John Stott on Devotion
On the day John Stott died, I was at a youth conference. Opposite me at the table in the speakers’ lounge sat a nineteen-year-old man. He hadn’t heard the news. He happened to be reading John’s last book The Radical Disciple. I asked him what he thought of it. Without missing a beat he said, “Some people talk about being radical, this guy really lives it.” Well, there you have it – the last written words of a ninety year old inspiring a nineteen-year-old to live an all-in, all out life for Christ.
The last time I saw John I’d gone down to his nursing home to report on the 2010 Lausanne Congress for World Evangelisation in Cape Town. John had initiated the first Congress back in 1974. Inspired by the work of a cluster of Latin American theologians, and supported by Billy Graham, John made the biblical case that Gospel proclamation and Gospel action went together, that verbal witness needed to be accompanied by practical action. Today, there’s hardly an evangelical church in the UK that’s not involved in some formal or informal action on behalf of the poor and the marginalised. Back in the 60s, it was entirely different: liberal Christians looked after the poor, evangelicals preached the word. The Lausanne Congress changed the world. The Gospel does that. But the work wasn’t finished. The global church had grasped the need to mobilise on behalf of the poor but it hadn’t yet grasped the need to liberate and disciple all Christ’s people for mission and ministry in their Monday to Saturday everyday lives out in God’s world. We still haven’t.
I gave John my impressions of the Congress. At that stage his mind was still as sharp as a tack but he couldn’t put paragraphs together. He said, “It lacked a gadfly.” In other words, the conference had needed someone to stir things up, someone to push it beyond its prescribed boundaries, someone to make a godly fuss about the big issue. Somewhat defensively, I told him that it was pretty hard to get anywhere near the microphone. “In 1974,” he told me, “they didn’t ask, they just grabbed it.” It wasn’t a rebuke but it was a challenge. And it certainly expressed disappointment. John wanted to see the whole church, lay and ordained, liberated to lift up Christ’s name in all of life, in every sphere of society. Indeed, when John was 60, he asked God for thirty more years to carry on the work he’d given him to do. He might be sitting in a nursing home but the thirty years weren’t up yet.
The reality is that John was all-in for Christ in everything he did, ambitious for the extension of his kingdom and the glory of his name, and utterly committed to seeing others not just come to know him but to live all of life for him – joyously, generously, humbly. And to do so himself.
The Radical Disciple wasn’t John’s autobiography but just add the two words ‘for Christ’ and it would make a good title for his biography. That was John, all for Christ.
Mark Greene is Mission Champion for the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity (LICC), which was founded by John Stott and friends in 1982. A pioneer for everyday mission and discipleship, Mark has written and spoken widely in the cause of empowering all God’s people for dynamic, fruitful relationship with Christ in all of life.