Editorial: Memories of a Great Christian Leader
Our world has lost a great Christian leader. The internationally known and respected Anglican cleric, John R. W. Stott, died on July 27, 2011. According to Dr. Rowan Williams, archbishop of Canterbury, “The death of John Stott will be mourned by countless Christians around the world.”1 I will be one of those many mourners, but I will grieve with a thankful heart.2 I have precious memories of powerful biblical sermons by John Stott during my college years in England. While many churches in England were empty, All Souls Church in London—where he served as rector and rector emeritus for more than half a century—was filled to capacity. Young adults who had grown up in a post-Christian nation came with their Bibles and listened attentively. The reason? Stott preached relevant biblical sermons that challenged them to be transformed by a renewing of their minds rather than conforming to their secular, hedonistic culture.
During my doctoral studies, I examined Stott’s preaching ministry, learning from his example that one must first listen attentively to the Word of God before daring to speak for God. Stott was a biblical preacher. “It is God’s speech which makes our speech necessary,” Stott asserted. “We must speak what he has spoken.”3 He was also a humble witness. Before preaching, he would pray this prayer in the pulpit:
Heavenly Father, we bow in your presence
May your Word be our rule Your Spirit our teacher,
And your greater glory our supreme concern,
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.4
Many who knew John Stott can testify that he never fell into the trap of trying to make a name for himself. His only concern was to exalt the name of Jesus.
In 1974, Stott played a significant role in the International Congress on World Evangelization in Lausanne, Switzerland. He urged those in attendance not only to love their neighbors but also to tell them the good news about Jesus. That was a message Stott repeated and restated throughout his ministry.
Many consider his book The Cross of Christ (1986) to be his magnum opus. Without a doubt, this book should be added to one’s library and carefully studied. I would also encourage you to read Basic Christianity (1958) and Between Two Worlds (1982). In his final volume, The Radical Disciple (2010), Stott challenges us all with this assertion: “Basic to all discipleship is our resolve not only to address Jesus with polite titles, but to follow his teaching and obey his commands.”5
While Stott was still living in London, I visited him at his home. I will never forget a comment he made during that meeting: “We should be praying that God will raise up a new generation of Christian communicators who are determined to bridge the chasm; who struggle to relate God’s unchanging Word to our ever-changing world; who refuse to sacrifice truth to relevance or relevance to truth.” I am determined to honor that request and it is my prayer that this journal will help you relate God’s unchanging Word to our ever-changing world.
John Stott set a noble example. He lived well and finished well. It might be said of this great Christian leader, paraphrasing the words of the apostle Paul, “You have fought the good fight, you have finished the race, you have kept the faith. Finally there is laid up for you the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to you on that Day, and not to you only but also to all who have loved His appearing.”6
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2 We want to hear from you regarding ways that the preaching and writing of John Stott impacted your life and ministry. Send a letter to the editor through our Web site, www.ministrymagazine.org.
3 John R. W. Stott, Between Two Worlds (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1982), 15.
4 Ibid., 340.
5 John R. W. Stott, The Radical Disciple (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2010), 135.
6 2 Timothy 4:7, 8, paraphrased.