John Stott: A Leader and a Statesman
Photo © InterVasity Christian Fellowship
I first met John Stott when I was a student in Oxford University in 1975 when he came to speak at three consecutive evangelistic meetings on the theme of “Jesus Christ – the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” Two of my friends became Christians at those events. John and I continued to have contact while I was a young student worker in Wales with UCCF, and then while I worked as General Secretary of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES). What did I appreciate and love about John?
His humility. At the thanksgiving service for John’s life, Chris Wright preached on the Old Testament text about Moses – “he was the greatest man in the East and the humblest of men.” John was similar. He very rarely spoke about himself, but instead pointed to Christ. He was a model of Christian humility. Perhaps that’s why God used him so much!
He was a great strategic thinker, contributing to the formation and shaping of the Lausanne Movement (which influenced global evangelical missiology), the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, A Rocha, the Evangelical Fellowship in the Anglican Communion, Langham Partnership and so much more.
His clear exegesis of Scripture, demonstrated in his 50+ books, his preaching ministry in All Souls church, and his public teaching ministry. I have been at student conferences in about 120 countries around the world, and of all the speakers I’ve ever heard, John was the clearest expositor of Scripture. I still remember his appeal while in his late 80s at the European Student Evangelism Conference which was based on 2 Timothy 2 – “Where are the Timothies for the next generation?” I wanted to be one of them!
He was a global evangelical statesman, bringing together evangelical Christians from a wide variety of backgrounds including Reformed and Arminian, Brethren and Baptist, etc., all sharing a common devotion to the person of Christ. He was a peacemaker and a bridgebuilder.
His integrated faith and the way he sought to apply biblical principles and truth to every sphere of life, including the realm of ideas, and to every area of the human person. His emphasis on the Christian mind (applying biblical principles to every sphere of life) greatly influenced me and many others.
He never lost his evangelistic zeal. This is a great encouragement to younger men and women. I remember visiting him in his retirement home and one of his urgent questions was, “has student work began in any other countries since I last saw you a few months ago?” Even in his 80s, he said to me, “if I had 20 years over again I would come and work with you in the student ministry because it’s so strategic.”
To my mind, John Stott has been one of the greatest evangelical leaders in the history of the evangelical church and, together with Billy Graham, probably the most outstanding evangelical statesman in the second half of the twentieth century.