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Category Archives: John R.W. Stott

John Stott Interview with Al Mohler on Preaching Between Two Worlds

Between Two Worlds: An Interview with John R. W. Stott

[The funeral for John R. W. Stott, one of the most famous evangelical preachers of the last century, will be held today in London at All Souls Church [August 8, 2011], Langham Place, where he served with distinction for so many decades of ministry. In honor of John Stott, I here republish an interview I conducted with the great preacher in 1987. The interview was first published in Preaching magazine, for which I was then Associate Editor.]

John R. W. Stott has emerged in the last half of the twentieth century as one of the leading evangelical preachers in the world. His ministry has spanned decades and continents, combining his missionary zeal with the timeless message of the Gospel.

For many years the Rector of All Souls Church, Langham Place, in London, Stott is also the founder and director of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. His preaching ministry stands as a model of the effective communication of biblical truth to secular men and women.

The author of several worthy books, Stott is perhaps best known in the United States through his involvement with the URBANA conferences. His voice and pen have been among the most determinative forces in the development of the contemporary evangelical movement in the Church of England and throughout the world.

Preaching Associate Editor R. Albert Mohler interviewed Stott during one of the British preacher’s frequent visits to the United States.

Mohler: You have staked your ministry on biblical preaching and have established a world-wide reputation for the effective communication of the gospel. How do you define ‘biblical preaching’?

Stott: I believe that to preach or to expound the Scripture is to open up the inspired text with such faithfulness and sensitivity that God’s voice is heard and His people obey Him. I gave that definition at the Congress on Biblical Exposition and I stand by it, but let me expand a moment.

My definition deliberately includes several implications concerning the scripture. First, it is a uniquely inspired text. Second, the Scripture must be opened up. It comes to us partially closed, with problems which must be opened up.

Beyond this, we must expound it with faithfulness and sensitivity. Faithfulness relates to the Scripture itself. Sensitivity relates to the modern world. The preacher must give careful attention to both.

We must always be faithful to the text, and yet ever sensitive to the modern world and its concerns and needs. When this happens the preacher can come with two expectations. First, that God’s voice is heard because He speaks through what He has spoken. Second, that His people will obey Him — that they will respond to His Word as it is preached.

Mohler: You obviously have a very high regard for preaching. In Between Two Worlds you wrote extensively of the glory of preaching, even going so far as to suggest that “preaching is indispensable to Christianity.”

We are now coming out of an era in which preaching was thought less and less relevant to the church and its world. Even in those days you were outspoken in your affirmation of the preaching event and its centrality. Has your mind changed?

Stott: To the contrary! I still believe that preaching is the key to the renewal of the church. I am an impenitent believer in the power of preaching.

I know all the arguments against it: that the television age has rendered it useless; that we are a spectator generation; that people are bored with the spoken word, disenchanted with any communication by spoken words alone. All these things are said these days.

Nevertheless, when a man of God stands before the people of God with the Word of God in his hand and the Spirit of God in his heart, you have a unique opportunity for communication.

I fully agree with Martyn Lloyd-Jones that the decadent periods in the history of the church have always been those periods marked by preaching in decline. That is a negative statement. The positive counterpart is that churches grow to maturity when the Word of God is faithfully and sensitively expounded to them.

If it is true that a human being cannot live by bread only, but by every word which proceeds out of the mouth of God, then it also is true of churches. Churches live, grow, and thrive in response to the Word of God. I have seen congregations come alive by the faithful and systematic unfolding of the Word of God.

The Text Means What the Author Meant

Mohler: You have pictured the great challenge of preaching as creating a bridge between two worlds — the world of the biblical text and the world of the contemporary hearer. That chasm seems ever more imposing in the modern world. How can the preacher really bridge that chasm?

Stott: Any bridge, if it is to be effective, must be firmly grounded on both sides of the canyon. To build a bridge between the modern world and the biblical world we must first be careful students of both. We must be ever engaged in careful biblical exegesis, conscientiously and continually, and yet also involved in careful study of the contemporary context. Only this will allow us to relate one to the other.

I find it helpful in my own study to ask two questions of the text — and in the right order. First, “What does it mean?” and second, “What does it say?”

The answer to the first is determined by the original author. I am fond of citing E. D. Hirsch in his book Validity in Interpretation, when he wrote: “The text means what its author meant.”

That is my major quarrel with the existentialists, who say that the text means what it means to me — the reader — independent of what the author meant. We must say “no” to that. A text means primarily what its author meant. It is the author who establishes the meaning of the text.

Beyond that, we must accept the discipline of grammatical and historical exegesis, of thinking ourselves back into the historical, geographical, cultural, and social situation in which the author was writing. We must do this to understand what the text means. It cannot be neglected.

The second question moves us from the original meaning of the text to its contemporary message — “What does it say?” If we ask the first question without asking the second, we lapse into antiquarianism, unrelated to modern reality.

On the other hand, if we leap to the second question, “What does it say today?,” we lapse into existentialism, unrelated to the reality of biblical revelation. We have to relate the past revelation of God to the present reality of the modern world.

Mohler: That requires a double exegesis — an exegesis of the text and also an exegesis of life. Is it your opinion that most evangelicals are better exegetes of the text than they are of life?

Stott: Oh, I am sure of it. I am myself and always have been a better student of Scripture than of the present reality. We love the Bible, read it and study it, and all of our preaching comes out of the Bible. Very often it does not land on the other side of that chasm, it is never earthed in reality.

The attractiveness of liberal or radical preaching, whatever it is called these days, is that it tends to be done by genuinely modern people who live in the modern world, understand it, and relate to it. But their message often does not come from the Bible. Their message is never rooted in the textual side of the chasm. We must combine the two relevant questions.

Mohler: Most of us think of ourselves as modern persons, and yet we may lack a suitable hermeneutic of the contemporary. What have you found to be helpful as you seek to be a better student of the contemporary world?

Stott: I mentioned in Between Two Worlds how very helpful I found involvement in a reading group I founded about fifteen years ago. They are graduates and professional people — doctors, an architect, an attorney, teachers and so on. All are committed to Christ and the Scripture and yet anxious to be modern and contemporary people. We meet every month or so when I am in London.

We decide to read a particular book, or see a particular play or exhibition, and spend the evening discussing it. We give most attention to books. We go around the circle and give our immediate impression before eventually turning and asking “Now, what has the Gospel to say to this?” I have found it enormously helpful to be forced to think biblically about modern issues.

Mohler: So you would point biblical preachers not only to the biblical text, but to a very wide reading?

Stott: Absolutely. I think wide reading is essential. We need to listen to modern men and women and read what they are writing. We need to go to the movies, to watch television, to go to the theater. The modern screen and stage are mirrors of the modern world. I seldom go on my own. I go with friends committed to the same kind of careful understanding.

Mohler: You have made it clear that you see preaching as a glorious calling and vocation. What do you see as the greatest contemporary need in preaching? Where is biblical preaching falling tragically short?

Stott: Well, in the more liberal churches, it falls woefully short of being fully biblical. Amongst the evangelical churches it falls short by being less than fully contemporary. I can only repeat the great need of struggling to understand the issues of the modern world. Nevertheless, there is a tremendous correlation between the issues of the biblical world and the modern world.

People are actively seeking the very answers Jesus provides. People are asking the very questions Jesus can answer, if only we understand the questions the world is asking.

I Began with a Very Strong Commitment to Scripture

Mohler: Your service over many years at All Souls Church in London had a tremendous impact throughout much of the world. There, in the midst of London’s busiest retail area, you presented the gospel with great effectiveness and power. Did your preaching change at all during your ministry at All Souls?

Stott: I began with a very strong commitment to Scripture, a very high view of its authority and inspiration. I have always loved the Word of God — ever since I was converted. Therefore, I have always sought to exercise an expository or exegetical ministry.

In my early days I used to think that my business was to expound and exegete the text; I am afraid I left the application to the Holy Spirit. It is amazing how you can conceal your laziness with a little pious phraseology! The Holy Spirit certainly can and does apply the Word for the people. But it is wrong to deny our own responsibility in the application of the Word.

All great preachers understand this. They focus on the conclusion, on the application of the text. This is what the Puritans called “preaching through to the heart.” This is how my own preaching has changed. I have learned to add application to exposition — and this is the bridge-building across the chasm.

Mohler: You have recently published a major volume on the cross [The Cross of Christ, InterVarsity Press, 1986]. This has always been central to your preaching — and all genuinely Christian preaching. Do you perceive an inadequate focus on the cross in the pulpit today?

Stott: Indeed, so far as I can see, it is inadequate. I think we need to get back to the fact that the cross is the center of biblical Christianity. We must not allow those on the one hand to put the incarnation as primary, nor can we allow those on the other hand to put the primary focus on the resurrection.

Of course, the cross, the incarnation, and the resurrection belong together. There could have been no atonement without the incarnation or without the resurrection. The incarnation prepares for the atonement and the resurrection endorses the atonement, so they belong always together.

Yet the New Testament is very clear that the cross stands at the center. It worries me that some evangelicals do not focus on Christ crucified as the center. Of course, we preach the whole of biblical religion, but with the cross as central.

One of the surprises which came as a product of the research for the book was the discovery that most books on the cross focus only on the atonement. There is much the New Testament has to say about the cross which is not focused on the atonement.

We are told, for example, to take up our cross and follow Christ. Communion is a cross-centered festival. There is the whole question of balance in the modern world. The problems of suffering and self-image are addressed by the cross. These issues appear quite differently when our world-view is dominated by the cross.

We Belong in a Study, Not an Office

Mohler: You are probably as well known in America as in England. Furthermore, you know America — its churches and its preachers. What would be your word to the Servants of the Word on this side of the Atlantic?

Stott: I think my main word to American preachers is, as Stephen Olford has often said, that we belong in a study, not in an office. The symbol of our ministry is a Bible — not a telephone. We are ministers of the Word, not administrators, and we need to relearn the question of priority in every generation.

The Apostles were in danger of being diverted from the ministry to which they had been called by Jesus — the ministry of Word and prayer. They were almost diverted into a social ministry for squabbling widows.

Now both are important, and both are ministries, but the Apostles had been called to the ministry of the Word and not the ministry of tables. They had to delegate the ministry of the tables to other servants. We are not Apostles, but there is the work of teaching that has come to us in the unfolding of the apostolic message of the New Testament. This is our priority as pastors and preachers.

Jesus preached to the crowds, to the group, and to the individual. He had the masses, the disciples, and individuals coming to Him. He preached to crowds, taught the disciples, and counseled individuals. We must also have this focus. It is all in the ministry of the Word.

 This interview is republished by the kind permission of Preaching magazine, Dr. Michael Duduit, editor. See http://www.preaching.com

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What Books Have Influenced Christian Leaders?

What we read affects us deeply, with long-term results. What books have influenced you the most? The following are the responses given to a survey of Christian leaders, sent out by R. Kent Hughes (*note that many of these leaders have entered into the presence of God).

 Specific questions asked on the survey were:

(1) What are the five books, secular or sacred, which have influenced you the most?

(2) Of the spiritual/sacred books which have influenced you, which is your favorite?

(3) What is your favorite novel?

(4) What is your favorite biography?

 JOHN W. ALEXANDER

(1) Charles Sheldon, In His Steps; H. B. Wright, The Will of God and a Man’s Life Work; H. J. Carnell, An Introduction to Christian Apologetics; William Manchester, American Caesar; Garth Lean, God’s Politician.

(2) H.J. Carnell, An Introduction to Christian Apologetics.

(3) Charles Dickens, David Copperfield.

(4) William Manchester, American Caesar

 HUDSON T. ARMERDING

(1) The Bible; Calvin’s Institutes; J. I. Packer, Knowing God; J. O. Buswell, A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion; S. E. Morison, History of the U.S. Navy in World War Two.

(2) After the Bible, Calvin’s Institutes.

(3) Dostoyevski, Crime and Punishment and Ernest Gordon, Through the Valley of the Kwai.

(4) Pollock, Hudson Taylor.

JAMES M. BOICE

(1) John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (2 vols.); B. B. Warfield, Inspiration and Authority of the Bible; T. M. Lindsay, History of the Reformation (2 vols.); John Stott, Basic Christianity; Donald Grey Barnhouse, Romans (10 vols.- most recently issued in 4 vols.).

(2) Calvin’s Institutes.

(3) Ernest Hemingway, Over the River and into the Trees.

(4) Arnold Dallimore, George Whitefield (2 vols).

BRYAN CHAPELL

(1) C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

(2) Calvin’s Institutes.

(3) J. Oliver Buswell, A Systematic Theology of Christian Religion.

(4) John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress.

(5) Sidney Greidanus, Sola Scriptura.

 RICHARD CHASE

(1) Charles Colson, Loving God; Werner Jaegei Paideia: The Ideals of Greek Culture (3 vols.); Sir Robert Anderson, The Silence of God; David J. Hassel, City of Wisdom; Nathan Hatch, The Democritization of American Christianity.

(2) Charles Colson, Loving God.

(3) Mary Stewart’s novels: The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, The Last Enchantment (favorite).

(4) Charles Colson, Born Again.

 CHARLES COLSON

(1 & 2) C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity; St. Augustine, Confessions; Armando Valladares, Against All Hope; Alexander Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago; Richard John Neuhaus, The Naked Public Square; Donald Bloesch, Crumbling Foundations; Harry Blamires, The Christian Mind; Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship; St. Augustine, The City of God; Jonathan Edwards, Treatise on Religious Affections; R. C. Sproul, Knowing Scripture; William Wilberforce, Real Christianity; Jacques Ellul, The Political Illusion and The Presence of the Kingdom; J. I. Packer, Knowing God; Paul Johnson, Modern Times; John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress.

(3) John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress.

(4) St. Augustine, Confessions

 JAMES C. DOBSON

Rather than select several books which exceed all others in their impact on my life, I prefer to commend the authors whose collection of writings are most highly prized. This is easier because the best writers require several books to state their cases and leave their mark. First, I admire the memory of Dr. Francis Schaeffer and the anthology he left to us. Second, I have great appreciation for the writings of Chuck Colson. His best book, I believe, is Loving God. His life is a demonstration of its theme.

 LYLE DORSETT

(1) Besides the Bible, which I would, of course, rank #1, E. M. Bounds, Power Through Prayer; George Muller, A Life of Trust; G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy; Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest; Robert E. Coleman, The Master Plan of Evangelism.

(2) Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest.

(3) C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce.

(4) Catherine Marshall, A Man Called Peter.

 ELISABETH ELLIOT

(1) Romano Guardini, The Lord; George MacDonald, Salted with Fire; Amy Carmichael, Toward Jerusalem; Janet Erskine Stuart, Life and Letters; Evelyn Underhill, The Mystery of Charity.

(2) Impossible to say.

(3) Sigrid Undeset, Kristin Lavransdatter.

(4) St. Augustine, Confessions.

 LTG. HOWARD G. GRAVES

The Bible; Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest; Francis Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live?; J. I. Packer, Knowing God; James Stockdale, A Vietnam Experience, Ten Years of Reflection; Charles Swindoll, Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life.

(2) Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest.

(3) Herman Wouk’s series, Winds of War and Remembrance.

(4) The Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant.

 HOWARD G. HENDRICKS

(1) C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.

(2) Adler Mortimer, How to Read a Book.

(3) Calvin’s Institutes.

(4) Lewis Sperry Chafer, He That Is Spiritual.

(5) A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God.

 CARL F. H. HENRY

The Bible; James Orr, The Christian View of God and the World; John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion (this is all Dr. Henry provided).

 DAVID M. HOWARD

(1) John Stott, The Baptism and Fulness of the Holy Spirit; Earle Cairns, Christianity Through the Centuries; Alexander Whyte, Bible Characters; Carolina Maria de Jesus, Child of the Dark; Dwight Eisenhower Crusade in Europe.

(2) Earle Cairns, Christianity Through the Centuries.

(3) Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina.

(4) Elisabeth Elliot, Shadow of the Almighty.

 JERRY JENKINS

(1) Roger Kahn, The Boys of Summer.

(2) Charles Colson, How Now Shall We Live?

(3) Charles Colson, Born Again.

(4) Elisabeth Elliot, Shadow of the Almighty.

(5) Elisabeth Elliot, Through Gates of Splendor.

 KENNETH S. KANTZER

(1) St. Augustine, The City of God; John Calvin, Institutes; Jonathan Edwards, The Distinguishing Marks of a Revival of the Spirit of God; James Orr, The Christian View of God and the World; Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina.

(2) St. Augustine, The City of God.

(3) Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina.

(4) Carl E H. Henry, The Confessions of a Theologian.

 JAY KESLER

(1) Jacques Ellul, The Presence of the Kingdom; John Bright, The Kingdom of God; Alan Paton, Too Late the Phalarope; Carl Sandburg, Lincoln; C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity; Fyodor Dostoyevski, Crime and Punishment.

(2) Jacques Ellul, The Presence of the Kingdom.

(3) Alan Paton, Too Late the Phalarope.

(4) Carl Sandburg, Lincoln; see also Lee, Jefferson, Sadat, Wesley, Judson, Truman, Churchill.

 DENNIS F. KINLAW

(1) Clarence Hall, Portrait of a Prophet: The Life of Samuel Logan Brengle; Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret; The Standard Sermons of John Wesley; Yehekel Kaufmann, The Religion of Israel; A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God.

(2) The Standard Sermons of John Wesley.

(3) Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities.

(4) Clara H. Stuart, Latimer, Apostle to the English.

 HAROLD LINDSELL

(1) John Calvin, Institutes; Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest; Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church; Matthew Henry, Commentary; Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression – Its Causes and Its Cure.

(2) Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest.

(3) None.

(4) Hudson Taylor, Spiritual Secrets.

DUANE LITFIN

 (Most influential authors rather than most influential books)

(1) C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce; Mere Christianity; God in the Dock.

(2) A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God.

(3) J. I. Packer, Knowing God.

(4) St. Augustine, De Doctrina Christiana (On Christian Doctrine).

(5) Haddon Robinson, Biblical Preaching.

 WAYNE MARTINDALE

C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce; C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain; C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity; Charles Sheldon, In His Steps; Elisabeth Elliot, Through Gates of Splendor.

Elisabeth Elliot, Through Gates of Splendor.

Fyodor Dostoyevski, Brothers Karamazov.

Elisabeth Elliot, Through Gates of Splendor.

 ROBERTSON MCCUILKIN

(1) Romans, John, Luke, 2 Timothy; C. S. Lewis, Miracles; Warfield, Inspiration and Authority of Scripture; Johnstone, Operation World; Pollock, Course of Time.

(2) Pollock, Course of Time.

(3) C. S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces; Tolkien, Lord of the Rings; many of Shakespeare’s plays.

(4) Robert McQuilkin, Always in Triumph.

 CALVIN MILLER

(1) Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines; Bill Moyers, World of Ideas II; Virginia Stem Owens, If You Do Love Old Men; Larsen, Passions; Williams, Islam.

(2) Jean Pierre de Causade, The Sacrament of the Present Moment or Mother Teresa’s Life in the Spirit.

(3) War and Peace, Anna Karenina, anything by Dickens, Dostoyevski, Tolkien.

(4) Troyat’s Tolstoy or Massie’s Nicholas and Alexandra.

 HAROLD MYRA

(1) C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity; C. S. Lewis, Perelandra; Paul Tourniet, The Meaning of Persons; Helmut Thielicke, The Waiting Father; Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ; Oswald Chambers books.

(2) C. S. Lewis, Perelandra.

(3) Fyodor Dostoyevski, Brothers Karamazov.

(4) William Manchester, The Last Lion.

 STEPHEN F. OLFORD

(1) Alvin Toffler, Future Shock; Carl Henry, God, Revelation and Authority; Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ; A. J. Gordon, The Ministry of the Spirit; John Stott, The Cross of Christ.

(2) Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor, Hudson Taylor in the Early Years: The Growth of a Soul.

(3) Lloyd Douglas, The Robe and Lew Wallace, Ben Hur.

(4) Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor, Hudson Taylor in the Early Years: The Growth of a Soul.

 J. I. PACKER

(1) John Calvin, Institutes; John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress; Goold, John Owen Works (Vols. 3, 6, 7); Richard Baxter, Reformed Pastor; Luther, Bondage of the Will.

(2) John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress.

(3) Fyodor Dostoyevski, The Brothers Karamazov.

(4) Arnold Dallimore, George Whitefield (2 vols.).

PAIGE PATTERSON

(1) F. W. Krummacher, The Suffering Savior.

(2) Leonard Verduin, The Reformers and Their Stepchildren.

(3) Courtney Anderson, To the Golden Shore.

(4) Roland Bainton, Here I Stand.

(5) Francis Schaeffer, Escape from Reason.

 EUGENE H. PETERSON

(1) Karl Barth, Epistle to the Romans; Fyodor Dostoyevski, The Idiot; Charles Williams, Descent of the Dove; Herman Melville, Moby Dick; George Herbert, Country Parson and the Temple.

(2) Karl Barth, Epistle to the Romans.

(3) Fyodor Dostoyevski, The Brothers Karamazov.

(4) Meriol Trevor, 2 volumes on Newman: The Pillar of the Cloud and Light in Winter.

 C. WILLIAM POLLARD

(1) C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.

(2) C. S. Lewis, Surprised by joy.

(3) Francis Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live?

(4) Dorothy Sayers, The Mind of the Maker.

(5) Peter Drucker, Managing for Results and Managing for the Future.

 JIM REAPSOME

W. H. Griffith Thomas, Christianity Is Christ; C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity; A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God; Dr. and Mrs. Hudson Taylor, Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret; D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression – Its Causes and Its Cure.

HADDON ROBINSON

(1) Richard C. Halverson, Christian Maturity; H. Grady Davis, Design for Preaching; S. I. Hayakawa, Language in Thought and Action; Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative; C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.

(2) James Stuart, Heralds of God.

(3) Olov Hartman, Holy Masquerade.

(4) Stockford Brooks, Life and Letters of E W Robertson.

 R.C. SPROUL

(1) Jonathan Edwards, Freedom of the Will; M. Luther, Bondage of the Will; J. Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion; James Collins, God and Modern Philosophy; William Simon, A Time for Truth; Ben Hogan, Power Golf.

(2) Martin Luther. Bondage of the Will because of its theological insight and its literary style.

(3) H. Melville, Moby Dick.

(4) W. Manchester, American Caesar.

 CHARLES R. SWINDOLL

John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress; A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God; J. I. Packer, Knowing God; Elisabeth Elliot, Through Gates of Splendor; J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership; Charles H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students; Philip Yancey, Where Is God When It Hurts?

 BILL WALDROP

(1) The Bible; A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God; A. W. Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy; Elisabeth Elliot, Shadow of the Almighty; Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline.

(2) A.W. Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy.

(3) Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace.

(4) William Manchester, The Last Lion.

 WARREN WIERSBE

(1) A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God; Jill Morgan, Campbell Morgan, A Man and the Word; Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ; Henry David Thoreau, Walden; Phillips Brooks, Yale Lectures on Preaching.

(2) Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ.

(3) Herman Melville, Moby Dick.

(4) Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson.

 OTHER THAN THE BIBLE, BOOKS MENTIONED MORE THAN ONCE

C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (10)

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (8)

A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (6)

Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest (5)

Fyodor Dostoyevski, Brothers Karamazov (5)

Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina (5)

John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress (5)

Elisabeth Elliot, Shadow of the Almighty (4)

Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor, Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret (3)

Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ (3)

C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce (3)

J.I. Packer, Knowing God (3)

Charles Sheldon, In His Steps (2)

James Orr, The Christian View of God and the World (2)

William Manchester, American Caesar (2)

William Manchester, The Last Lion (2)

The Article/Listing of favorite books above was adapted from “Appendix C” in R. Kent Hughes. Disciplines of a Godly Man. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2001, p. 241.

 

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Book Review on John Stott: The Humble Leader by Julia Cameron

[The Humble Leader: John Stott was written by Julia Cameron. Published by Christian Focus Publications Ltd., Geanies House, Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland & Great Britan. I was furnished with an I-Book copy for review free of charge for an honest review – I was not required to provide a positive review]

 

A Nostalgic Review – By Dr. David P. Craig

I first met John Stott somewhere between 1986-1987 after he had given a message at a Chapel service at what was then called Multnomah School of the Bible (now Multnomah University) in Portland, Oregon. After he spoke he stayed for lunch and ate in the cafeteria. I was privileged to sit with him and hear his wisdom for over an hour. I was impressed with his humility, knowledge of the Scriptures, and genuine concern for us students. Two years later I was returning from spending two months in Spain on a missions trip and met up with my parents in London for a few days. While there we worshiped at All Souls Church in London and worshiped and listened intently as John Stott delivered a wonderful Christo-centric sermon from Isaiah. Afterwards while waiting in a very long line to greet “Uncle John” he said to me without hesitation, “Hello David, how is your ministry at Multnomah going?” I couldn’t believe that he remembered my name, my ministry (with junior highers at the time), and where I was going to school! Needless to say, I was dumbfounded. I have always held Stott’s commentaries, books, and ministry in high regard – but what I loved most about Stott – was his genuine love for, and ability to shepherd like the Chief Shepherd – not just his local sheep, but around the world. I have taken random samples of tribute from Stott in this short article – many are from memorial services held for him around the globe, and some are from tributes in various venues. May John Stott’s tribe increase! We miss you Uncle John!

As I write this review it’s been one year since John Stott went to be with the Lord – July 27, 2011. A tremendous loss for the Church in the world – Heaven’s gain! I can’t recommend this book highly enough for would-be pastors; pastors; Bible scholars; missionaries; church leaders of all stripes; and world Christians across the globe. John Stott was absolutely brilliant; wholeheartedly dedicated to his flock as an under shepherd of Christ; a first rate Bible scholar; an expositor of the first order that was able to bridge the Biblical world with our own with total authority, sufficiency, and relevancy; and an unheralded disciple maker of leaders of all ethnic groups around the globe. He was a tireless worker with students, scholars, pastors, missionaries, and leaders for the furtherance of the gospel and the strengthening of the church around the globe. In my opinion – he was the model modern pastor – missional (he multiplied disciples, leaders, and multiplied movements for gospel multiplication) pastoral, loving, humble, scholarly, fully committed to the work and message of Christ.

I only hope that there will be more pastors like him until the return of Christ – pastors that don’t play politics; pastors that love and shepherd the flock whether they are rich or poor (he had a tremendous heart for the poor as recounted in this book); pastors who study hard to feed their flock the milk and meat of the Word; pastors who love and train young leaders; pastors who are humbled and submitted to the Lordship of Christ – and preaching nothing but the cross of Christ! I hope that many will read this book and be humbled and dedicated to the Chief Shepherd – as Stott was! I miss him terribly, and long for those of his ilk.

 

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Wisdom on Bible Study and Biblical Peaching From John R.W. Stott

An Interview With John Stott and Albert Mohler on Preaching Today

John R.W. Stott was arguably one of the most able preachers of the late 2oth into the 21st century until his death in July of 2011. Here is a very good interview with the President of Southern Baptist Seminary – Dr. Albert Mohler (an excellent preacher in his own right) and John Stott. A lot of the material in this interview can be gleaned from Stott’s classic text book on preaching enitled “Between Tow World’s.” Though this interview took place over twenty years ago – it doesn’t change the wisdom herein contained for preachers, and those who love to study, hear, and seek to obey God’s Word – great stuff from Stott and Mohler – enjoy! – Dr. David P. Craig

“Between Two Worlds”

[Albert Mohler: In honor of John Stott (who passed away on July 11, 2011 and would have been 91 on this day – April 27, 2012), I here republish an interview I conducted with the great preacher in 1987. The interview was first published in Preaching magazine, for which I was then Associate Editor.]

John R. W. Stott has emerged in the last half of the twentieth century as one of the leading evangelical preachers in the world. His ministry has spanned decades and continents, combining his missionary zeal with the timeless message of the Gospel.

For many years the Rector of All Souls Church, Langham Place, in London, Stott is also the founder and director of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. His preaching ministry stands as a model of the effective communication of biblical truth to secular men and women.

The author of several worthy books, Stott is perhaps best known in the United States through his involvement with the URBANA conferences. His voice and pen have been among the most determinative forces in the development of the contemporary evangelical movement in the Church of England and throughout the world.

Preaching Associate Editor R. Albert Mohler interviewed Stott during one of the British preacher’s frequent visits to the United States.

Mohler: You have staked your ministry on biblical preaching and have established a world-wide reputation for the effective communication of the gospel. How do you define ‘biblical preaching’?

Stott: I believe that to preach or to expound the scripture is to open up the inspired text with such faithfulness and sensitivity that God’s voice is heard and His people obey Him. I gave that definition at the Congress on Biblical Exposition and I stand by it, but let me expand a moment.

My definition deliberately includes several implications concerning the scripture. First, it is a uniquely inspired text. Second, the scripture must be opened up. It comes to us partially closed, with problems which must be opened up.

Beyond this, we must expound it with faithfulness and sensitivity. Faithfulness relates to the scripture itself. Sensitivity relates to the modern world. The preacher must give careful attention to both.

We must always be faithful to the text, and yet ever sensitive to the modern world and its concerns and needs. When this happens the preacher can come with two expectations. First, that God’s voice is heard because He speaks through what He has spoken. Second, that His people will obey Him – that they will respond to His Word as it is preached.

Mohler: You obviously have a very high regard for preaching. In Between Two Worlds you wrote extensively of the glory of preaching, even going so far as to suggest that “preaching is indispensable to Christianity.”

We are now coming out of an era in which preaching was thought less and less relevant to the church and its world. Even in those days you were outspoken in your affirmation of the preaching event and its centrality. Has your mind changed?

Stott: To the contrary! I still believe that preaching is the key to the renewal of the church. I am an impenitent believer in the power of preaching.

I know all the arguments against it: that the television age has rendered it useless; that we are a spectator generation; that people are bored with the spoken word, disenchanted with any communication by spoken words alone. All these things are said these days.

Nevertheless, when a man of God stands before the people of God with the Word of God in his hand and the Spirit of God in his heart, you have a unique opportunity for communication.

I fully agree with Martyn Lloyd-Jones that the decadent periods in the history of the church have always been those periods marked by preaching in decline. That is a negative statement. The positive counterpart is that churches grow to maturity when the Word of God is faithfully and sensitively expounded to them.

If it is true that a human being cannot live by bread only, but by every word which proceeds out of the mouth of God, then it also is true of churches. Churches live, grow, and thrive in response to the Word of God. I have seen congregations come alive by the faithful and systematic unfolding of the Word of God.

The Text Means What the Author Meant

Mohler: You have pictured the great challenge of preaching as creating a bridge between two worlds – the world of the biblical text and the world of the contemporary hearer. That chasm seems ever more imposing in the modern world. How can the preacher really bridge that chasm?

Stott: Any bridge, if it is to be effective, must be firmly grounded on both sides of the canyon. To build a bridge between the modern world and the biblical world we must first be careful students of both. We must be ever engaged in careful biblical exegesis, conscientiously and continually, and yet also involved in careful study of the contemporary context. Only this will allow us to relate one to the other.

I find it helpful in my own study to ask two questions of the text – and in the right order. First, “What does it mean?” and second, “What does it say?”

The answer to the first is determined by the original author. I am fond of citing E. D. Hirsch in his book Validity in Interpretation, when he wrote: “The text means what its author meant.”

That is my major quarrel with the existentialists, who say that the text means what it means to me – the reader – independent of what the author meant. We must say “no” to that. A text means primarily what its author meant. It is the author who establishes the meaning of the text.

Beyond that, we must accept the discipline of grammatical and historical exegesis, of thinking ourselves back into the historical, geographical, cultural, and social situation in which the author was writing. We must do this to understand what the text means. It cannot be neglected.

The second question moves us from the original meaning of the text to its contemporary message – “What does it say?” If we ask the first question without asking the second, we lapse into antiquarianism, unrelated to modern reality.

On the other hand, if we leap to the second question, “What does it say today?,” we lapse into existentialism, unrelated to the reality of biblical revelation. We have to relate the past revelation of God to the present reality of the modern world.

Mohler: That requires a double exegesis – an exegesis of the text and also an exegesis of life. Is it your opinion that most evangelicals are better exegetes of the text than they are of life?

Stott: Oh, I am sure of it. I am myself and always have been a better student of scripture than of the present reality. We love the Bible, read it and study it, and all of our preaching comes out of the Bible. Very often it does not land on the other side of that chasm, it is never earthed in reality.

The attractiveness of liberal or radical preaching, whatever it is called these days, is that it tends to be done by genuinely modern people who live in the modern world, understand it, and relate to it. But their message often does not come from the Bible. Their message is never rooted in the textual side of the chasm. We must combine the two relevant questions.

Mohler: Most of us think of ourselves as modern persons, and yet we may lack a suitable hermeneutic of the contemporary. What have you found to be helpful as you seek to be a better student of the contemporary world?

Stott: I mentioned in Between Two Worlds how very helpful I found involvement in a reading group I founded about fifteen years ago. They are graduates and professional people – doctors, an architect, an attorney, teachers and so on. All are committed to Christ and the Scripture and yet anxious to be modern and contemporary people. We meet every month or so when I am in London.

We decide to read a particular book, or see a particular play or exhibition, and spend the evening discussing it. We give most attention to books. We go around the circle and give our immediate impression before eventually turning and asking “Now, what has the Gospel to say to this?” I have found it enormously helpful to be forced to think biblically about modern issues.

Mohler: So you would point biblical preachers not only to the biblical text, but to a very wide reading?

Stott: Absolutely. I think wide reading is essential. We need to listen to modern men and women and read what they are writing. We need to go to the movies, to watch television, to go to the theater. The modern screen and stage are mirrors of the modern world. I seldom go on my own. I go with friends committed to the same kind of careful understanding.

Mohler: You have made it clear that you see preaching as a glorious calling and vocation. What do you see as the greatest contemporary need in preaching? Where is biblical preaching falling tragically short?

Stott: Well, in the more liberal churches, it falls woefully short of being fully biblical. Amongst the evangelical churches it falls short by being less than fully contemporary. I can only repeat the great need of struggling to understand the issues of the modern world. Nevertheless, there is a tremendous correlation between the issues of the biblical world and the modern world.

People are actively seeking the very answers Jesus provides. People are asking the very questions Jesus can answer, if only we understand the questions the world is asking.

I Began with a Very Strong Commitment to Scripture

Mohler: Your service over many years at All Souls Church in London had a tremendous impact throughout much of the world. There, in the midst of London’s busiest retail area, you presented the gospel with great effectiveness and power. Did your preaching change at all during your ministry at All Souls?

Stott: I began with a very strong commitment to Scripture, a very high view of its authority and inspiration. I have always loved the Word of God – ever since I was converted. Therefore, I have always sought to exercise an expository or exegetical ministry.

In my early days I used to think that my business was to expound and exegete the text; I am afraid I left the application to the Holy Spirit. It is amazing how you can conceal your laziness with a little pious phraseology! The Holy Spirit certainly can and does apply the Word for the people. But it is wrong to deny our own responsibility in the application of the Word.

All great preachers understand this. They focus on the conclusion, on the application of the text. This is what the Puritans called “preaching through to the heart.” This is how my own preaching has changed. I have learned to add application to exposition – and this is the bridge-building across the chasm.

Mohler: You have recently published a major volume on the cross [The Cross of Christ, InterVarsity Press, 1986]. This has always been central to your preaching – and all genuinely Christian preaching. Do you perceive an inadequate focus on the cross in the pulpit today?

Stott: Indeed, so far as I can see, it is inadequate. I think we need to get back to the fact that the cross is the center of biblical Christianity. We must not allow those on the one hand to put the incarnation as primary, nor can we allow those on the other hand to put the primary focus on the resurrection.

Of course, the cross, the incarnation, and the resurrection belong together. There could have been no atonement without the incarnation or without the resurrection. The incarnation prepares for the atonement and the resurrection endorses the atonement, so they belong always together.

Yet the New Testament is very clear that the cross stands at the center. It worries me that some evangelicals do not focus on Christ crucified as the center. Of course, we preach the whole of biblical religion, but with the cross as central.

One of the surprises which came as a product of the research for the book was the discovery that most books on the cross focus only on the atonement. There is much the New Testament has to say about the cross which is not focused on the atonement.

We are told, for example, to take up our cross and follow Christ. Communion is a cross-centered festival. There is the whole question of balance in the modern world. The problems of suffering and self-image are addressed by the cross. These issues appear quite differently when our world-view is dominated by the cross.

We Belong in a Study, Not an Office

Mohler: You are probably as well known in America as in England. Furthermore, you know America – its churches and its preachers. What would be your word to the Servants of the Word on this side of the Atlantic?

Stott: I think my main word to American preachers is, as Stephen Olford has often said, that we belong in a study, not in an office. The symbol of our ministry is a Bible – not a telephone. We are ministers of the Word, not administrators, and we need to relearn the question of priority in every generation.

The Apostles were in danger of being diverted from the ministry to which they had been called by Jesus – the ministry of Word and prayer. They were almost diverted into a social ministry for squabbling widows.

Now both are important, and both are ministries, but the Apostles had been called to the ministry of the Word and not the ministry of tables. They had to delegate the ministry of the tables to other servants. We are not Apostles, but there is the work of teaching that has come to us in the unfolding of the apostolic message of the New Testament. This is our priority as pastors and preachers.

Jesus preached to the crowds, to the group, and to the individual. He had the masses, the disciples, and individuals coming to Him. He preached to crowds, taught the disciples, and counseled individuals. We must also have this focus. It is all in the ministry of the Word.

Adapted from R. Albert Mohler Jr.’s weblog at www.albertmohler.com.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. For more articles and resources by Dr. Mohler, and for information on The Albert Mohler Program, a daily national radio program broadcast on the Salem Radio Network, go to www.albertmohler.com. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to www.sbts.edu. Send feedback to mail@albertmohler.com. Original Source: www.albertmohler.com.

 

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Remembering John R.W. Stott on his Birthday – One of The Greatest Evangelicals of Our Time

Remembering John R.W. Stott Who Would Have Been 91 on April 27, 2012

I first met John Stott in 1985 after he had given a message at a Chapel service at what was then called Multnomah School of the Bible (Multnomah University) in Portland, Oregon. After he spoke he stayed for lunch and ate in the cafeteria. I was privileged to sit with him and hear his wisdom for over an hour. I was impressed with his humility, knowledge of the Scriptures, and genuine concern for us students. Two years later I was returning from spending two months in Spain on a missions trip and met up with my parents in London for a few days. While there we went to All Souls Church in London and worshiped there with John Stott delivering a wonderful Christo-centric sermon from Isaiah. Afterwards while waiting in a very long line to greet “Uncle John” he said to me without hesitation, “Hello David, how is your ministry at Multnomah going?” I couldn’t believe that he remembered my name, my ministry (with junior highers at the time), and where I was going to school! Needless to say, I was dumbfounded. I have always held Stott’s commentaries, books, and ministry in high regard – but what I loved most about Stott – was his genuine love for, and ability to shepherd like the Chief Shepherd – not just his local sheep, but around the world. I have taken random samples of tribute from Stott in this short article – many are from memorial services held for him around the globe, and some are from tributes in various venues. May John Stott’s tribe increase! We miss you Uncle John! – Dr. David P. Craig

“He (John Stott) truly was, in some ways, the first person who spoke the word of God to me through his literature and I also heard him in person,” proclaimed Tim Keller, senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City and whom Newsweek magazine described as a “C.S. Lewis for the twenty-first century.”

Keller delivered the sermon at John Stott’s U.S. memorial service Friday (Wheaton Bible Church, November, 11, 2011) and shared that Stott’s bestselling book, Basic Christianity (1958), which has sold well over a million copies and has been translated into 25 languages, had a “profound informative influence” on him.

“Therefore, I needed to rethink. I need to do what Hebrews 13:7 says I should do. I need to rethink my life in light of the results of his (Stott’s) life,” recalled Keller about his thinking several months ago when he was invited to speak at Stott’s memorial service.

He is the author of over 50 books translated into 65 languages, and was named by Time magazine in 2005 as one of the “100 most influential people” in the world.

But despite the influence and recognition he received during his life, Stott is remembered for his humbleness and dedication in serving the Lord.

“The greatest gifts in John’s life were not his talents, it was actually his character,” remarked the Rev. Dr. Mark Labberton, a former study assistant of Stott who is now a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary in California.

Keller, who said he read six volumes on the life of John Stott over the past two months, stated that he uncovered five findings about Stott’s life that should make Christians rethink their own life.

First, Christians should be convicted by Stott’s Kingdom vision and zeal for God’s Kingdom.

“Everything I have read, known, and by all accounts, John Stott’s motives were about as pure as a human being’s motives can be,” asserted Keller. “He was not an ambitious man for his own glory. He did not want power. It was obvious he did not want status. He did not want wealth, he gave it away.” 

“But there was something driving him,” said the influential American preacher.

Although Stott was considered the greatest student evangelist of his generation and foresaw the rise of Christianity in the global South before most anyone else, he was not satisfied with his accomplishments.

“Here is my point. Most of the rest of us would be very happy being told you are the best. You are the best preacher, you’re the best of this or that. But he didn’t care about that. He wanted to change the world for Christ,” Keller explained. “I looked at his motives, I looked at his labors, how he spent himself, and how he gave himself. Why wasn’t he ever satisfied? It really was not worldly ambition. He really wanted to really change the world for Christ. We should be convicted by that.”

Stott’s life, according to Keller, should also make Christians reflect on their cultural learning curve in terms of the cultural blinders on their eyes, and believers should be chastened by his leadership controversy. If even a man as gracious as Stott could not avoid controversy and fall-outs with other Christian leaders, people should “realize that it (controversy) is going to happen. If you want to do something for Christ, someone will be mad.”

Keller also found that Stott was a great innovator, including his reinvention of expository preaching, invention of the modern city-centered church, his role as a Christian statesman who uses institutions to further the work of God, and his forcing evangelicals to deal with social justice issues.

Finally, the evangelical scholar, while studying Stott’s life, found that the English clergyman essentially created evangelicalism, which Keller sees as “the greatest center between fundamentalism and liberalism.”

The Rev. Dr. Christopher Wright, the so-called “successor” of Stott and the international director of Langham Partnership in London, remarked that Stott was way ahead of his time.

“From the early stages of his ministry, he reached out to the whole world. Starting here in the United States, his first international trip, and so many other countries … his thinking, his world was global,” said Wright. “Long before the Internet, John Stott had created a world wide web from relationships and friendships and ministries. Long before the iMac, or the iPhone, or the iPad, there was iFrances (Stott’s long-time secretary), reaching out to the world on behalf of John, by letters, faxes, and eventually, through emails… “He always spoke of himself as just an ordinary follower of Jesus. He once said we should not get used to adulation … he never reveled in being famous. I think he would want to be remembered as a disciple of Jesus.”

Dr. Joshua Moody, senior pastor of College Church, recalled Stott saying decades ago to a group of undergraduate students that included himself, “If I had to live life over, I would live for Christ.” After a pause, Stott added, “You know, if I had to live a thousand lives, I would live them all for Christ.” “We come here to honor a man whose preeminent purpose is to honor Christ,” declared the pastor of the host church of the U.S. memorial service for John Stott.

“I’m not certain that John Stott would want people to remember him,” said John Stott Ministries President Benjamin Homan. Those puzzling words about the man described as the architect of the evangelical movement in the 20th century make sense when you talk to more people who knew him. One of the most popular words used to describe Stott, who passed away Wednesday aged 90, is humble.

“Over and over again as people have described their interactions with John Stott, it is one of humility, and one of not pointing people to himself but to Jesus,” Homan said from Colorado. “The ministries that he began were never about promoting his works or his teachings. They have been about drawing the Church’s attention to the work of Christ around the world, how the Church is growing and how it needs to grow in depth and maturity around the world. I think he will be remembered as a global Christian.”

Not only was Stott’s daily routine strict, but his year was structured with a razor-sharp focus on maximizing his effectiveness in various ministries. For 25 years, Stott spent three months in every 12 travelling for international missions, speaking at conferences and preaching around the world. Another three months of each year would be devoted to writing, and six months dedicated to ministry.

“He was extremely disciplined in his personal life and very simple in his habits. He lived in a one bedroom, one living room with a small kitchenette, and that was his life. He did not have any great wealth or style. He was very simple and frugal,” Wright recalled.

His mentor taught him how to engage in ministry publicly as well as in a pastoral capacity while maintaining equal integrity in both.

“I find him to be a man of genuine humility, not just fake humility, but genuine, through and through humility. He was able to mix with what we might call the ‘rich and famous’ on one hand, or with the ‘poorest of poor’ in other parts of the world, and do so with equal integrity and simply be himself.”

Stott died peacefully at 3:15 p.m. local time on July 27, 2011, at his Christian assisted living home at St. Barnabas College in Lingfield, Surrey, England. At his bedside were his niece and close friends, who read 2 Timothy 2 to him, and listened to Handel’s “Messiah” with him in his final moments on earth.

In 2006, Stott broke his hip and had increasingly become incapacitated. Wright said the elderly clergyman did not suffer dementia, but was weak and in pain in the time leading up to his death. Stott will perhaps be best known for being the chief drafter of the 1974 Lausanne Covenant, the evangelical manifesto on evangelism and theology.

He also was the primary author of the Preamble to the 1951 constitution of the World Evangelical Alliance, the world’s largest evangelical organization, now representing some 600 million evangelicals in 128 countries.

“I can’t think of another evangelical theologian who would come close to Stott in both the depth of his diligent scholarship and the breadth of his unifying work in the global body of Christ – especially through the Lausanne Movement,” said Greg Parsons, global director of the U.S. Center for World Mission, in an email.

“It is probably his involvement in guiding and crafting the masterful document known as the Lausanne Covenant that will be the best single thing for which he is known,” remarked Parsons, who was a member of the Statement Working Group at Lausanne III in Cape Town, South Africa, in 2010. Parsons shared that Stott’s talk at the Urbana Student Missions Conference in 1976, titled, “The Loving God is a Missionary God,” became the first chapter of USCWM’s Perspectives reader.

John Robert Walmsley Stott was born to Sir Arnold W. Stott, an accomplished physician and an agnostic, and Emily, a Lutheran who took her youngest son to All Souls Church in Langham Place, London, as a young boy. Stott later became rector of All Souls in 1950, then rector emeritus in 1975.

In 1959, Stott was appointed chaplain to the queen and served in that position until 1991. He retired from public ministry in 2007 at the age of 86, two years after being named by Time magazine as one of the world’s “100 Most Influential People.”
Fond memories of Stott include his passion for bird watching and his affection for chocolates.

John Stott Ministries President Benjamin Homan recalled that the month before Stott passed away, a friend had visited and told Stott that a black bird was outside his window. Stott, who had lost much of his eyesight by then, corrected his friend, saying that it was a nightingale, which he knew from the bird’s chirp.

“John Piper on John Stott – Year One In Heaven”

Today is John Stott’s first birthday in heaven.

Coming toward the end of my (32-year) ministry as Pastor for Preaching and Vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church, I read Alister Chapman’s new biography of John Stott with special interest. I wanted to see how he finished at All Soul’s and how he shaped the rest of his life.

Stott became Rector at All Souls in 1950 at the age of 29. Just shy of 20 years later he told the church council on September 20, 1969 that “he wanted to stand down.” The church was not prospering as it once had. He felt his calling was to “wider responsibilities.”

The council accepted the proposal and 15 months later Michael Baughen took the helm. “Within a few years All Souls was bursting again” (75). But, Chapman observes, “by almost any measure, Stott’s ministry at All Souls was a success” (77).

Stott was still on the ministerial team at All Souls for another five years. When the severance was complete in September, 1975, he wrote, “I find myself pulled and pushed in various directions these days, and need divine wisdom to know how to establish priorities” (Timothy Dudley-Smith, John Stott, A Biography: The Later Years, IVP, 2001, 248).

I found this comforting. It is remarkable how many good things there are to do. And if one is ambitious to live an unwasted life for the glory of Christ, discernment is crucial. Sudden release from decades of familiar pastoral expectations can easily lead to sloth or superficial busy-ness.

Stott’s discovery was that his calling was a remarkable global ministry. “As with Jim Packer, Stott gave himself to Anglican politics but in the end tired of them. Neither had an obvious, appealing role to fill in England. Both were in demand elsewhere. The result was that two of England’s most gifted evangelicals spent most of the end of their careers serving the church beyond England’s shores” (Godly Ambition, 111).

The thesis of Chapman’s book, Godly Ambition: John Stott and the Evangelical Movement (Oxford, 2012), is that Stott “was both a Christian seeking to honor God and a very talented man who believed he had key roles to play in God’s work in the world and wanted to play them. In short, he combined two things that might seem incongruous: godliness and ambition” (8). With that double drive, “few did more than John Stott to shape global Christianity in the twentieth century” (160).

This ambition was as vital to the end of Stott’s days as his mental and physical life would sustain. One reason is that it was biblically grounded. Explaining his own understanding of ambition he said,

Ambitions for God, if they are to be worthy, can never be modest. There is something inherently inappropriate about cherishing small ambitions for God. How can we ever be content that he should acquire just a little more honour in the world?

Christians should be eager to develop their gifts, widen their opportunities, extend their influence and be given promotion in their work — not now to boost their own ego or build their own empire, but rather through everything they do to bring glory to God. (156)

May every one of us, in the transitions of our lives, seek the kind of holy fire that gives both the light of discernment and the heat of ambition. All of it for the glory of God. This is my deep longing as I face whatever future God gives.

In remembering the humble preacher, author, and theologian, here are a few of his lasting words:

“His authority on earth allows us to dare to go to all the nations. His authority in heaven gives us our only hope of success. And His presence with us leaves us with no other choice.”

“The truth is that there are such things as Christian tears, and too few of us ever weep them.”

“Every Christian should be both conservative and radical; conservative in preserving the faith and radical in applying it.”

“I believe that to preach or to expound the scripture is to open up the inspired text with such faithfulness and sensitivity that God’s voice is heard and His people obey Him” (His definition of expository preaching).

“When it comes to preaching – Theology is more important than methodology.”

“The gospel is NOT preached if Christ is not preached.”

“Before we can begin to see the cross as something done for us, we have to see it as something done by us.”

“We should not ask, ‘What is wrong with the world?’ for that diagnosis has already been given. Rather we should ask, “What has happened to salt and light?”

“Social responsibility becomes an aspect not of Christian mission only, but also of Christian conversion. It is impossible to be truly converted to God without being thereby converted to our neighbor.”

“Sin and child of God are incompatible. They may occasionally meet; they cannot live together in harmony.”

“Good conduct arises out of good doctrine.”

“Every powerful movement has had its philosophy which has gripped the mind, fired the imagination and captured the devotion of its adherents.”

“The Christian’s chief operational hazards are depression and discouragement.”

“Faith is a reasoning trust, a trust which reckons thoughtfully and confidently upon the trustworthiness of God.”

“Knowledge is indispensable to Christian life and service. If we do not use the mind that God has given us, we condemn ourselves to spiritual superficiality and cut ourselves off from many of the riches of God’s grace.”

“Christianity is in its very essence a resurrection religion. The concept of the resurrection lies at its heart. If you remove it, Christianity is destroyed.”

“Writing a book or a manifesto, is the nearest a man gets to having a baby.”

“The very first thing which needs to be said about Christian ministers of all kinds is that they are “under” people as their servants rather than “over” them (as their leaders, let alone their lords). Jesus made this absolutely plain. The chief characteristic of Christian leaders, he insisted, is humility not authority, and gentleness not power.”

“We must allow the Word of God to confront us, to disturb our security, to undermine our complacency and to overthrow our patterns of thought and behavior.”

Did You Know? 
Stott daily woke up at 5:00 a.m. to read the Bible and pray for hundreds of people before breakfast. For over 50 years, he would read the entire Bible annually.

 

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“How Can I Become A Christian?” By John R.W. Stott

“Becoming A Christian”

 The Fundamental Problem

Ignorance is probably the greatest enemy of the Christian faith today, and muddle-headedness is one of the sins of the age. Hundreds of people reject Christianity without any clear understanding of what it is, and hundreds more would like to become Christians if they only knew how. It is the purpose of this article to outline simply how to become a Christian, for the sake of those who really want to know.

Christianity claims to be God’s solution to man’s greatest problem. It is, of course, impossible to understand the solution, let alone accept it, unless we are clear about the problem. This then is where we must begin.

Let the Bible state it: “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth” (1 John 1:5-6). It is true that John wrote this verse in a letter to people who were already Christians. Nevertheless, man’s fundamental problem is clearly set out here. It can be summarized in three statements of fact.

First, men “walk in darkness.” Or, dropping the metaphor, all men are sinners. Sin is a distasteful subject, but we cannot close our eyes to an obvious fact which the Bible declares and experience confirms. The darkness of selfishness and sin overshadows our whole life.

Secondly, “God is light.” Unlike men there is in him “no darkness at all.” He is absolutely pure and spotless.

Thirdly, as light and darkness can never live together, neither can God and sin. This is the logical conclusion. He “dwells in unapproachable light” (1 Timothy 6:16). Just as darkness is dispelled by light, so the sinner is inevitably banished from God’s holy presence, and he cannot “have fellowship with Him” until his sin has been cleansed away. As the prophet Habakkuk had said years before, “You are of purer eyes than to behold evil and canst not look on iniquity” (1:13).

The problem is now laid bare before us. How can I who am a banished sinner be reconciled to a holy God? How can my sins be forgiven so that I can have fellowship with God?

The Christian Answer

Once again, let the Bible state the answer in its own words, “The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). The Lord Jesus Christ came into the world to solve man’s fundamental problem. He came to be the Savior of men. “For us men and for our salvation He came down from heaven,” and he accomplished this salvation when he died on the cross. Indeed he came to earth principally not to live but to die. The shadow of the cross lay athwart his path from the beginning, although then “his hour had not yet come” (John 7:30). Later, he “set His face steadfastly to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51), knowing perfectly well that death awaited him there. Several times indeed, he clearly predicted it. The night on which he was betrayed, in the upper room, when he broke bread and poured out wine, he had not foretold his death but explained its purpose. ‘This is My blood of the [new] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28).

What connection has his death with our forgiveness? The real meaning of the cross is not to be found in the excruciating physical agony of crucifixion, nor in the mental pain of his friends’ desertion and his enemies’ abuse, but in the spiritual anguish which he endured for three bitter hours. From 12 noon until 3 o’clock there was darkness over the face of the land. It was but an impressive outward symbol of the darkness of our sin which was engulfing the soul of the Savior. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). Paul went so far as to say in simple, awe-inspiring monosyllables, “For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21). But even this is not all. As the prophet Isaiah had foretold in the verse preceding the one quoted above, “He was wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.” He bore not only our sins but the penalty of our sins. Now, as we have seen, this penalty—the inevitable consequence of the holiness of God—is death, or separation from God (Romans 6:23). God who is light and in whom is no darkness at all could not be in fellowship with darkness even when his dear, only begotten Son was enveloped in it for us. So, being of purer eyes than to behold evil, he turned away his face, and Jesus cried out in desolate abandonment, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”

When he had borne “our sins in his body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24), he cried out again, this time not in despair but in triumph, “It is finished” (John 19:30). The work of salvation was accomplished. Then, as if to confirm the truth of the words which Jesus had spoken, God gave his dramatic reply. “The curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom” (Mark 15:38). The thick veil which for centuries had stood as a symbol of the barrier which sin had erected between the sinner and God was hurled aside. The righteousness of God was perfectly satisfied; Christ had fully borne the  penalty for the sins of the whole world and so had “opened the gate of Heaven to all believers.”

There was none other good enough

To pay the price of sin.

He only could unlock the gate

Of heaven and let us in.

In order to give final decisive proof that Christ’s sacrifice had been effective for the removal of sin and that He was satisfied, God raised him from the dead and exalted him to his own right hand. There Christ is represented as seated, for he is resting after perfectly completing the work he had been given to do. He made on the cross, the Prayer Book declares, “a full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world.” Man’s sin is the fundamental problem. Christianity is therefore primarily what Paul called a “message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:19). It is a “gospel,” that is, good news of what God has done in Christ to put away our sins.

What Must I Do?

 That Christ finished his work is certain. But some people thoughtlessly suppose that, through his death on the cross, forgiveness of sins is automatically conferred upon all men. God’s solution to the fundamental problem of sin is, however, not mechanical and impersonal. He does not impose salvation on those who do not want it. He still respects his own gift of free will to mankind. He offers me salvation. He does not oblige me to accept it. We cannot achieve it by our own efforts, but we must receive it from God if we are to possess it. How?

To be quite direct and personal, if I am to benefit from Christ’s death I must take three simple steps, of which the first two are preliminary and the third so final that to take it will make me a Christian. The reader should consider these steps very carefully, looking up the verses mentioned.

 

(1) I must acknowledge myself to be in God’s sight a helpless sinner. In Romans 3:22,23 this unequivocal statement is made: “There is no distinction; since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” All men are sinners indiscriminately. That is to say, there may be some distinction between men in the degree to which they have sinned; there is no difference in the fact. This statement includes me. In thought, word and deed I have continually disobeyed God’s commandments and fallen short of what I should have been. Consequently, I have been banished from his presence as Isaiah 59:1, 2 makes clear. “Your iniquities have separated you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you.” Moreover, I am helpless to remedy the situation. No amount of good deeds on my part can win God’s favor. I am a hopeless, helpless sinner. I need a Savior to bring me back to God.

(2) I must believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross to be the very Savior I have just admitted I need. “The Son of God loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). He bore my sins in his own body. He was made sin for me. More than that, he voluntarily endured the penalty which those sins of mine deserved. He was wounded for my transgressions and bruised for my iniquities. Clearest of all verses is 1 Peter 3:18, which says that, in order to bring me back to God, Christ, the innocent One, suffered for the sins which I, the guilty one, had committed.

(3) I must come to Christ and claim my personal share in what he did for everybody. He died to be the Savior of the world; I must ask him to be my Savior. He bore the sins of all men; I must ask him to take sins away. He suffered to bring everybody back to God. I must ask him to bring me. Exactly what I must do is explained by Christ in Revelation 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him.” The house is a picture of my life. Christ stands outside the front door. He will not put his shoulder to it. He does not use a battering ram. He waits patiently until I open the door. Then he will come in, and on entering he will have become to me the Savior I have acknowledged I need, and I shall find myself reconciled to God, enjoying that fellowship with him for which I was created.

Some Sobering Thoughts

Before taking this step, it will be wise to pause to consider thoughtfully its implications. The Lord Jesus himself constantly discouraged people from following him if they were in danger of being swept into his allegiance by irresponsible emotion. He urged them not to begin building until they had worked out the cost of construction. We too, before accepting him, must think out what is involved in the step. There is rich compensation in Christ, but there is a price to be paid. What demands does Christ make on me, both at the time of accepting him, and afterwards?

(1) I must repent of my sin. “Repent and believe,” he said (Mark 1:15). The faith which receives Christ must be accompanied by the repentance which rejects sin. Repentance does not mean that I must simply be sorry for the past. Sorrow is not enough. I must repent. That is, I must resolutely turn my back on everything in my past like which I know to be wrong, and I must be willing for Christ to cast it out of my life forever. I shall not be able to do it by myself. I must be willing for him to do it. If my repentance is genuine it will include making restitution, wherever my sin has affected someone else, by repaying stolen money or property or time, by making some needed apology, by contradicting false reports about others which I have been spreading, and so on.

(2) I must surrender to Christ. He wants to be my Lord as well as my Savior. He wants to take possession of my house and rule in it so that from today onwards his Word is law to me. I shall consult him before making and decisions, pray constantly about my career, and do my utmost to discover and obey his will in little things and big. I shall never forget what he said about denying myself and following him (Mark 8:34).

(3) I must confess Christ before men. I realize that I cannot be a secret disciple. If I open the door to him today, I will tell someone what I have done. Then I shall not be ashamed to show by my life that I am a Christian, and if I am challenged, I will own up to the fact. I am quite well aware that this may lose me some of my old friends, and will bring me many a sneer, but Christ told me not to be ashamed of him (Matthew 10:32,33; Mark 8:38). I shall count it a privilege to suffer for his sake (Acts 5:41).

A Prayer

We have seen what it means to be a Christian, and also what it costs to be a Christian. The issues are clearly before us. If Christ makes exacting demands, he also gives handsome rewards. Nothing can compare in this world with the deep, inward satisfaction of knowing him (Philippians 3:8). And then there is the cross. Even if we were the losers by coming to him, his dying love is such that we cannot turn away.

If the reader has clearly understood what Christ accomplished on the cross and has considered carefully the demands he makes, there is nothing to stop him from becoming a Christian. The best thing for him to do would be to go somewhere where he can be quiet and alone, without fear of interruption. Then he can pray some such prayer of faith as this:

“Lord Jesus Christ, I humbly acknowledge that I have sinned in my thinking and speaking and acting, that I am guilty of deliberate wrongdoing, and that my sins have separated me from Your holy presence, and that I am helpless to commend myself to You.

I firmly believe that You died on the cross for my sins, bearing them in Your own body and suffering in my place the condemnation they deserved.

I have thoughtfully counted the cost of following You. I sincerely repent, turning away from my past sins. I am willing to surrender to You as Lord and Master. Help me not to be ashamed of You;

So now I come to You. I believe that for a long time You have been patiently standing outside the door knocking. I now open the door. Come in, Lord Jesus, and be my Savior and Lord forever. Amen.”

Some Final Suggestions

Here are some concluding words of advice for those readers who have humbly and sincerely echoed this prayer, and received the Lord Jesus Christ:

(1) Tell somebody today what you have done.

(2) Do not be in doubt that the Lord Jesus has come into your life. Do not worry if you do not feel any different. His sure promise, not your fluctuating feelings, is to be ground of your certainty. Read Revelation 3:20 and John 6:37. He has promised to come in if you received him, and to receive you if you come to him. Believe his Word. He will not break it.

(3) Join a Christian fellowship. God does not intend us to live the Christian life alone. Sunday worship is a Christian duty.

(4) Maintain and develop your new friendship with Christ by disciplining yourself to have a daily time, morning and evening, of quiet Bible reading and prayer. You will find this indispensable.

(5) As soon as you have found your feet, start praying for someone else to bring to Christ. You cannot enjoy a monopoly of the gospel.

About the Author: John R.W. (Robert Walmsley) Stott died on July 27, 2011 at the age of ninety. He was a world-renowned pastor, theologian, and author of numerous bestselling books and Rector Emeritus of All Souls Church in London.

New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote (quoting Michael Cromartie of the Ethics and Public Policy Center) that if evangelicals chose a pope, they would likely select John Stott. As a principal framer of the Lausanne Covenant (1974), a defining statement for evangelical Christians, Stott was at the heart of evangelical renewal in the U.K. for more than half a century. In 2005, he was honored by Time magazine as one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World.” His many books and sermons have inspired and transformed millions throughout the world.

Stott was born April 27, 1921, in London to Sir Arnold Stott, a leading physician, and his wife, Emily. His father was an agnostic, while his mother was a Lutheran who attended church at All Souls, Langham Place. He converted to Christianity at Rugby School in 1938, and after finishing there he went on to study modern language at Trinity College, Cambridge. After earning double firsts in French and theology, he transferred to Ridley Hall Theological College, Cambridge, and was ordained as an Anglican clergyman in 1945. Stott became a curate at All Souls Church (1945–1950) and then rector (1950–1975). He resigned as rector in 1975, although he remained in the church and was appointed Rector Emeritus. In 1974 he founded Langham Partnership International (known as John Stott Ministries in the U.S.), a ministry that seeks to equip Majority World churches for mission and spiritual growth. Stott finally retired from public ministry in 2007 at the age of eighty-six.

Stott’s influence on evangelicalism throughout the world is extensive. He has written more than fifty books, including various Bible studies and Bible commentaries. As Stott’s main publisher in the U.S., Intervarsity Press enjoyed a wonderful partnership with the man they called “Uncle John.” IVP associate publisher for editorial Andy Le Peau said that Stott’s works were embraced for their “clear, balanced, sound perspective on Scripture and life. He was filled with a grace and strength that will be dearly missed in this era of extreme viewpoints and harsh rhetoric.”

“We are deeply grateful for this long publishing partnership and friendship with one of the most influential and beloved evangelical leaders for the past half-century,” said Intervarsity Press publisher Bob Fryling. “John Stott was not only revered; he was loved. He had a humble mind and a gracious spirit. He was a pastor-teacher whose books and preaching not only became the gold standard for expository teaching, but his Christian character was a model of truth and godliness. We will miss ‘Uncle John’ but we celebrate his life and writings as an extraordinary testimony of one who was abundantly faithful to his Lord Jesus Christ.”

Derek Thomas’ reflects on John Stott: “Any theology which cannot be communicated as gospel is of minimal value.” So wrote John Stott (Culture and the Bible [IVP, 1981], 38). And as I now think about the massive contribution he made to twentieth century evangelicalism, it is his communication of the gospel that comes to mind. His writings will remain as definitive expositions for a long time to come. His commentaries on Romans, Acts, the Pastoral Epistles, for example, are essential reading — who else has made Romans as accessible as John Stott? Your Mind MattersBasic ChristianityChristian Mission in the Modern World, Between Two Worlds: The Challenge of Preaching Today and The Cross of Christ are classics in their own right. The Preacher’s Portrait, New Testament word study analysis of what preachers are and do was for me groundbreaking. His more recent contribution (2007), The Living Church: Convictions of a Lifelong Pastor, was breathtaking in its provocative advocacy of a biblical approach to such things as worship, evangelism, giving and ministry. One thinks, too, of the (yes, for American readers, controversial) green-edged politics of his ethical-social analysis of war and conservation issues in Issues facing Christians Today. And we could go on.

Summing up a biographical study of John Stott (2-volumes, 1,000+ pages), Timothy Dudley-Smith cites one of Stott’s study assistant’s: “People ask me, ‘What is John Stott’s secret?’ This is an annoying question, to which there is no good answer. Instead of answering directly, I have taken to telling people that although you have no ‘secret’ there are several characteristics. I have observed in you that I will seek to emulate for the rest of my life. The three things I always mention are rigorous self-discipline, absolute humility and a prayerful spirit. Perhaps the most important thing I have learned from you is that, by grace, faithfulness to God is a combination of these three qualities.” (John Stott: A Biography, Volume 2 The Later Years [IVP, 453]).

 

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What Jesus Accomplished on the Cross

“The cross was an act simultaneously of punishment and amnesty, severity and grace, justice and mercy. Mercy and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed.” – John R.W. Stott

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2011 in John R.W. Stott, Quotes

 

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