Friday, 24 July 2015

Heroes #2 John Stott

Last month I was engaged in a one-week intensive Bible preaching program under the Langham Fellowship banner. This article is about the man behind this ministry, who is still continues to inspire, enrich, and encourage Christians around the world through his many initiatives.

I am of course talking about the late John Stott.

Stott in the 70's, speaking at a University campus in the US

John Stott was one of those few conservative Christians who have a left a mark in the secular sphere as well. Peers, students, and readers far and wide have described him in titles such as the 'gentle intellectual giant' and 'evangelical pope'. 

Before attending the Langham seminars, I had already developed a deep sense of respect for this amazing man of God. 

Call it luck or God's providence, many books penned by John Stott were neatly stacked on the bookshelves of my house, and I stumbled upon them growing up as a believer.

Keeping his commentaries and writings on Church issues aside, he is best known for Basic Christianity which in my view is a must-read for the new believer or anyone interested in a simple, to-the-point presentation of the religion. And of course the Cross of Christ still remains one of the best publications on the subject of atonement. 

Basic Christianity not only polished my view of the Christian faith, but also introduced me to a version of evangelicalism that not many Christians espouse to.

On the one hand you have the 'liberals', who are ready to reject the plain meaning of the Bible to conform to the society at large. A case in point is the recent support of homosexual marriages by various Christian denominations, such as the Episcopalian Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (source)

On the other extreme are those who like to refer themselves as conservatives or fundamentalists. Now staying true to the Word is all good, but I often find this breed of Christians dangling on the verge of paranoia. They are always looking for 'agendas' and usually play classic rock songs backwards. Why they do this, God only knows, but they display an attitude of hostility towards the society at large, instead of engaging with it.

Between the two extremes, scholars and pastors like John Stott act as a beacon. You see, Stott always argued and polished his views on everything from the vicarious atonement to global warming. For him, listening to the world was equally important as listening to the word.

You find this belief laid out in books like Understanding the Bible, where in beautiful simplicity John demonstrated how learning scriptures in their true context is the only way to truly understand the world around us. The book also refutes the widespread notion that holding onto traditional Christian beliefs requires individuals to commit intellectual suicide.

Despite engaging head-on with the liberalism of the Church in Europe and North America, John never lost sight of his global evangelical worldview. He envisioned a time when literature from the Third World would come forth and wake the Christian West out of its slumber. 

And to that end, he gave his all. Declining countless opportunities to head some of the most prestigious Christian institutions in the world, John Stott used a hefty chunk of his income to finance education of Christian leaders the 'majority world'. He visited many of these countries personally to equip the local body of Christ, while back in England he chose to live in a two-bedroom apartment till the day he died. 

The Langham Preaching Seminar Karachi '15: Me receiving Track 1 certification from Dr. Asif John, National Facilitator Langham Partnership

In 2005, Time magazine listed John Stott among the 100 Most Influential People in the World. His entry was penned by none other than Billy Graham himself, who wrote:

I can't think of anyone who has been more effective in introducing so many people to a biblical world view. He represents a touchstone of authentic biblical scholarship that, in my opinion, has scarcely been paralleled since the days of the 16th century European Reformers. (source)

Also read: Heroes #1 William Lane Craig

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