This is the two-volume authorized biography of John Stott, the British pastor and writer. I first read the two-volume work 12 years ago. This is my second time through it. As I was re-reading this biography, I began to realize that in some ways John Stott has been my main mentor in my life. I’ve never met him, but through his writings and through this biography he has mentored me.
There have been several pastors in history, and in the present, who have influenced me greatly – Calvin, Luther, Spurgeon, Lloyd-Jones, Piper, Keller and more. But I do not know that any have had quite the influence on me that Stott has.
If Stott wrote a commentary on a New Testament book, and he wrote many, he was always the first one I wanted to read. Kenneth Kantzer, long-time President of Trinity Evangelical Seminary, the evangelical divinity school, once commented, “Whenever I heard John Stott preach on a passage, I thought to myself, ‘Of course that’s what it means.’” I know what he means.
John Stott died in 2011 at age 90. He was a pastor, writer, leader, evangelist and scholar extraordinaire. He excelled in all of these areas to an unusual degree.
In the highly regarded book on leadership by Jim Collins, Good to Great, he talks about the two sine qua non traits of a leader: unwavering commitment to the cause and a deep personal humility. John Stott excelled in both of these. He had an unwavering commitment to the cause of Christ that was expressed in innumerable ways, especially in leading the charge of evangelical Christianity within the Church of England for 50 years. And when it came to humility, it seems like he had a total absence of pride and ego. He was a remarkable man.
He was single his entire life. He was an ardent birdwatcher and he practiced this hobby all over the globe. He continues to disciple me through his writings and biography, though he is now in heaven. He was a friend to Billy Graham, J.I. Packer, Martyn Lloyd-Jones and so many more. He was a chaplain to the Queen. He lived a simple life and had a special heart for pastors in Africa, Asia and South America.
Here are just some of the things that I learned from John Stott:
1. Prayer. Prayer was always a priority for him, both in his personal time with God each morning and in leading his church to prayer. He was a true intercessor.
2. Scripture. He was completely devoted to Scripture. His preaching was biblical and expository. He faced opposition from liberal Anglicans throughout his ministry and yet he faithfully defended the Scriptures.
3. Heart for the lost. He was an evangelist. He personally led people to Christ. He preached the gospel all over the world. The lost were always on his heart.
4. Love for people. He was quite scholarly and learned. He cared about people. He had a pastor’s heart. He wrote pastoral letters to people. He learned people’s names. He gave attention to individuals who came to him. H was unfailingly gracious. He loved people.
5. Courage. He was a courageous man who would not back down from his principles. In fact, if he believed in something he could be quite obstinate! It was a good stubbornness!
6. Humor. He didn’t take himself too seriously. He always had a playful sense of humor and often, I understand, a twinkle in his eye.
For those who are not so familiar with his life, here is a brief biographical sketch of high points:
· He came from a prominent family in London, the son of a physician.
· He came to Christ in his late teens when he was at boarding school. He was a devoted follower of Christ the rest of his life.
· He studied at Cambridge and did superbly.
· His ministry position was curate (assistant pastor) of All Souls Church in downtown London. This was the church that he had grown up in and was one of the most prominent churches in London.
· When the rector of All Souls died, the congregation wanted him as their pastor, and so he becomes rector of All Souls at age 29.
· He was either pastor or pastor emeritus of All Souls the rest of his life.
· He began speaking more and more widely throughout England and then throughout the world. He was in wide demand.
· He wrote over 50 books in his life, some of which have had enormous impact.
· He started and led numerous organizations, from gatherings of evangelical pastors to ministry organizations with third world pastors.
· In many ways he was not only the “pope” for evangelicals in the Church of England, but he was the “evangelical pope” in the last 30 years of his life.
· His impact and legacy are remarkable.