Since his death on July 27, more than two dozen memorial services have been held for John Stott on every continent, in such places as Addis Ababa, Auckland, Delhi, Hong Kong, Lima, Manila, Singapore and Vancouver. On November 11, a memorial was held in the United States at College Church, Wheaton, Illinois.
Along with several hundred people, I sang and prayed and listened to remembrances from several of Stott’s closest associates, including Christopher Wright, author of The Mission of God and Stott’s successor as International Director of Langham Partnership, the institution Stott founded to train Majority World pastors. While the church is too often characterized these days by harsh, disputatious rhetoric, Wright praised Stott for his patient, measured voice of reason.
Keith Hunt, host for Stott’s first international ministry trip from the mid-1950s, recalled a friend and mentor who became a world Christian before anyone knew what a world Christian was. Mark Labberton, author of The Dangerous Act of Loving Your Neighbor and one of Stott’s early study assistants, also spoke, saying, “The greatest gifts in John’s life were not his talents. It was actually his character.”
Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, quipped that being given the honor of preaching at the service simply meant he got to talk a bit longer than the others. He noted a number achievements that Stott has left to us as his legacy.
- Stott foresaw the rise of Christianity in the global South before most anyone else. He listened extensively and intently to what these Christians were saying.
- Stott reinvented expository preaching. While telling few stories and using little humor, he allowed the authority of the Word to shine through with crystal clarity.
- Stott reinvented the city-center church–not building a base that drew from a wide metropolitan area but seeking to spread the gospel within the geographic parish he was called to serve.
- Stott seamlessly joined evangelism to social justice as the mission of Christians.
- While due credit must be given to such notables as Billy Graham and Harold Ockenga, it was John Stott who invented modern evangelicalism. It was Stott that Americans called on to teach them. He staked out a place to stand that was unlike fundamentalism (orthodox but unengaged in the culture) and unlike the religious left (engaged in culture but not orthodox). He was prophetic from the center.
- Stott had a focused kingdom vision and zeal for God’s kingdom. “Most of the rest of us would be very happy being told you are the best. You are the best preacher, you’re the best of this or that. But he didn’t care about that. He wanted to change the world for Christ,” Keller explained. “I looked at his motives, I looked at his labors, how he spent himself, and how he gave himself. Why wasn’t he ever satisfied? It really was not worldly ambition. He wanted to really change the world for Christ. We should be convicted by that.”
Finally, Keller left us with a call for all of us to be empowered by the knowledge of his present glory. This is the hope we are all called to, a hope that offers us the motivation and strength to carry on the work that John Stott personified in word, deed and character.