Obituary for John R. W. Stott (1921-2011)
It is impossible to be sad over the passing from the sight of mortal men of this faithful servant and great man of God. Rather, we thank God that He made, effectually called, endowed, and equipped this, His servant. The Church and creation is richer for these divine mercies and gifts.
Here is Justin Taylor’s obituary:
John R. W. Stott (1921-2011)
John R. W. Stott, at the age of 90, went home to be with the Lord earlier today (3:15 PM London time, 9:15 AM CST).
Ten years ago Timothy Dudley-Smith, his longtime associate at All Souls Church, Langham Place, wrote the following about the essence of the man:
To those who know and meet him, respect and affection go hand in hand. The world-figure is lost in personal friendship, disarming interest, unfeigned humility—and a dash of mischievous humour and charm. By contrast, he thinks of himself, as all Christians should but few of us achieve, as simply a beloved child of a heavenly Father; an unworthy servant of his friend and master, Jesus Christ; a sinner saved by grace to the glory and praise of God. (“Who Is John Stott?” All Souls Broadsheet [London], April/May 2001)
Stott was confirmed in the Anglican Church in 1936, but was not converted until February 13, 1938, when he heard Rev. Eric Nash deliver an address to the Christian Union at Rugby School. Stott recalls:
His text was Pilate’s question: “What then shall I do with Jesus, who is called the Christ?” That I needed to do anything with Jesus was an entirely novel idea to me, for I had imagined that somehow he had done whatever needed to be done, and that my part was only to acquiesce. This Mr Nash, however, was quietly but powerfully insisting that everybody had to do something about Jesus, and that nobody could remain neutral. Either we copy Pilate and weakly reject him, or we accept him personally and follow him.
After the address Stott was able to talk to Nash (who would become a mentor), who pointed Stott to Revelation 3:20. Nash asked him, “Have we ever opened our door to Christ? Have we ever invited him in?”
Stott later recalled:
This was exactly the question which I needed to have put to me. For, intellectually speaking, I had believed in Jesus all my life, on the other side of the door. I had regularly struggled to say my prayers through the key-hole. I had even pushed pennies under the door in a vain attempt to pacify him. I had been baptized, yes and confirmed as well. I went to church, read my Bible, had high ideals, and tried to be good and do good. But all the time, often without realising it, I was holding Christ at arm’s length, and keeping him outside.
Later that night, at his bedside, Stott
made the experiment of faith, and “opened the door” to Christ. I saw no flash of lightning . . . in fact I had no emotional experience at all. I just crept into bed and went to sleep. For weeks afterwards, even months, I was unsure what had happened to me. But gradually I grew, as the diary I was writing at the time makes clear, into a clearer understanding and a firmer assurance of the salvation and lordship of Jesus Christ.
Stott went on to study at Trinity College, then Ridley Hall Theological College, at the University of Cambridge. He was ordained in 1945, and became a curate at All Souls from 1945-50. He then served as rector at All Souls from 1950-75, becoming Rector Emeritus in 1975.
He also served as chaplain to the Queen from 1959 to 1991. In 1974 he founded Langham Partnership International and was one of the principal author of the Lausanne Covenant that same year. He retired from public ministry in April of 2007 and had been living in a retirement community for Anglican clergy.
He never married and remained celibate his entire life, considering celibacy a vocation.
John Stott penned dozens of influential books and commentaries, the bestselling one being Basic Christianity, which was written in 1958 when Stott was 37 years old, and has sold over 2.5 million copies. His outstanding book on preaching, Between Two Worlds, was published in 1982. His most substantial book is probably The Cross of Christ (1986), about which J. I. Packer says, “No other treatment of this supreme subject says so much so truly and so well.”
His final published words came at the end of his last book, The Radical Disciple, published in 2010:
As I lay down my pen for the last time (literally, since I confess I am not computerized) at the age of eighty-eight, I venture to send this valedictory message to my readers. I am grateful for your encouragement, for many of you have written to me. Looking ahead, none of us of course knows what the future of printing and publishing may be. But I myself am confident that the future of books is assured and that, though they will be complemented, they will never be altogether replaced. For there is something unique about books. Our favorite books become very precious to us and we even develop with them an almost living and affectionate relationship. Is it an altogether fanciful fact that we handle, stroke and even smell them as tokens of our esteem and affection? I am not referring only to an author’s feeling for what he has written, but to all readers and their library. I have made it a rule not to quote from any book unless I have first handled it. So let me urge you to keep reading, and encourage your relatives and friends to do the same. For this is a much neglected means of grace. . . . Once again, farewell! (pp. 136-137)
Much more will be written in the days ahead about this servant of the Lord. (The first obituary has been penned by Tim Stafford at Christianity Today.) But no words of commendation will be as significant as the words John Stott heard earlier today: “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master.”
We have two personal memories of John Stott. The first was at Auckland University where he was giving a lunchtime lecture on evidences for the resurrection of Christ. Afterwards a small group gathered around for personal interaction. One interlocutor became particularly angry at Stott’s presentation and arguments for the Resurrection of his Lord. Stott looked straight at him, quisically cocked his head to one side, and said mildly, “Why are you becoming so angry?” The young man was stumped and shamed. But so quietly, so gently.
The second was a Sunday evening service (during the same visit by Stott to Auckland) at St Matthews in the City. The church was packed with visitors. The liturgy was dull, rote, and deathly. The congregational singing could scarcely be heard above the organ. Then Stott arose to preach and with that quiet earnestness, which was his trademark, he preached the Gospel of our Christ–the glory of the One who came to save sinners, and the need to repent and believe upon Him to be saved. The concluding hymn was announced. The congregation arose and the singing almost lifted the roof. (No doubt this partially explains the need for its strengthening years later.) As they would have said in a later generation, “The place rocked, dude.”
It was a most startling illustration of how the preaching of the Gospel brings life. How beautiful indeed were to feet of him who brought Good News that night.