When I started university as a sincere, committed and young Christian man who had grown up in a rather small Christian circle, I was soon introduced to Basic Christianity, a modest paperback which set out the main truths and traits of the Christian “good news” in simple and lucid English. This book had been written by John Stott less than 10 years earlier as a result of his teaching and explaining the Christian faith at university meetings across the United Kingdom; it has now been translated into 60 languages and has sold 2.5 million copies. Reading John Stott was an excellent way to launch into the larger Christian community.
Basic Christianity prepared me for Dr Stott’s deeply Christian (and delightfully English) character as he really opened the Bible for me and thousands of others at an IVF (Christian students) conference in Queensland and at conventions for Christian workers organised in Sydney and Melbourne by evangelist Billy Graham.
Helen and I were able to travel overseas for three months in 1976 and one of the highlights was our two Sundays in London when we were able to join the worshippers at All Souls’ Anglican Church in Langham Place, London. This is the congregation in which John Stott grew up and the only church he served as Rector (senior Pastor and Teacher), in later years as the “Rector Emeritus” (Retired Minister). Even though John Stott was not the preacher on those days, his passions were certainly evident in the preaching, worship and the enthusiastic multi-age and multicultural congregation.
Whenever I heard John Stott speak, whether in person or via other media, I always sensed, this is how God’s people should teach the Bible: in obvious and genuine humility, in clear and simple language, explaining what the text says and relating it to life with precision and authority – and some English understatement. In many ways John Stott’s teaching style became my model, although I don’t have his mind, dedication to work, or his Englishness.
John Stott was more than a church minister and university evangelist. He was an inspiration to several generations of Christian young people like myself the world over, many of whom became leaders and teachers for Jesus Christ in evangelical Christian churches in the UK and many other countries on all populated continents. He was instrumental in the creation of the Langham Partners International which provides theological education and literature for future Christian leaders in the majority world.
His teaching and diplomacy helped focus evangelical Christians (and aren’t we often a fractious and divided lot?) on unity in God’s mission to the world, on the fact that evangelism and social action are co-equal parts of that task, and on evangelicals remaining within the Church of England – at least until now.
For a much fuller tribute to Dr Stott’s long and worldwide service, use this link – http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/julyweb-only/john-stott-obit.html