John Stott: a few more personal reflections
July 28, 2011
"Any theology which cannot be communicated as gospel is of minimal value." So wrote John Stott (Culture and the Bible [IVP, 1981], 38). And as I now think about the massive contribution he made to twentieth century evangelicalism, it is his communication of the gospel that comes to mind. His writings will remain as definitive expositions for a long time to come. His commentaries on Romans, Acts, the Pastoral Epistles, for example, are essential reading -- who else has made Romans as accessible as John Stott? Your Mind Matters, Basic Christianity, Christian Mission in the Modern World, I believe in Preaching and The Cross of Christ are classics in their own right. The Preacher's Portrait, New Testament word study analysis of what preachers are and do was for me groundbreaking. His more recent contribution (2007), The Living Church: Convictions of a Lifelong Pastor, was breathtaking in its provocative advocacy of a biblical approach to such things as worship, evangelism, giving and ministry. One thinks, too, of the (yes, for American readers, controversial) green-edged politics of his ethical-social analysis of war and conservation issues in Issues facing Christians Today. And we could go on.
Summing up a biographical study of John Stott (2-volumes, 1,000+ pages), Timothy Dudley-Smith cites one of Stott's study assistant's: "People ask me, 'What is John Stott's secret?' This is an annoying question, to which there is no good answer. Instead of answering directly, I have taken to telling people that although you have no 'secret' there are several characteristics. I have observed in you that I will seek to emulate for the rest of my life. The three things I always mention are rigorous self-discipline, absolute humility and a prayerful spirit. Perhaps the most important thing I have learned from you is that, by grace, faithfulness to God is a combination of these three qualities." (John Stott: A Biography, Volume 2 The Later Years [IVP, 453]).
Obituaries and reflections will appear over the next few days. Of interest are the following: The New York Times, First Things and John Piper.