John Stott Dies Aged 90

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

John StottJohn Stott, the British preacher, author and evangelist, died in Lingfield, Surrey, England, on 27 July 2011.

John Stott shaped much of the course of evangelicalism in the 20th century through his writing and preaching, and in 2005, TIME magazine placed him among the world’s ‘100 most influential people’. He was chief architect of The Lausanne Covenant (1974) and remained as Honorary Chairman of The Lausanne Movement until he died.

He took an active prayerful interest in Cape Town 2010: The Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization from the time the idea of such a Congress was formed, giving warm encouragement to Doug Birdsall, Lindsay Brown and the leadership team. As soon as The Cape Town Commitment was published, he asked for it to be read to him, and he expressed his delight at the ‘astonishing degree of unity’ which had been reached.

The work of Langham Partnership International (LPI, or John Stott Ministries in the USA) is perhaps his major legacy to the world Church. This strategic threefold initiative, now under the direction of Christopher J H Wright, works to strengthen the Church in the Majority World by (i) training preachers, (ii) funding doctoral scholarships for the most able theological thinkers so they will be equipped to teach in their country’s seminaries, and (iii) providing basic libraries at low-cost for pastors. John Stott’s own considerable royalties from his books were all ‘recycled’ into the production and distribution of theological books for the global south.

Stott’s father, Sir Arnold Stott, a Harley Street cardiologist, hoped his son would enter the diplomatic service, and his eirenic spirit and Cambridge double first in modern languages would have equipped him well for this. But while at Rugby School, aged 17, his future plans changed. A friend invited him to the Christian Union where he listened intently to the visiting speaker, E J H Nash. Seeing his potential, Nash (more commonly known as ‘Bash’) drew him into leadership of boys’ public school camps. Bash’s discipleship training, alongside the life of the Cambridge Inter-Collegiate Christian Union (CICCU), established John Stott in his faith.

John Stott was described as ‘a renaissance man with a reformation theology’. He had remarkable intellectual reach, and always worked to bring his mind under the scrutiny of the Bible.  John Stott loved Scripture and for over 50 years he read the whole Bible through annually, using Robert Murray McCheyne’s reading plan. Martyn Lloyd-Jones had introduced him to it in the early 1950s and he valued the way it began with the ‘four great beginnings’ of Genesis, Ezra, Matthew and Acts, and opened out Scripture’s ‘grand themes’. It became a pattern to rise at 5.00am daily to read and pray, and to listen to the BBC World Service.

John Stott summed up his priorities as ‘students and pastors’. He saw the critical nature of the university, and was an energetic Vice-President of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES). Stott’s mission field was the university campus, a place of great strategic influence for the gospel. He conducted week-long evangelistic missions for IFES national movements in many of the world’s universities, drawing even the most cynical students into the pages of the New Testament to read for themselves of the historic Christ. His warm yet serious style, and sheer conviction of Scripture’s authority, brought students back night after night.

Through work with students, ‘Uncle John’ as he was known,  met many of the sharpest up-and-coming Christian thinkers worldwide, and kept in contact with them as they graduated. He wanted to apply biblical truth to all areas of thought and progress, and would invite those at the new frontiers of science and bio-technology to meet with him, to do that together.

In 1950, while only 29, he was appointed rector of All Souls Church, Langham Place in London’s West End. He had grown up through its Sunday School and served here as a curate. His gifts in expository preaching were to become widely celebrated, but he sensed the unchurched in his inner-city parish needed more. A new initiative was called for. In 1958 he took the bold step of founding the All Souls Clubhouse, a venture in youth and community work which some have said was twenty years ahead of its time.

As invitations to travel increased, he was in 1975 given the title Rector Emeritus and released by the church to serve globally, and to write. John Stott then moved from the rectory into a small flat built above the rectory’s adjoining garage. He remained in this modest one-bedroom home until a fall constrained him to leave.

Much of his substantial writing – over 50 books translated into 65 languages – was completed at ‘The Hookses’, a remote cottage on the Welsh coast which he purchased in 1954, in a state of dereliction. For most of his lifetime it had no mains electricity. Over the years, it was developed by working parties to host study groups, and was left in trust to The Langham Partnership. John Stott’s books included the million-selling Basic Christianity (1958), Christ the Controversialist (1970) Issues facing Christians Today (1984) and the one he always considered his best: The Cross of Christ (1986) which he dedicated to his secretary, Frances Whitehead, who worked with him for more than 55 years.

Later books included The Birds our Teachers (1999) for which he took almost all the photographs himself. He had been encouraged by his father from childhood to ‘open his eyes and ears and shut his mouth’ as he observed the natural world, and as a self-taught ornithologist saw some 2,500 of the world’s 9,000 bird species. A companion volume, People my Teachers (2002) reflected his teachable spirit and his desire to learn from others.

John Stott pioneered several influential movements. Among them was the National Evangelical Anglican Congress (NEAC) which first met in Keele University in 1967 to bring a unified evangelical voice from the church. He also founded the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity (1982), of which the sociologist and broadcaster Elaine Storkey later became Director, succeeded by Mark Greene. His initiatives in drawing together groups of thinkers led to several other ventures; The Frontier Youth Trust and Tearfund are two examples.

Stott served as Chaplain to the Queen from 1959 and then as Extra Chaplain. He was awarded six doctorates in Britain and America including a Lambeth DD, and his life and work became the subject of several doctoral theses in his lifetime. He was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the Queen’s 2006 New Year Honours list.

The life of this urbane and gracious visionary and strategist who loved the natural world and who determined to express the eternal truth of the Christian gospel to the well-educated, the less privileged and the dropouts alike, will doubtless attract much further attention as future history slowly unveils the extent of his quite extraordinary influence.

Thanksgiving and memorial services are being planned around the world. For details see www.johnstottmemorial.org

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