Costly Love – The Way to True Unity for All the Followers of Jesus


Love is the best thing we have—and yet we struggle to describe it, let alone live into it. at’s because love is a cross and an empty tomb; loving is knitting the church back together and saving the world. John Armstrong is perfectly placed to write about love—with evangelical zeal, catholic wisdom, and erudition without obscurity.

Dr. Jason Byassee
Butler Chair in Homiletics at Vancouver School of eology Fellow in theology and leadership at Duke Divinity School

Christian unity is not found in academic papers or sacred doctrines and practices. True unity is only found in sharing together in the costly love God has poured out upon us. John Armstrong has boldly called us to get out of the way to become open vessels of divine love to others, indeed to the whole world. He gives us hope, and a clear road map, for how costly love transforms us into Jesus’ unity.

Doug Haugen
Executive Director, Lutheran Men in Mission

As a pastor who deals with both with people who are hurting and national issues that bring division, I cannot think of a remedy more important than “the unity of love.” John Armstrong makes this central concept of God’s identity and command both clear and applicable in our lives. This book is helping me do what I thought I knew!

Dr. Joel C. Hunter Senior Pastor Northland, A Church Distributed

John Armstrong loves his friends, loves Christ’s church, and loves the Lord. He personally knows the cost of love. Rooted deeply in John’s personal experience of costly love, this book is timely and meets a serious need in these days of deep division. Like John’s life and ministry, Costly Love is a gift to us all.

Dr. Craig R. Higgins
Founding and Senior Pastor Trinity Presbyterian Church Rye, New York (member of the Redeemer Network of churches)

If only for an introduction to some of the church’s greatest fans, you should read this book. But I’m not one of them and I’m not because of the facts John Armstrong lays out in this critically important book. Here’s a taste: “From the apostolic era to the present, it seems to me, love has always been the greatest struggle inside the church. The real struggle has not been about evangelism, heresy, money, or programs— not even discipleship, at least as it is commonly understood. Love has been our constant problem.” He continues: “If you read a newspaper (especially the “Letters to the Editor”), blogs, and Facebook posts, listen to your neighbors (especially younger ones), and observe the most basic data from any serious polling, you can readily see the world does not believe that Christians are people of love.” Then try to grasp this:
“Without doubt, schism and disunity have thwarted the mission of Christ, perhaps more than any other catastrophe in all of Christian history.”

When I said yes to Jesus 49 years ago I had no idea I was also saying yes to the church, the bible or Christianity. I thought following Jesus actually meant devoting oneself to the practice John Armstrong calls Costly Love. I was quickly disabused of that idealism as a result of my introduction to church and how many interpreted the bible. It would take 32 years before I realized that Christians had taken advantage of my spiritual enthusiasm, my lack of historical knowledge and my biblical naiveté to get me to buy into their actual agenda which Paul the Apostle so astutely spelled out in I Corinthians 13: “now remain these three, faith, hope and love” but the greatest of these is truth.

Was it all bad? No, of course not. Jesus is still able to get through to us in spite of the church. Maybe if more people read this book they might be able to turn this thing around. I know that’s what John is hoping for and I for one am cheering him on.

Jim Henderson
Author, Jim and Casper Go To Church Executive Producer, Jim Henderson Presents

Discipleship is all about falling in love with Jesus, and John Armstrong’s Costly Love beautifully details what this really means. I commend it.

James P Danaher, Ph.D.
Professor of Philosophy, Nyack College Author, Jesus’ Copernican Revolution: The Revelation of Divine Mercy.

When I began to read Costly Love I intended to read a couple of chapters each day but then I couldn’t put it down. John reveals deep, carefully developed insights into the heart of our shared life. Costly Love puts things into proper perspective and offers possibilities for renewing the church. The reader will discover a history that has often been forgotten as well as some surprises regarding how love has transformed the lives of people through two thousand years of Christian history.

Rev. Donald McCoid
Executive for Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Affairs (Retired) Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Costly Love is a passionate, scripturally-rich, experientially-based, faith-sharing book which posits that we are not merely disconnected individuals but whole persons designed for communion and love. Other virtues are vital, but all of them flow from an every-moment, Spirit-given sacrifice that allows us to die to ourselves and give up our desires and comforts for the sake of others. John Armstrong insightfully develops the inherent connection between costly love and Christian unity, which provides the real-life context in which people can see God’s love in action. An inspiring and motivating read that can deepen your personal engagement with other members and parts of the whole Christian family.

Fr. Thomas Ryan, CSP
Director, Paulist North American Office for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations

Good books make you think, great books provoke you to change. John Armstrong has given us a great book that has the potential to transform how Christians and their leaders think about Christian witness in the modern world. Costly Love presents a vision of life that is biblically challenging and consistently congruent with reality. This is as timely a work on this subject as any I have read. This is a book we need for our divided times.

Rev. Tyler Johnson
Lead Pastor, Redemption Church Phoenix, Arizona

John Armstrong has discovered the transforming power of love. His heart beats to its rhythms. In this new book, he invites us all to discover and practice “love without limits” toward both God and our neighbors, regardless of the personal price. Costly Love gives a thoroughly biblical examination of love and each page is chock-full of wisdom. This book can change your life!

R. Alan Streett, PhD
Senior Research Professor of Biblical Theology Criswell College, Dallas, Texas

Never has a book strummed so many resonant strings in my own heart than John Armstrong’s Costly Love. It is as if he has walked through the chambers of my own habitation in Christ and captured, in enviably readable prose, my deepest convictions of the supreme need of the body of Christ in this hour. Costly Love is as timely a book as I have ever read. At the risk of premature hyperbole, Costly Love has the potential to become a timeless Christian classic. Saying “you must read this book” is to me inadequate understatement—but what else can I say?

Stephen R. Crosby, D. Min.
Stephanos Ministries

If you are satisfied with your present understanding of scripture and the church and believe that the fulfillment of Jesus’ prayer that we may “all be one” can be met by others coming into agreement with your personal understanding of both, then do not waste your time on this book. It will likely convict you, down in your bones, that unity in Christ is something quite other than agreement about principles, doctrines, theologies, or traditions. Attaining unity in Jesus requires deep humility and a willingness of spirit well beyond our staked-out positions.

So be ready to excuse the sin of disunity when The Day arrives. Or read John Armstrong now, and begin a rigorous, humbling and chal- lenging journey to discover that Jesus prayed for a unity formed by the presence of Christ and His love in us, not by assent to ideas or methods. Too radical? Then don’t read the book.
But get that excuse good and ready.

Rev. George Byron Koch
Pastor, New Jerusalem House of Prayer, West Chicago, IL

In his latest book, John Armstrong challenges all Christians with a simple and demanding insight—unity has its origin in God’s nature as love. The insight is also a prescription for what truly ails Christianity. For Christian churches to express faithfulness to Jesus’ prayer in John 17, they must dwell with each other in the unity of God-Love.

The Very Rev. Thomas A. Baima
Vicar for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, Archdiocese of Chicago, IL

Has there been a time in history when this message was more needed, more vital, than right now? John Armstrong’s insight into a topic that has been written about for centuries is both deeply historic and refreshingly current. His words clear the fog from the mountain top and point us in a deeply needed trajectory. I cannot recommend this book enough.

Rev. Ian Simkins
Pastor, Community Christian Church, Naperville, IL Founder, Beauty in the Common

Costly Love constitutes an interesting and valuable reflection on the mystery of God as love. The implications of this mystery are explained here in terms of the costly love Jesus had for his disciples and the deep ecumenism he desires for each one of us. Costly Love should be welcomed by theologians and ecumenists of different Christian traditions as a loving gift from the evangelical tradition. The book has a powerful narrative and organizes theological matters (especially given a topic so central to the Christian faith) in a most insightful way. The book witnesses the author’s personal commitment to the cause of the unity of the Body of Christ, as well as his attention to the “signs of the times,” the prompting of the Spirit to the world, the needs of all the people of God.

Dr. Teresa Francesca Rossi
Centro Pro Unione Rome

John Armstrong is one of my heroes, a rare evangelical leader who cares deeply about ecumenism and lives a deep passion for fostering real unity within the body of Christ (John 17). In this thorough, and at times complex, study we see why. He cares because God cares, indeed because God is love. We sometimes say this so glibly that too few have plumbed the depths and ruminated on the implications of love as thoroughly as John has in this remarkable work. Who of us doesn’t want more love in our lives and our modern world? is book may not be all we need, but need it we surely do. Costly Love guides us towards entering into love and unity more fully.

Byron Borger
Hearts & Minds Books Dallastown, PA

You may surmise that the topic of love has been both analyzed and overly sentimentalized, thus concluding that this book might be redundant or irrelevant. It is neither. Costly Love is a daring challenge to receive God’s love again; to live out his love in our 24/7 experience. Costly Love is a cry for the church, and all who know Christ’s love personally, to radically reset love as the core apologetic to a culture adrift in search of truth. Read John’s message as if the future of the church depends upon it. I think it does!

Rev. Phil Miglioratti Pray.Network

My friend John Armstrong speaks with passion, conviction and a profound understanding of what is needed in the global church today. Never has there been a time when followers of Jesus needed to be more united than today. John provides us with a clear and effective framework for this vision. Every church leader, indeed every follower of Jesus, needs to read this timely and important work. But be warned, the result may be costly love.

Dr. Geoff Tunicliffe
Former Secretary General, World Evangelical Alliance Global Media Strategist Vancouver, BC

Jesus has revealed that God is love, but what does God’s love actually mean for the church? John Armstrong approaches this question as a missional-ecumenist who longs to see divine love not only engage human souls personally but he longs to see us united by love in a bond of Christian communion. In pursuit of this vision, John presents insights from a stunning array of sources, illustrating the prominence of such love through the centuries. Regardless of your views about ecumenism, this book will nevertheless challenge and inspire you to pursue the costly radical love that God offers his people.

Chris Castaldo, PhD.
Lead Pastor, New Covenant Church, Naperville, IL Author of Talking with Catholics about the Gospel

John Armstrong’s Costly Love echoes the cry of God’s heart. Our lack of costly, sacrificial love is at the root of myriad divisions in the church and among Christians. If we live out the premises of this book, the church and the world will be transformed.

Rev. Carlos L. Malavé
Executive Director Christian Churches Together

John Armstrong loves the body of Christ and possesses a passion for the world to see the church as a family communion of the One Father’s children who have come to Him through His One Son, and through the life-giving One Holy Spirit. This Trinitarian love takes us to depths beyond our shattered surfaces, away from the rocks of our human shortcuts to unity. He explains the urgency of Costly Love with this simple observation: Jesus is not (commonly) apprehended by direct sight. God’s power and grace is made known through love. Who can argue with that?

Fr. Wilbur Ellsworth
Pastor, Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church Warrenville, IL

Costly Love: John Armstrong has been on a lifelong journey to transcend his background where theological and propositional truth and argument trumped generous and costly love. At last we have reached the summit of his journey in this, his latest work. With clear, profound biblical engagement, John argues for the priority of sacrificial love as the culminating quality in the being of God and the life of the church. More and more, John reminds me of his mentor, Lesslie Newbigin. I could not recommend this book more.

Dr. Rick Richardson
Professor and Author Wheaton College and the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism

The concept of love has received short notice in Western culture. Mired in emotion, our words of love lack the substance and depth the term so desperately deserves. Fortunately, John Armstrong offers us a pathway toward recovery from the “relational breakdowns” that for too long have plagued the witness of the church. By situating our response toward others in the central act of love that God showed us in Christ Jesus, we nd a way not only to maintain our unity as be- lievers in the face of the di erences that exist among us, we also dis- cover the secret to extending such love to those around us who crave a community of acceptance and grace. For that reason, Costly Love is a must read for pastors and congregational leaders who are laboring to keep their churches together in a day of enormous forces seeking to pull them apart, and also for those believers who simply want to delve deeper into the essence of Christian discipleship, which is to love one another in the same way that Jesus has loved us.

Doug Dortch
Senior Minister, Mountain Brook Baptist Church Birmingham, AL Moderator, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (2017)