January 31 — John Mott

Today’s Bible reading

But what does it say?

“The word is near you,
    on your lips and in your heart”

(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” But not all have obeyed the good news; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ. — Romans 10:8-17 

More thoughts for meditation about John R. Mott (1865-1955)

John Mott stood before the fabled 1910 Edinburgh Missionary Conference, he said, “It is a startling and solemnizing fact that even as late as the twentieth century, the Great Command of Jesus Christ to carry the Gospel to all mankind is still so largely unfulfilled. … The church is confronted today, as in no preceding generation, with a literally worldwide opportunity to make Christ known.”

His evangelistic passion made Mott his generation’s most popular evangelist to university students and the promoter of the emerging ecumenical movement.

Mott was born in New-York but raised by settlers in Iowa who nurtured his faith. While he was in college at Cornell University, C. T. Studd, the famous cricket-player-turned-evangelist struck him with these words: “Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not. Seek ye first the kingdom of God.” That same year, at the 1886 Northfield Student Conference led by Dwight Moody, Mott stepped up and became one of the 100 men who volunteered for foreign missions.

Mott’s destiny, however, lay not in foreign missions but in evangelizing college students and inspiring others to foreign mission work. He became college secretary of the YMCA in 1888, when the organization was consciously evangelical and aggressively evangelistic. That same year, he helped organize the Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions (SVM), a branch of the YMCA and YWCA. By the time he spoke at SVM’s 1951 convention, over 20,000 volunteers had gone to mission fields through its efforts.

Mott’s energies could not be bound by one or even two such organizations, no matter their scope. In 1895 he helped found the World Student Christian Association and traveled some 2 million miles to further the federation’s dream: to “unite in spirit as never before the students of the world,” and so hasten the fulfillment of Jesus’ prayer, “that all may be one.” On every continent he visited, he established immediate rapport with students and church leaders, who flocked to hear him speak. His reputation for irenic yet impassioned appeal for dedication to the kingdom of God grew; heads of state sympathetic to his mission honored him upon arrival and consulted him in private.

In 1893 he helped found the Foreign Missions Conference of North America, and in 1910, he helped pull together and chair the massive Edinburgh Missionary Conference—its 1,200 delegates represented 160 mission boards or societies.

All these movements, and a few more with which Mott was involved, eventually blossomed at the World Council of Churches in Amsterdam in 1948. Mott was not only officially named honorary president at the inaugural session, he has come to be remembered as the “father of the ecumenical movement.”

By the time Mott was 32, he was called “Protestantism’s leading statesman,” at 58, the “father of the young people of the world,” and at age 81, in 1946, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

In an era when liberals and fundamentalists debated fiercely, Mott took a middle view: “Evangelism without social work is deficient; social work without evangelism is impotent.” Still, evangelism was his first love. The title of his bestselling 1900 book is The Evangelization of the World in This Generation, and in his last public appearance, he said, “While life lasts, I am an evangelist.”

More?

  • Josh’s final is funny but a good summary
  • A participant’s description of John Mott’s chairmanship at the 1910 Edinburgh Missionary Conference

When he himself addresses an assembly, [he] knits and kindles the craggy tender face; the voice vibrates with fierce emphases and stresses. … The single words seem literally to fall from his lips (the trite expression is for once justified), finished off with a deliberation that never slurs one final consonant, but on the contrary gives that consonant the duty of driving its word home. And as for the sentences also—the conclusion of each, instead of dropping in tone, increases to a sort of defiant sforzando, which, when his earnestness is at its height, can be terrific.

  • History from the Nobel Committee

Friendship among Christians Brings Peace

The Peace Prize for 1946 was awarded to the head of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), the American John Raleigh Mott, who according to the Nobel Committee had contributed to the creation of a peace-promoting religious brotherhood across national boundaries.

Mott grew up in a settler family in Iowa, strongly influenced by Puritan ideals, and took a bachelor’s degree in history at Cornell University. As a student Mott received a religious call to spread the Gospel, after which he devoted most of his life to the YMCA, to missionary activities, and ecumenical work.

As general-secretary of the International Committee of the YMCA and president of YMCA’s World Committee, Mott sought to advance understanding and reconciliation. He organized youth exchanges, set up study groups, and arranged international youth camps. Mott was at the same time a leading figure in the field of international Christian student and missionary cooperation, and took part during both World Wars in relief work for prisoners of war. He criticised the oppression of colonial peoples and was a pioneer in the struggle against racial discrimination.

Suggestions for action

John R. Mott crossed all sort so lines to forge alliances. He carried a gospel of reconciliation all over the world and became famous for his good will and trustworthy character. He is a good example of the best of Evangelicalism and the “muscular” Christianity of the early 20th century. Mott was a tireless proponent of a vision that “all would be one” in Christ. What do you see as a vision worth devoting your future to?

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