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On two wings - John Stott


John Stott learning to write.

John Stott probably seemed an odd bird to some people. Inspired by Christ, he wanted men and women to fly to the aid of their neighbours on the two wings of love and ministry. When he died at 90 on July 27th, he had reached millions of people all over the world on his two wings.

As a typical adolescent, I was aware of two things about myself, though doubtless I could not have articulated them in these terms then. First, if there was a God, I was estranged from him. I tried to find him, but he seemed to be enveloped in a fog I could not penetrate. Secondly, I was defeated. I knew the kind of person I was, and also the kind of person I longed to be. Between the ideal and the reality there was a great gulf fixed. - John Stott


That changed when, at the age of 17, he opened the door to Jesus - "If you hear me calling and open the door, I'll come in and share your meal, side by side with you".

John Stott exemplified how extraordinary plain, ordinary Christianity can be. He was not known as an original thinker, nor did he seek to be. He always turned to the Bible for understanding, and his unforgettable gift was to penetrate and explain the Scriptures.

Until his conversion and subsequent call to Christian ministry, Stott seemed headed for the diplomatic corps. A skilled linguist, he would win a first at Cambridge in French before going on to study theology, in which he also gained a first. Nobody doubted that Stott would have made a superb diplomat. In his ministry, he retained the best qualities of that calling, which is to faithfully and skillfully represent someone else.

. . .Stott was thoroughly English in stereotypical ways [as the English are conceived by Americans - Ed.]: incisive, cool, time-conscious, orderly, and balanced. Though he had a great gift for friendship, he was not given to small talk or self-revelation. (He did have a wry sense of humor and was a talented amateur musician.) A lifelong bachelor, he showed a formidable capacity for work. When he was at a writing project, he could happily keep his own company for weeks on end at his retreat in Wales, grinding out page after page of well-regulated prose.

He wrote more than 40 books, and reached millions of readers. His best-selling volume was Basic Christianity. He poured his royalties into the work of raising up church leaders.

At the same time, he relished the world around him in all its variety. Perhaps nothing showed this so obviously as his lifelong love for birdwatching. . .In his later decades, Stott spent a great proportion of his time travelling, much of it in Majority World countries. Time for birds was nearly always included. He traveled without entourage, sometimes preaching in a cathedral one day and under a tree the next, meeting the mighty and the lowly and staying in their homes. As a London pastor he formed strong attachments to a wide variety of humanity. When he encountered opposition or criticism, he would seek it out for an exchange of views. He did not enjoy conflict, but he was committed to dialogue.

. . .Conservative evangelicals were a despised minority when Stott was ordained, without a single bishop in the Church of England. In response, Stott showed his ingenuity as a social entrepreneur. He was never one to keep his convictions to himself, nor to consider a situation hopeless. Instead, he fostered organizations meant to encourage younger evangelical clergy, and he helped organize and renew evangelical conferences.


. . .Stott believed in the mind as a gift from God. In an evangelical world tempted to rely on proof texts and emotive stories, Stott drilled down deep into Scripture to display its power. Many people, hearing Stott preach for the first time, said they had never heard the Bible expounded with such clarity and depth. His passion was to learn what God said, and to let it shape life.
A kind, gentle, gracious and humble man, he met thousands of church leaders, often young men and women struggling to find their place. He procured theological study books for those who had no access to good libraries. He arranged scholarships for doctoral study in the UK and the US for those who had ability at that level. He demonstrated biblical preaching, and he modeled modesty and a simple lifestyle. He made hundreds if not thousands of friends, becoming in his person a bridge between cultures.
Christ has left us an example. The Greek word Peter uses, unique here in the New Testament, denotes a teacher's copybook, the perfect alphabet on which a pupil models his script as he learns to write. So if we want to master the ABC of Christian love, we must trace out our lives according to the pattern of Jesus. We must 'follow in his steps'. - John Stott, Basic Christianity

Ave atque Vale.

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