It’s an odd thing to mourn for somebody you have never known. But yesterday, as I heard news of the passing of John Stott, I did just that. It first came in the form of rumours on Twitter but, as I searched, it was confirmed by Langham, the organisation Stott formed to equip Bible teachers in Majority World countries. It was then that I knew one of the great spokesmen for the Christian church had went to be with the Lord. He died amongst his closest friends while reading from 2 Timothy and listening to Handel’s Messiah.
I was first introduced to the man, as many around the world have, through a book given to me on the day of my baptism: Basic Christianity. It was a simple book, but ideal for a young Christian. I have never met him face-to-face, though have personally been enriched and challenged by several of his 50+ books published. But I find his significance to be more than the intellectual legacy he has left behind and more than the “star-factor” he has possessed. John Stott was one of the greatest pastors the UK has known.
I do not mean this in terms of him being the pastor of a local church (although he was, serving at All Souls, London from 1945 until his death). I mean this in the sense that Stott was called by God to minister to a hungry flock. He was ordained as a pastor during a time when Evangelical Christianity had nearly gone extinct in the UK. Yet it was largely through his love for God and his love for God’s people that the spiritual landscape of the UK – no, the world, was shaken by the depths of the Christian faith. In 2006, he would reportedly say, “An evangelical is a plain, ordinary Christian.” It was this man who lived the plain, ordinary Christian life.
If you have been following the last few weeks and months at the BCEC, we have been challenged by our very own Pastor to love Jesus and love like Jesus. This is what John Stott continues to model for us. Yet as I think about the ministry of John Stott, I find that I am challenged with the question of what friends would say when I eventually pass. As his obituary in Christianity Today so aptly put it, “Stott’s preaching and writing renewed faith in the inspiration of Scripture—not only because he defended it, but because he displayed it.” My hope is that it too can be said of us one day that, in our lives, we have defended and displayed the inspiration of Scripture.
Lord, may I be in a small measure as plain and ordinary a Christian as your servant, John Stott. Bless this brother and servant as you receive him into your arms. Amen.