Thursday, July 28, 2011

Remembering John Stott

I never met John Stott but I heard him preach a few times in the 1970s and early 1980s. He was always clear and gracious and my dim memory of it is that he always pointed people to Jesus rather than to the Bible. So I am really pleased to see in an interview with Tim Stafford in Christianity Today (available here) that he says: 'the really distinctive emphasis is on Christ. I want to shift conviction from a book, if you like, to a person. As Jesus himself said, the Scriptures bear witness to me. Their main function is to witness to Christ.' That's well said.

Stott's greatest contribution to evangelicalism, I reckon, was that in the 1970s he was one of the key evangelical leaders who put us back in touch with the world and social action as a key part of the mission of the church. Through the first Lausanne Conference in 1974 - which he was instrumental in making happen - evangelicals rediscovered the core gospel truth that God loves the world and that his people are called to be active in that world bringing good news to all, especially the poor, the marginalised, the excluded, the suffering.

Stott wrote a seminal book (Issues Facing Christians Today) on the Christian response to social issues that informed a growing number of eager evangelicals that there was more to proclaiming Christ than just calling people to faith. It was a book that shaped my early thinking on social action and encouraged me to integrate my faith and my working life, my love of Jesus with my involvement in seeking justice for all and engaging in social and even political activity to further the coming of the Kingdom.

So, he was a towering figure who lived a good and fruitful life and has now - at a ripe old age - gone to his reward. The best memorial for him is that a new generation of Jesus followers will rise up to bring good news to the poor in our villages, towns and cities and create vibrant communities that embody the life and values of our Lord and his.

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