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My Friend, John Stott, Significantly Shaped My Ministry

My Friend, John Stott, Significantly Shaped My Ministry

If you were going to name the most influential pastor of the 20th century, John Stott would be my choice. In fact, I believe he is among the three most influential Christians in the last half of the 20th Century, right alongside Billy Graham and Mother Teresa.

There is no doubt that “Uncle John” has had a tremendous influence on my own life and ministry. He was one of my closest mentors and recently I flew to the UK just to pray for him and sit by his bed.

John wrote more than 50 booksone of which, One People, made such a compelling case for the idea that every Christian is a minister that it became a foundational book for us as we built Saddleback Church.

It is hard to measure the profound impact his book, Basic Christianity, has had since it was first published in 1958. It has sold more than 2.5 million copies in 63 languagestouching lives with a power that rippled through so many evangelical relationships and ministries. As a pastor, it shaped my own teaching and writing ministry in such a significant way that I invited John speak to the Saddleback congregation as well as our pastoral staff when we launched our global missions initiative, The PEACE Plan.

John talked to the Saddleback staff about the convictions he held most deeply through more than 55 years of ministry. He talked about the priority of getting away from the office to listen quietly to God’s voice. He encouraged us to care about peopleeven the difficult onesbecause Jesus cared enough to purchase them with his blood. He warned us about believing what our cheerleaders say about us. He reminded us that the test of our love for Christ is our obedience to him. He reminded us of the importance of studying the world around us, as well as the Scripture. And he emphasized that our task is not to make Christ relevant to the world, but only to demonstrate that he is.

John ministry and his book, Basic Christianity, are wonderful proof that you can express the Gospel in a relevant, contemporary way without compromising the eternal truth of God’s Word. Some congregations today seem to think that the 1950s was the golden age of the Church, and they retreat into isolation from today’s culture. Then there are others who foolishly imitate the latest fad and fashion in an effort to appear relevantand in the process downplay the cost of following Christ.

John spent a lifetime communicating the truth about who Christ is and how desperately we need him, explaining to seekers how Jesus makes it possible for them to experience God’s love and forgivenessand what they need to do to become his followers. And his message was always one that even longtime church members must hear: “We must commit ourselves, heart and mind, soul and will, home and life, personally and unreservedly, to Jesus Christ. We must trust in him as our Savior and submit to him as our Lord; and then go on to take our place as loyal members of the church and responsible members in the community.”

Through his ministry at All Souls’ Church in London, the work of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, and the efforts of the Langham Partnership, God used John to draw multitudes to Christ, to equip them for service, and to grow them in faithful obedience to their Lord. He helped prepare the best and brightest young leaders for service in key positions all over the world. He invested his own publishing royalties into a venture that has placed valuable books in the libraries of thousands of pastors and hundreds of seminaries. He helped train hundreds of preachers and has facilitated the creation of Christian literature in the local languages of dozens of peoples.

Through all of this, John maintained a down-to-earth humility and a warm concern for each and every individual to whom he had an opportunity to minister. I count myself blessed to have benefited personally from his ministry and to be able to call him a mentor in the pastorate. Everyone who knew John could see his wise heart was filled with God’s own love for all peoplethose who already follow Christ and those who are still seeking him.

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