I first became aware of John R. W. Stott while in college at University of Maryland Baltimore County’s Christian Fellowship. At the time, the fellowship was independent but there was an Inter Varsity representative on campus. We had all the Inter Varsity Press books at our disposal and as I was the Literature Chairman and I always got the catalogs to order for our campus outreach, meetings, etc. Because of IVP I was introduced to the likes of Francis Schaeffer and John Stott and I would order the latest from these men as soon as they were published.
When I heard of Stott’s death I wanted to find some of his books that had influenced me. As I live at my mom’s house, majority of my books are still packed in boxes downstairs. I thought I might have to really search but when I went down in the basement, I had already pulled out three of Stott’s books and placed them on the shelves.
The first book I read by Stott was Basic Christianity. It presents the gospel in a clear-cut winsome manner. On page 15 Stott wrote, “Christianity is not just what we believe; it’s also about how we believe. Our intellectual belief may be beyond criticism; but we have to put out beliefs into practice. What then must we do? We must commit ourselves heart, mind, soul and will, home and life, personally and unreserved to Jesus. We must humble ourselves before him. We must trust in him as our Savior and submit to him as our Lord; and then go on to take our place as loyal members of the church and responsible citizens in the community. This is basic Christianity, the theme of this book.” My sister still uses this book to train her Young Life leaders on what the gospel is and how to present it to teenagers.
The next book I had read was Your Mind Matters: The Place of the Mind in the Christian Life. I looked at the inside flap of this 64 page book and I had written when I had read it, two days in March the year after I graduated from college. “Let us heed these warning. Knowledge is indispensable to Christian life and service. If we do not use the mind which God has given us, we condemn ourselves to spiritual superficiality and cut ourselves off from many of the riches of God’s grace, at the same time, knowledge is given us to be used, to lead us to higher worship, greater faith, deeper holiness, better service, What we need is not less knowledge but more knowledge so long as we act upon it.” p. 60
I also found his commentary on The Epistles of John (now called The Letters of John) from the Tyndale New Testament Commentaries series. In his preface Stott wrote, “If it be said (as it quite reasonably may) that one who is in no sense a New Testament scholar should not presume to write a commentary on New Testament Epistles, I would reply I respectful self-defence that I have written as a pastor and not as a theologian. Nor is this entirely a disadvantage…Certainly John writes as a pastor to his people in language which every modern pastor will understand, He loves them, He is deeply concerned to protect them from the enticement of the world and the errors of false teachers, and to see them established in faith, love and holiness. So he appeals to what they are and what they know. He warns them, exhorts the, argues with the, instructs them. All this will find an echo in the experience of every pastor who has been entrusted by the Chief Shepherd with the care of the flock.”
While reading that I was thinking that is exactly what John Stott did for us. He was not one who took the limelight but did speak out when it was necessary. He was warning us, exhorting us and instructing us. We all could learn something from John Stott who so clearly articulated the gospel to his generation and influenced so many people by simply stating the truth and living it faithfully.