John Stott died last week at the age of ninety. When John Stott began his ordained ministry, evangelicals had little influence in the Anglican Church hierarchy. He often bemoaned the anti-intellectualism apparent in some Christians. Stott believed that most evangelical Christians were not integrated in their daily living. He saw a tendency among Christians to exclude certain areas of their life from the lordship of Jesus; it might be their business life and work, or their political persuasion.
Concerning preaching, Stott, when speaking to the Langham Partnership International said:
The church is growing everywhere of course, or nearly everywhere, but it’s often growth without depth and we are concerned to overcome this lack of depth, this superficiality, by remembering that God wants his people to grow. Now if God wants his people to grow into maturity, which he does, and if they grow by the word of God, which they do, and if the word of God comes to them mainly through preaching, which it does, then the logical question to ask is how can we help to raise the standards of biblical preaching?
John Stott’s best-known work, Basic Christianity, has sold two million copies and has been translated into more than 60 languages. Other titles include The Cross of Christ, Understanding the Bible, The Contemporary Christian, Evangelical Truth, Issues Facing Christians Today, The Incomparable Christ, eight volumes in The Bible Speaks Today series of New Testament expositions, and most recently Why I Am a Christian. Billy Graham called John Stott “the most respected clergyman in the world today,” and Christian author John Pollock described him as “in effect the theological leader of world evangelicalism.” Chuck Colson recently wrote in an article titled “John Stott: Will Evangelicals Continue His Mission?” the following:
In 1967, at a time when most Evangelicals were content to remain safe behind the walls of their churches, ignoring the larger world around them, Stott wrote a book entitled, Our Guilty Silence.
In it Stott made the case that because the Gospel is “Good News” we are under an obligation to share it with others. This sounds obvious, but in 1967 this kind of witness, and that kind of engagement with the larger society, was the
last thing many Christians wanted to do. They much preferred their comfortable worship and cultural isolation.
Among its many benefits, this isolation didn’t require them to think too much, especially when it came to matters of faith. So five years later, Stott wrote Your Mind Matters, a book whose title could serve as a mission statement for this broadcast.
In it Stott criticized the “spirit of anti-intellectualism” that pervaded Evangelicalism at the time. This “spirit” often produced “zeal without knowledge” that was mistaken for Christian maturity. True Christian maturity is impossible without understanding what it is we believe and how it applies to our lives.
It is true. John Stott will be sorely missed. The question, “Will evangelicals continue his mission?” is an important question and it will have to be decided by each of us.
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