Thoughts on The Death of John Stott

British church leader, preacher, and Bible teacher par excellence John Stott has died at the age of 90. An online Christianity Today story reflects on his life, death, and contribution.

I first read his classic Basic Christianity as a junior in high school. Though it was not the same kind of book as Mere Christianity, it introduced me as a young Christian to a basic and understandable systematic theology of sorts.

I had the privilege of hearing John Stott teach or preach on several occasions, and I did meet him once. As a teacher, preacher, and Bible commentator he was always clear and precise in his use of language, a skill I have tried to emulate (how successfully, others will judge).

My deep admiration for his biblical-pastoral writing, both its style and (overall) its content, can be seen in an offer I made to a good friend when he graduated from seminary with me in the early 1980s. “As a graduation present,” I said to him, “I will send you a new John Stott book each year until I run out.”

Unfortunately, I did not make good on the promise, breaking it after only a year at most, I’m afraid. But the intention was good.

Perhaps most importantly, I came to admire John Stott early on for his deep commitment to both the Great Commission and the Great Commandment, an admiration that has become a constitutive part of my own spiritual and theological personality. I do not remember the details of the book, but I especially remember being deeply impressed with his little book Christian Mission in the Modern World.

Four of John Stott’s commentaries became models for my own ways of reading and teaching the Bible, that is, his works on the Sermon on the Mount (Christian Counter-Culture was the original title), on Ephesians (originally called God’s New Society), on Romans 5-8 (Men Made New) and on Revelation 1-3 (What Christ Thinks of the Church). The last of these was even a required text in my Princeton seminary course on Revelation with (the also late) Bruce Metzger. I learned much about the transformative power of the gospel and about the importance of the church as a countercultural, missional community from these books.

I’m not sure that I would agree with everything John Stott said in any of those commentaries (of course I don’t agree 100% with any commentator, not even myself!), and I would probably differ a bit more on some of his more theological works on, say, the atonement. But that is both natural and beside the point. John Stott was a global Christian and church leader who commanded people’s respect because of who he was at the deepest level. Although I have not thought very much about him since a conversation about him with N.T. Wright a few years back, his passing is a great loss, and his legacy much more than that of many others combined. I am sure that I join the ranks of many around the world in gladly affirming that I would not be who I am today without the influence of John Stott.

11 Responses to “Thoughts on The Death of John Stott”

  1. Dennis says:

    thanks for this Mike. I echo much of what you have shared.

  2. MJG says:

    I’m not surprised, Dennis. You’re welcome, and thank you.

  3. Rev. Krickwin C. Marak says:

    Thanks Mike for your reflection on John Stott’s contributions to the church, particularly to the evangelicals’ convictions on the Bible as the Word of God. His writings have inspired me and others so much that we owe him everything that we are what we are today. His death has left a large vacuum in many of our hearts.

  4. MJG says:

    Well said, Rev. Marak.

  5. Ian Packer says:

    As a 20 y.o. Christian in a confused Christian setting beset by Word of Faith teachings, I read two books that lifted me out of that confusion – one was Tony Campolo’s ‘A Reasonable Faith’, and the other was John Stott’s BST Ephesians commentary (God’s New Society) – I can’t be more thankful for those two books. And John Stott’s dialogue with liberal David Edwards in ‘Essentials’ opened a world of theological discussion to me a couple of years later. I could go on. It seems something by John Stott has ‘been there for me’ time after time.

  6. MJG says:

    Good to hear from you, Ian. I think the Ephesians book was/is top-notch.

    And Campolo’s not a bad read (or “hear”) either.

  7. [...] page created for him. Also, you can find some great posts written in his memory from Mark Stevens, Michael Gorman, Andrew Jones, Kurt Willems, Charles Marnham, John Hobbins, Michael Bird, and David Brooks [...]

  8. Mike C. says:

    Thanks, Mike, and what a model for all of us in John Stott. I still use Basic Christianity in my own teaching (and learning!), and in narrowing down the choices for a new foundational course for our local church, this book stayed in the hunt for me till the last round! Teaching for a time at a junior college where I had to live on site during the week, I would spend my evenings with that book and finding audio sermons on line of the likes of John Stott. He gave me a great night class! I admire John Stott’s many helpful contributions to the church, and I have dreamed at times of being in on his pastor/preacher training.

    See ya,
    Mike C.

  9. MJG says:

    Mike C,

    I did not know you had a John Stott connection! Good to hear.

    Nancy and I really want to have y’all over before the summer ends.

  10. MJG says:

    Readers may wish to read this obit in the paper John Stott preferred, The Guardian.

  11. Clay Knick says:

    When I was a very young preacher I read his preaching book. I sent him a question or two and he wrote me back. I still have the letter. I’ve been so blessed by his books and commentaries and his example.

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