5 Ways to Imitate John Stott: Tim Keller’s Message at Stott’s Memorial Service

It is always inspiring to hear stories of a life lived well for God’s glory and kingdom. I had the privilege to attend John Stott’s memorial service last week. His was very much one of those lives.

Tim Keller gave the sermon for the service from Hebrews 13:7, “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” Keller gave five ways to imitate Stott’s life and faith. This is from the notes that I feverishly took (as best as I could read them).

1. Be convicted by his kingdom vision. Stott wanted to do something world-historical, out of remarkable selfless ambition. He wanted to be more than a successful church pastor, he wanted to do something game-changing for Christianity. Give up your small ambition.

2. Be taught by his cultural learning curve. Stott went out into the world and listened in a way that white Anglos didn’t listen. Yet this happened later in his life. If it takes him that long for his cultural blinders to come off, what does that mean for us?

3. Be chastened by his leadership controversies. If a man as irenic as John Stott couldn’t avoid controversies, we shouldn’t feel self-pity over ours. Be gracious to those who oppose you.

4. Be instructed by his great innovations. First, he reinvented expository preaching. No stories, illustrations, or humor. Yet his clarity in presenting what the text says was electrifying. Second, he invented the center-city church. More than being a place for great preaching, Stott conducted evangelism, did visitation, sought faith-work integration, ministered to the poor, and balanced theology with preaching. Third, Stott was willing to organize and use institutions during a time when few did. Fourth, he forced evangelicals to deal with social ethics and justice issues. Fifth, he created evangelicalism, the great center between fundamentalism and liberalism. He combined orthodox doctrine while being intellectually engaged, and he brought scholarship down to where it was accessible.

5. Be empowered by the knowledge of his present glory. We need to get power by knowing what people are like when they have passed away.

I came away as convicted at my own heart as I was impressed by Stott’s life. The thing that convicted me was that I’m so often more impressed by what great men have done for Jesus than I am by Jesus himself. Do you ever feel that way? It betrays ways I idolize ministry and ministers. It reminds me that I still need the gospel of Jesus to change me.


  1. To apply Jesus’ words, his time had come for him “to leave this world and go to the Father” (John 13:1). John Stott is now experiencing the answer to Jesus’ prayer, “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.” (John 17:24).

  2. Thanks so much for this – really helpful and very encouraging
    you may be interested in this post after JRWS’ funeral:
    also other JRWS stuff: https://markmeynell.wordpress.com/category/church/all-souls-langham-place-church/john-stott/

  3. Thought you would be blessed by the impact of Uncle John on my life. Lawrence Temfwe Zambia
    The legacy of Rev. Dr John Stott, who is popularly known as Uncle John among African Intervarsity Christians, will live on. Uncle John passed on 27th July 2011, he was 90 years old. I came to know him while studying at Theological College of Central Africa, Ndola Zambia, where he delivered three days of lectures in 1986. I had the privilege to sit under his feet one afternoon with a small group of students. My first question was why he was not married. Before he responded he asked my name; that was the start of a lifelong mentoring relationship.
    One year later, when I was serving the Lord at Prison Fellowship Zambia, a death row inmate who had come to the Lord after reading Uncle John’s Basic Christianity in prison wrote him requesting materials which would help him grow in Christ. Uncle John wrote to me and asked for more information about this inmate. For the next ten years Uncle John sent me money every Christmas to buy basic needs for inmates serving on death row. Every year I would visit these inmates around Christmas bringing greetings from Uncle John along with gifts of bibles, soap, sugar, and toothpaste.
    In 1996 he invited me to attend the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. My wife attended the same course in 2001. One Sunday he invited me to his home. As Chaplain to the Queen I concluded he would surely be occupying a house next to Buckingham Palace. I said to myself, “Buckingham Palace, here comes Lawrence!” Somehow the address he gave did not lead me anywhere near Buckingham Palace. Uncle John lived in an apartment that contained basic necessities of life. He chose to live a simple life which enabled him to use his excess income to, among other things, empower under resourced pastors in Asia and Africa with a minimum of three books each year.

    I was the beneficiary of Uncle John’s generosity on more than one occasion. Uncle John wrote a recommendation for me to attend Wheaton College when I applied for Graduate School. After I got accepted I wrote him a long typed letter expressing gratitude for his help and encouragement to me over the years. He responded with a hand written letter and said, “Lawrence it is mutual.” In 2000 I travelled with Uncle John to Uganda where he was giving lectures to Intervarsity staff and friends. Though I was not associated with Intervarsity he invited me at his expense because he thought the time with Christian thinkers would do me good.
    In some ways the Jubilee Centre can be traced back to Uncle John. Over twenty years ago I read his book Issues Facing Christians Today.He explored questions of social ethics from a biblical perspective. I had recently come out of prison and was doing my theological studies. I wanted to know more about what the Bible said about justice, compassion, forgiveness and mercy. Later Uncle John would write,”Having enjoyed Lawrence Temfwe’s friendship, and admired his vision for a number of years, I am glad to endorse the Jubilee Centre. It is a fine contemporary example of our Christian commitment to both justice and love.”
    I am far from the more influential Christians Uncle John has impacted. That he would identify me and seek to encourage me in my service in the Lord shows how Uncle John wanted to reach out to everyone irrespective of their position in life. What a life! Uncle John’s legacy lives on!
    Lawrence Temfwe