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UNION PERSPECTIVE: Reflections on the life and legacy of John R.W. Stott (1921-2011)

JACKSON, Tenn.July 27, 2011 – I had the memorable privilege about a decade ago of meeting John Stott following a Sunday service at All Souls Church in London, where he invested his life in pastoral ministry for almost 50 years. That experience, which included a warm conversation and photo opportunity to capture the moment, seemed to me to be an extension of a lengthy conversation I had been having with him since my own university days in the early 1970s, when I first discovered his prolific pen.

While John Stott was the John Chrysostom, the “golden-tongued” expositor of this generation, it was through his writings (mostly with InterVarsity Press) that his influence multiplied for me and thousands of others, not only on both sides of the Atlantic, but literally around the world. Along with Billy Graham, Carl Henry and J.I. Packer, among others, Stott was the influential architect of 20th century evangelicalism.

Converted at Rugby School in 1938, Stott said that the decision to open the door to Christ changed the entire direction, course and quality of his life. That story, along with the life-long ministry that influenced so many for over six decades has been marvelously communicated in the masterful two-volume biography by Timothy Dudley-Smith (“The Making of a Leader” in 1999 and “A Global Ministry” in 2001). His years of faithful ministry were not without controversy, as he struggled with issues like eternal punishment and numerous challenges within his own Anglican tradition.

As expositor of the richness of God's Word, John Stott had few peers. As leader and visionary shaper of evangelicalism, he stood tall among a handful of great leaders. As faithful churchman, his ministry was grounded in the gospel. But for me, it was his writings that set him apart. His warm heart and brilliant mind provided written resources matched by few in our lifetime.

Almost four decades ago, I read my first John Stott book; my life has never the same. “Basic Christianity” framed for me the gospel commitments of the Christian faith. His numerous commentaries opened the meaning and significance of Holy Scripture in fresh and powerful ways. His careful exposition of the epistles of John offered new insights into the thought of the beloved disciple.

Illuminating works on Galatians, the Pastoral Epistles, the Thessalonian letters and Romans influenced my understanding of the mind of Apostle Paul. His magnificent work on the book on the Book of Acts, titled “The Spirit, the Church, and the World,” opened the world of apostolic ministry for me in astounding ways. This work on Acts should be required reading for everyone called into gospel ministry.

Standing at the top of the long list of more than 50 volumes are the two splendid portraits of Jesus Christ: “The Incomparable Christ” (2001) and “The Cross of Christ” (1986). These powerful volumes, which enable readers to understand the person and work of Christ, also tell us much about John Stott. While there are many titles that could appropriately describe the distinguished life and ministry of John Stott, none does so better than "faithful follower of the incomparable Christ."

On July 27, 2011, in his 91st year on this earth, John Stott was called home to be with our Lord. For this great preacher, exemplary leader and incredibly gifted writer, who so faithfully invested his life and labors in the work of the gospel and the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, we truly say thanks be to God!

By David S. Dockery
President, Union University

Media contact: Tim Ellsworth, news@uu.edu, 731-661-5215

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