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John Stott showed us the way


By David W. Virtue, DD
August 3, 2020

On the occasion of the death of John Stott, David Brooks, columnist with The New York Times wrote, that if Protestant America ever wanted or needed a pope, it would be John Stott.

Brooks, an American Jew, (but is on the road towards Christian Faith) and Stott, an Englishman had little in common. Brooks had no axe to grind in making that statement, and if Stott had read the obituary prior to his death, he would undoubtedly have repudiated it, as humble and modest that he was.

But it says a lot about how widely read Brooks is, and his understanding of American evangelicalism, that he knew enough about evangelicals to make that statement bearing in mind how many evangelical leaders there are in America who would love to wear that crown. Big ego evangelical preachers and mega-church personalities would trip over themselves looking for the scepter of acceptance from someone like Brooks. Mercifully, we were spared.

Stott neither sought nor asked for ecclesiastical fame or power; the key to the success of his ministry was to humbly come under the Word of God, not plaster his ideas and views over the Word of God. He turned down a bishopric and the few honors that came his way were well earned and richly deserved. He never played them up. He was known to his friends simply as "Uncle John". One rarely saw him in a dog collar.

Here are three memorable Stott quotes: "Preaching is indispensable to Christianity because Christianity is based on the truth that God chose to use words to reveal himself to humanity."

"The secret of preaching is not mastering certain techniques but being mastered by certain convictions."

"We who recognize the authority of Scripture should be the most conscientious preachers." There are dozens more like this.

In truth, he was the preacher's preacher. He even wrote two books about preaching; Biblical Preaching Today, and The Art of Preaching in the 20th Century: Between Two worlds, which should be mandatory preaching for every postulant for holy orders.

Stott never confused or conflated the gospel with calls for nationalism and patriotism. He was, in the best sense of the word multicultural. Stott understood that the gospel transcended national identities and flag waving patriots. African and Indian evangelicals particularly liked Stott because he never pushed British colonialial triumphalism.

He preached the necessity for discipleship (which he never separated from evangelism) that focused solely on Christ and him alone.

Despite the arrogance of some American evangelicals who believe that God needs America to change the world, it is increasingly clear that he does not. God has reserved his "7,000" from all the nations of the earth and that just might not include the good ol' USofA.

The deeper question is, do we have such preachers in the making or waiting in the wings who will emerge to rescue not the world, but the church from its growing apostasies and Pelagian heresies? Time alone will tell.

We are a nation so cruelly divided over a president, that the world looks on us with a mixture of horror and pity at what is going on. They ask who in their right mind would want to listen to what any American preacher has to say about anything!

Packer once said that American evangelicals were theologically 3000 miles wide and one inch deep and he is right. Right now, it might be half an inch, but I have no wish to quibble. This reflects a lot on American preachers.

It is this writer's opinion that unless we raise up another generation of Stotts, and may I include J.I. Packer and Canon Michael Green, then the Church in America is pretty much lost.

Stott strode the earth with an open bible and an open heart, with definitive uncompromising beliefs and a humility (that word is not be found or seen in most evangelical preachers) that endeared him to millions. Hopefully, he leaves behind a new generation of faithful, Biblical preachers that will carry on his legacy.


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