Friday, 29 July 2011

Celebrating the Life and Ministry of John Stott

In one of many tributes being made in memory of John Stott I would like to quote from one by Pastor and author Mel Lawrenz. In his reflection he quotes New York Times columnist David Brooks who wrote a piece called “Who Is John Stott?” Brooks was bemoaning the fact that the media always choose the wrong people to represent evangelical Christianity, putting the microphone in front of people who are, in his opinion, “buffoons.” If reporters were smart, Brooks said, they’d look to John R. W. Stott as the voice of evangelical Christianity. It is a voice that is “friendly, courteous and natural. It is humble and self-critical, but also confident, joyful and optimistic.” Brooks went on to reflect on why this evangelical preacher is so compelling to him, a Jew. It has to do with Stott’s uncompromising “thoughtful allegiance to scripture.” Brooks concluded: “most important, he does not believe truth is plural. He does not believe in relativizing good and evil or that all faiths are independently valid, or that truth is something humans are working toward. Instead, Truth has been revealed.”

Lawrenz goes on to write: "John Stott was a pastor in London for many years and gradually became a friend to dozens of countries he visited in his itinerant speaking ministry. He never tried to invent something new, but was driven by his conviction that the truth of God in Christ is at the core of the mission that believers share. He never flaunted the fact that he served as chaplain to the Queen of England, or basked in the multitudes of accolades he received. He lived as simply as possible, writing books in a simple cabin in Wales, never married, called “Uncle John” by hundreds of younger people to whom he was mentor.

Stott always stood erect at the podium from which he spoke, turning small-sized pages in a notebook to march steadily through his talk. He did not walk around. Hardly gestured. But in his voice was a firm conviction that punctuated the words and phrases that really mattered. Sacrifice, truth, crucifixion, mission, world, redemption—and especially, Christ. He did not arrest your attention with fancy illustrations, but with the substance of the truth. He did not speak on topics, but about reality. The orderliness of his analysis showed respect toward his listeners. An authentic longing to help people. And underlying it all was an irenic spirit. He was polite not because he was an Englishman, but because the grace of Christ required it. Grace and peace—the keywords of Pauline salutations—were the values that opened the door of credibility to untold thousands of people." (See Biblegateway Blog 27th July 2011)

Lawrenz continues: "The core elements of Stott’s leadership-by-truth-telling are within our grasp immediately, and Stott would probably be the first to say so. We must…
* Make personal devotion to God in Christ our highest priority.
* Live consistently, with integrity. Resist the temptation to develop a public persona.
* Develop core disciplines like Scripture reading and mediation, prayer, work and rest.
* Trust in the unchangeable truth of Scripture. Go deep in our study of it.
* Prepare public talks with a focus on substance. Look for the connections and orders of our ideas.
* Value relationships with other leaders.
* Be a mentor without having to be called a mentor. Follow natural patterns.
* Don’t turn discipleship into a program.

Lawrenz ends: “Read” the truth of God written in the natural world. Stott was an avid ornithologist. His cumulative knowledge made him a world expert. This was both an avocation and an act of worship. Like many other Christian leaders, Stott practiced a full awareness of God’s presence and work, and that included participating in the Creation with a developing sense of awe and wonder. Rest in peace, John Stott.

John Stotts Memorial page can be found here.

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