A Model Evangelical Leader: John R.W. Stott

Aug 13th, 2011 | By | Category: Christian Life, Featured Issues

One of my personal heroes went to be with the Lord in July?the British scholar and Christian leader, John R.W. Stott.  He was 90 years old.  I will miss his pithy, succinct writing, his gracious style and his deep-seated commitment to genuine, biblical Christianity.  [One of his books that profoundly shaped me was his classic, Your Mind Matters.]  I was astounded recently that someone from the politically liberal end of the spectrum took notice of Stott.  In his weekly column in the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof lamented Stott?s passing but with glowing affirmations of not only him but of evangelical Christianity as well.  Kristof writes that ?partly because of such self-righteousness [e.g., that of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson], the entire evangelical movement often has been pilloried among progressives as reactionary, myopic, anti-intellectual and, if anything, immoral.  Yet that casual dismissal is profoundly unfair of the movement as a whole.  It reflects a kind of reverse intolerance, sometimes a reverse bigotry, directed at tens of millions of people who have actually become increasingly engaged in issues of global poverty and justice.?  Kristof holds up Stott as an example of what he means.  He lauds his compassionate demeanor and his consistent counsel in his 50 books to emulate Jesus Christ, especially His concern for the poor and the oppressed.  He also lauds Stott?s challenge to confront the social evils of racial oppression and environmental pollution.  Stott lived his faith and called for the church to confront the evils of culture in a manner that reflected kingdom values and priorities.  In doing so, he often ruffled feathers, including those worn by fellow Christians.  Listen to Kristof?s characterization of evangelical Christianity:  ?. . . in reporting on poverty, disease and oppression, I?ve seen so many others.  Evangelicals are disproportionately likely to donate 10% of their incomes to charities, mostly church-related.  More important, go to the front lines, at home or abroad, in the battles against hunger, malaria, prison rape, obstetric fistula, human trafficking or genocide, and some of the bravest people you meet are evangelical Christians (or conservative Catholics, similar in many ways) who truly live their faith.  I?m not particularly religious myself, but I stand in awe of those I?ve seen risking their lives in this way?and it sickens me to see that faith mocked at New York cocktail parties.?

As you read those words, were you somewhat shocked?  I was!  Kristof, politically liberal and ?personally not religious,? has seen something in people of genuine biblical Christianity?they are living out what they believe.  He is not listening especially to evangelical pronouncements about theology; he is seeing the transformational work they are doing for their Savior.  Many centuries ago, Francis of Assisi said, ?At all times preach the gospel?and if necessary, use words.?!  That is what is causing a man like Kristof to take notice of something that he cannot explain?the transformed life:  A life that is not selfish, or self-centered; instead, a life that is other-centered and willing to take enormous risks for the sake of others.  That is why I admired John R.W. Stott so much.  He was brilliant and incredibly gifted.  He anchored his life around four propositions:  1.  God has spoken in His Word and it is completely trustworthy and authoritative.  2.  The substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ is central to the gospel and without it there is no hope for humanity.  3.  Jesus Christ is both Savior and Lord.  4.  Those profound truths should produce a transformed life; one committed to evangelism and the pursuit of social justice.  I did not always agree with everything Stott wrote but he was always worth reading.  John R.W. Stott represented what Jesus called salt and light in a very dark world.  Nicholas Kristof took notice of that light, which was really a light reflecting Jesus as Savior and Lord.  I pray that Nicholas Kristof will one day place his faith in Jesus Christ.  If he does, the memory and legacy of John R.W. Stott will have played a major role in his conversion.  May God, in His mercy, bring this to pass.

See Kristof?s essay in the New York Times (30 July 2011). PRINT PDF

Comments Closed