A Tribute to Uncle John

On July 27, 2011, at 90 years old, the Rev. Dr. John R.W. Stott went home to be with the Lord he loved and proclaimed, the One he faithfully served throughout his life as a single man in Great Britain and across the world.

I was introduced to the writings of "Uncle John" (as he liked to be called) as a newborn college Christian at U.C. Berkeley. His precise prose and lucid Bible exposition through his commentaries on Paul's Letter to the Ephesians (God's New Society) and the Sermon on the Mount (Christian Counter-Culture) not only grounded my newfound faith in solid biblical teaching, they gave me confidence in the intellectual integrity of Christianity in a secular university setting. Stott, along with the writings of C.S. Lewis, the weekly preaching of First Pres Berkeley pastor Earl Palmer, and the caring, creative leadership of college pastor Mark Labberton, launched me on a lifetime of discipleship and crystallized my calling to be a pastor.

After graduating from Cal, I spent a year working as library supervisor at Stott's London Institute of Christianity. I was privileged to get to know Stott personally, being invited to breakfast one on one in his Weymouth Street flat, joining his monthly "Contemporary Christian" discussion group assessing popular culture from a biblical vantage point, and (in the picture above) getting to spend a week with Uncle John and a small work crew at the Hookses, his Welsh cottage where he retreated to work on many of his books. Additionally, I sat week by week under his teaching, whether at the LICC courses or from the pulpit of All Souls Church, Langham Place.

You can read obituaries and glowing tributes to Stott from writers like Tim Stafford. All of these will give you many of the important details of his life. I'd like to offer just a few thoughts on his personal impact on me. First of all, I was deeply impressed by his integrity as a Christian: Stott lived his faith in every setting in which I observed him--whether speaking to a street person or preaching in a large setting. He lived simply and humbly, rarely having more than a few suits or coats. He gave most of the proceeds of his books to third-world Christian scholars; he even learned to hug people (something very hard to do for a British man of his social background!). His was an integrated faith, unreservedly seeking to apply the whole of his mind and life to the life and teachings of Jesus. Secondly, Stott gave me a deep love for biblical learning. His precise words and careful outlines led me and others into the heart of the Bible's message. It was like a clear glass of refreshing water each time I heard him: I came away with thirst slaked for the moment, but curiously thirsting for more. Each sermon I heard impressed me with God and Christ; Uncle John faded into the background. Through him I heard them. This has been an enduring model for me. I loved (and in his writings still love) his economical use of English: like a scalpel, his words sliced evenly and precisely to the point. Stott possessed a brilliant mind and life which stood "Between Two Worlds" (as his famous book on preaching was entitled); his teachings convincingly showed how the ancient Scriptures speak with relevance and challenge to the (now post-)modern world.

During that year in London, whenever I got to be near him, John Stott's love and example touched me. He's shaped me; some of him still lives within me and others I know who've been blessed to be in his orbit. I have felt God's grace in all of this: as a young man from California to be treated so undeservingly to life-changing contact with one of this generation's most gifted Christian leaders, is a great gift indeed. Thank you, dear God. And thank you, Uncle John.


John Buechner said...
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John Buechner said...

Thanks, Carl. Good words. He will be missed by many who had the chance to read him and know him. I never got to meet "Uncle John," but I wish I had.

John said...

Huge loss. They don't make them like that any more. When I look at Time's list of the 25 Most Infuential Evangelicals in America, it makes me want to throw up. It embarrasses the church.

Will we ever have voices like Stott's again, or will we have more stupid impulsive tweets about taxes, and fraudulent historians?

I suspect more of that latter. John Stott, we miss you more than we mostly likely can appreciate!

Wendy Redal said...

Wonderful that you got to know him, Carl. I, too, yearn for more voices like his on the contemporary Christian landscape.

Anonymous said...

Hello my old American mate!

Mike Miller just sent me a link to your blog - I'll read some more at some point.

Funny thing is Carl that I'm enjoying John's commentary on the whole bible - that he wrote fairly recently for him - more than anything else.

It's like having a personal tour through the scriptures with a guy who knows them better than most in history. What a treat!

Anyway, great to see you doing good things in your ministry. I'll try and catch up again properly soon (I know this is the wrong place to write, but I'm supposed to go to bed now and had to write something quickly!)

Fond memories of Wembley. Bless you bro!