taught how to witness and lead people to Christ. He established a fellowship for lonely, international students, and business and professional young people. He also instituted lunch-time services and a chaplain for the workers in the large department stores in the West End of London. He ministered to the poor, working class people through a clubhouse, and a school, and through sending out welfare visitors to care for the elderly homebound. His Christianity was never words without deeds. Both were needed to love our neighbors.