John Stott was one of the most influential evangelical pastors of the second half of the 20th century, and he died on July 27, 2011. Having written 50 books over the course of his life including The Cross of Christ and Basic Christianity he had a worldwide impact and saw the transformation of evangelicalism in the Church of England go from being the ridiculed anomaly to seeing it become a powerful and respected theological movement in the Anglican Church. He was, unquestionably, part of that transformation.
I recently came across an interview with Stott in Christianity Today from 2006 where he clearly stated what he say to be three things he felt Christians had to offer to the world. In memory of him, I thought I’d post those here as a reminder to us…So here is John Stott in an interview from 2006:
I think we need to say to one another that it[our culture] is not so secular as it looks. I believe that these so-called secular people are engaged in a quest for at least three things. The first is transcendence. It’s interesting in a so-called secular culture how many people are looking for something beyond. I find that a great challenge to the quality of our Christian worship. Does it offer people what they are instinctively looking for, which is transcendence, the reality of God?
The second is significance. Almost everybody is looking for his or her own personal identity. Who am I, where do I come from, where am I going to, what is it all about? That is a challenge to the quality of our Christian teaching. We need to teach people who they are. They don’t know who they are. We do. They are human beings made in the image of God, although that image has been defaced.
And third is their quest for community. Everywhere, people are looking for community, for relationships of love. This is a challenge to our fellowship. I’m very fond of 1 John 4:12: “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us, and his love is perfected in us.” The invisibility of God is a great problem to people. The question is how has God solved the problem of his own invisibility? First, Christ has made the invisible God visible. That’s John’s Gospel 1:18: “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.”
People say that’s wonderful, but it was 2,000 years ago. So in 1 John 4:12, he begins with exactly the same formula, nobody has ever seen God. But here John goes on, “If we love one another, God abides in us.” The same invisible God who once made himself visible in Jesus now makes himself visible in the Christian community, if we love one another. And all the verbal proclamation of the gospel is of little value unless it is made by a community of love.
These three things about our humanity are on our side in our evangelism, because people are looking for the very things we have to offer them.
God used John Stott’s life for the greater good of his Church worldwide. I pray that God will raise up more like him for the future…
May God have mercy on us all…