John Stott died today [July 27th, 2011] at 3:15 London time (about 9:15 a.m. CST), according to John Stott Ministries President Benjamin Homan. Homan said that Stott’s death came after complications related to old age and that he has been in discomfort for the last several weeks. Family and close friends gathered with Stott today as they listened to Handel’s Messiah. Homan said that John Stott Ministries has been preparing for his death for the past 15 years. “I think he set an impeccable example for leaders of ministries of handing things over to other leaders,” Homan said. “He imparted to many a love for the global church and imparted a passion for biblical fidelity and a love for the Savior.” Billy Graham’s spokesperson released the following statement from the evangelist: “The evangelical world has lost one of its greatest spokesmen, and I have lost one of my close personal friends and advisors. I look forward to seeing him again when I go to Heaven.”
Stott was every inch an evangelical, but a reforming evangelical. He recognized that evangelicalism could and sometimes did sink down into mere piety, whereas the Bible spoke of a robust transformation of the world brought about by God’s people engaged in mission. As a London pastor, Stott increasingly recognized the need for evangelicalism to reclaim its heritage of engagement with the social issues of the day.
His greatest impact in the area of social concern came somewhat inadvertently. In 1974, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association convened an International Congress on World Evangelization in Lausanne, Switzerland. About 2,500 members attended (in addition to 1,300 other participants). About half of the delegates and speakers came from Majority World countries. The gathering’s wide representation resembled meetings of the World Council of Churches, but the excited atmosphere of unified mission was unprecedented. Many participants grasped for the first time the global dimensions of the evangelical church….
…Stott had been asked to give the opening address on the nature of biblical evangelism. He began with characteristic humility, calling for “a note of evangelical repentance.” And he spoke head-on—with a lucid exposition of Scripture—to the issue on people’s minds. “Here then are two instructions, ‘love your neighbor’ and ‘go and make disciples.’ What is the relation between the two? Some of us behave as if we thought them identical, so that if we have shared the gospel with somebody, we consider we have completed our responsibility to love him. But no. The Great Commission neither explains, nor exhausts, nor supersedes the Great Commandment. What it does is to add to the command of neighbor-love and neighbor-service a new and urgent Christian dimension. If we truly love our neighbor, we shall without doubt tell him the Good News of Jesus. But equally, if we truly love our neighbor, we shall not stop there.”
Theologian David Wells, who was converted through a 1959 John Stott mission in South Africa, later shared a household with him for five years in the early 1960s. “His leadership was effective,” Wells says, “because of his personal integrity and his Christian life. People who knew him always came back to these points. He was known all over the world, but when you met him he was a most devout, humble Christian man. His private life was no different from his public life. It was the same person. That’s another way to say that he had integrity. There was no posing.”
One would like to say that such is the nature of plain, ordinary Christians. Not all live up to it. John Stott did.