A Tribute to Uncle John
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.