Thursday, 1 March 2012

New Start

Today is my induction into the living of Swansea, St. James in the Uplands, Swansea. We moved in two weeks ago and apart from the chaos I have had a rather annoying - and on one occasion frightening - set of nose bleeds. This has caused me to slow down almost to a stop and avoid hot drinks, baths, showers, alcohol and strenous exercise. It has also given me an opportunity to read, pray and reflect. In fact if it had not been for the nose bleeds I would probably have hit the induction service at full speed and continued like that for a few weeks after.

But pausing and praying and thinking has been a wonderful preparation for this new ministry. And God has been good and I am on my third blood-free day!

As I have been preparing for what is to come I have been drawn back again to the writings and ministry of John Stott. What is it about the man that attracts me so and helps encourage me for future ministry here? Let me introduce you to Derek Prime who knew him. Here are his thoughts quoted on an interesting blog called "Cutting it straight":

“When I was first asked to provide a contribution to John’s blog about a preacher who has had the most influence on my own life and ministry I found myself a little perplexed because two men came equally to mind – Martyn Lloyd-Jones and John Stott. The recent ‘exodus’ of John prompts me to write of him.

“After National Service I went to university in 1951 and a regular speaker at the CU was John Stott. In 1952 he conducted a University Mission at Cambridge that I believe was his first such opportunity. For him it was a return to the place where he had first studied and then trained for the ministry. The CU obtained the use of the large University Church, Great St. Mary’s, a church where John Stott’s hero – Charles Simeon – had often preached. From the first day of the mission the numbers attending were beyond all expectation. I remember us wondering if the gallery could support the numbers of people that filled it.

“He preached a series of addresses that subsequently became a book entitled Basic Christianity, published in March 1958 by IVP, and it remains in print today. His initial preaching of this material made a great impact upon me and others, and the characteristics he manifested then continued and developed throughout his long ministry.

“I find it difficult to pinpoint what made the greatest impression upon me but let me try.

“First, his Christ-centeredness. Whatever his subject or text he had clearly asked of it, ‘How does this passage or subject relate to the saving work of our Lord Jesus Christ?’ As he preached, his personal devotion to the Lord Jesus shone forth. Without ever saying it, his determination, like that of the apostle Paul. was to know nothing in his teaching and preaching ‘except Jesus Christ and him crucified’ (1 Corinthians 2:2).. That does not mean that he did not deal with practical, moral and social issues for he was outstanding in doing so. But his concern grew out his understanding of what it means to walk in the footsteps of the One who died and rose again for us.

“Second, he rejoiced in the Bible. His confidence in and love of the Scriptures shone forth without him ever having to say so. He lived under the authority of Scripture and the Holy Spirit gave a clear sense of authority to his preaching as a consequence.

“Third, in his language he was clear, precise and logical.
It would not be inaccurate to say that he was simple in his preaching – the simplicity that comes from a sure knowledge of one’s subject. He had a sharp mind – he gained a double first at Cambridge. But he never paraded his knowledge or loaded his teaching and preaching with quotations of people he had read. He worked hard at being understandable and there was always a logical framework or skeleton behind what he said.

“Fourth, he was warm and pastoral in his preaching.
That warmth made it easy for people to approach him. Although an outstanding preacher, his application of Scripture to daily life meant that pastoral counsel and care were given and exercised as much in his preaching as in his one to one meeting with individuals.

“Finally, he never projected himself. It would have been all too easy for him to do so especially as he became so widely known at home and abroad, not only for his preaching but for his writing. We may so easily appeal to people’s interest in ourselves in our preaching by illustrations that draw attention to us rather than to the Saviour we proclaim and whose servants we are.

As the writer to the Hebrews encourages us, ‘Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:7-8).

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