Friday, July 29, 2011

One Human Influence

I had never consciously read a single word written by John Stott who died yesterday (July 27, 2011) at the age of 90 years. Perhaps a quotation here and there had slipped by me without my taking note of its author. But last evening I spent an hour or so reading the tributes to his memory in Christianity Today.

Of course I had heard his name mentioned, seen his work referenced in various theological books, and was aware that his was a respected and trusted voice in Evangelical circles. But, for some reason, I had never read any of his dozens of works. Perhaps now I will. Reading samples of his thought and wisdom last night whetted my appetite to know more. Those who may not be familiar with his thought might find the interviews I read interesting and informative. I found the 1996 interview by Roy McCloughry most comprehensive and interesting. Another 2006 CT interview by Tim Stafford, on the occasion of Stott’s 85 birthday is informative as well.

The interviews revealed a number of things about Stott that make me want to learn more about him and from him. But one thing in particular stood out. Stott’s life illustrates how influential one human being can be if he or she determines (ascertains) what their purpose on earth is and determines (resolutely decides) to stick to that purpose, undeterred by other attractions or temptations.

Stott spent his entire ministerial life, beginning with his ordination in the Anglican Church in 1945, serving the congregation of All Soul’s Church in London. Although his opportunities for ministry expanded during the years that have followed he resolutely refused to change his primary focus of pastoral preaching, passing up opportunities to advance to the office of Bishop in the Anglican Church, and enticements to engage in other areas of Christian ministry.

It is rare to find a truly focused soul in our “wired” world. The opportunities to know all things and the urge to influence all things pulls most of us away, in greater and lesser degrees, from those core activities and endeavors that we are best suited to perform. Our fear is that we’ll pass up a vital opportunity.

One eulogist compared Stott to Robert Frost who, when faced with a choice of two paths, chose one but reserved the other for another day. Stott, he said, chose his path with no intention of returning to take the other way another day. That is an almost impossibly hard decision to make when both ways are admirable and attractive, but in the end Stott has left a wealth of wisdom from which the world will benefit for years to come. Perhaps more importantly, he has served one congregation through nearly seven decades, drawing souls to Christ and feeding them on the Word of God, demonstrating in his own life what Christian commitment is really like.

In the end it is the life that John Stott lived that has impacted his world; a steady pace, a focused direction, a confident attitude, and an unfailing commitment to the cause of Christ. It is conceivable, to me at least, that every book he wrote could be destroyed and his influence upon the evangelical movement would still be felt for as long as the Church exists on earth. Those he touched with his enthusiasm and wisdom carry on, some consciously, and some unconsciously, emulating the life he displayed.

But I want to read some of his books just the same.

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