John Stott

There is only one subject that can be blogged on today. Honouring John Stott.

I only ever met him once. It was a long time ago but I remember it vividly for an extremely strong subjective sense of him being surrounded by the presence of God. I don't really know how to put it other than that. A man who fathered leaders and exercised his exemplary statesmanship out of a centre of knowing God closely and having a heart that was deeply happy in him. (The only other person I have ever felt anything similar in the presence of is Terry Virgo). 

Without doubt, everyone who ministers over a lifetime will put a few feet wrong. But with Stott it was remarkably few. I guess that quite a lot of folk (and more and more with hindsight) wish that the discourse with Dr. Lloyd Jones had panned out rather differently and that he had avoided the furore over anihilation, but there wasn't a great deal more. Which for someone with truely global reach speaks volumes about his walking by the Spirit and enjoying the grace of God which teaches us to say no to ungodliness.

I'm sure many won't agree with me when I say that I personally found Stott's books more engaging than his preaching. That he was a good preacher is beyond doubt, but he was among the greatest writers. I suspect that centuries from now church historians of 20th century Britain will record that amid the startling decline in numbers of (professing) Christians, three figures will command enduring respect: Billy Graham as the great evangelist of the age, Lloyd Jones as the great preacher and John Stott as the great writer and statesman. And it will be Stott whose memory endures because of his books. "The Cross of Christ" is the most important Christian book of the last 50 years.   

What made him the statesman that he became? Like most evangelical statesmen it wasn't through embracing church hierarchies (that doesn't tend to be the way we do it. Evangelicals tend to do it through a passionate commitment to the local church not to ecclesiastical institutions). Perhaps with Stott it was a rare combination of being passionate about growing a local church while simultaneously being passionately and practically involved in the cause of global missions, especially among the young. Combined with a passion for sound doctrine and training gospel preachers on the one hand and immense spiritual giftedness as a grace-filled peace-maker on the other. Plenty of people are passionate about local church or global missions. About the deposit of sound teaching or being a peace-maker. Not many manage all of them. And the degree to which Stott did all of them was pretty nearly unique.

And you could talk to him. The last time I heard him preach was around his 80th birthday. It was at Word Alive in Skegness. He arrange to repeat his message finishing at 10pm, following which someone was driving him to Heathrow for an early flight to somewhere in Asia to speak to a student conference. When push came to shove I think his heart was always with the students and they have always loved him for it. Whether in CUs in the UK or through the wider fellowship of IFES. He was a young person in an old person's body.

On the completion of the New Testament Bible Speaks Today series a thanksgiving was held in All Souls. Stott addressed the meeting as the series editor and they asked me if I would speak as a younger person who values BSTs. I couldn't, but sent my Relay Worker went in my place. Finding herself talking to John afterwards she said how much she had recently enjoyed his BST on Romans. Without a hint of condescension he said "I wonder if I can ask what think about the man at the end of Romans 7 because I'm still not quite sure." She was talking about it for days afterwards - partly that the great man had asked her opinion, but mostly because the great man had impressed her with his transparent humility and desire to keep on learning of the Lord from people 50+ years younger than him.

Numbers 12:3 says: Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth. And the Lord loved it. It would be sacrilege to say that Moses had some stiff competition in John Stott (and Stott would tell me off for it, I am sure), but it doesn't seem very inappropriate. That's why he fathered leaders - not only out of depth of insight and skill but out of humble and Christ-like character.

I'm reminded of some of Nigel Lee's parting words: "I am expected in Heaven." For years it has been Stott's goal, now it is his home in everlasting joy.