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.