I first heard John Stott speak when I was a medical student and a very young Christian. John Stott came to Kuala Lumpur to give a talk in the University of Malaya campus organized by the Varsity Christian Fellowship (VCF) which later became Fellowship of Evangelical Students (FES). I remember being very impressed by his message and his passion. I also remembered shaking the hand of this ‘well known’ Christian speaker. I began reading his books which are very influential to my Christian spiritual journey. I remember reading Basic Christianity (1958, rev.1971) which helps me construct the foundation of my faith. I read the revised 1971 version, of course (I am not that old!). It started me on my mission of Bible study and understanding the Scripture. This mission was fortified by another of his book, Your Mind Matters (1972). John Stott’s mastery of the Word and in preaching inspires me to a ministry of Bible-based teaching and preaching. Between Two Worlds: The Art of Preaching in the Twentieth Century (1982) and The Contemporary Christian: An urgent plea for double listening (1992) are books I retreat to when my zeal for the art runs dry.
Another of John Stott’s book that influenced me is Issues Facing Christians Today (1985) and its new edition (4th ed.) New Issues Facing Christian Today (2006). This book is instrumental in helping me to move into studying and understanding the engagement of Christianity with culture and morality. It moves me into biomedical ethics and Christ-and-culture studies which I am doing now.
One of the highlights of my time in Edinburgh while doing my specialist training is to take the intercity train down to London to listen to John Stott preach at All Souls [Anglican Church] at Langham Place. I also took a course by John Stott at his London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. The London Institute inspired me to set up the Spiritual Formation Institute in Holy Light Church (English) eight years ago.
Through the years, I continue to be inspired by Stott. I read all his writings, listen to or watch the videos of all his sermons, lectures and talks that I can get my hands on. Stott is a prolific writer, publishing at least 50 books. He never married but devoted his life to his ministry. He lived a simple life, donating the royalties from his books to Langham Partnership International (known as John Stott Ministries in the US) which he started in 1974. This organisation serves to improve preaching and teaching of the Bible in the third world. He rejected promotion to become a bishop of the Anglican Church, preferring to remain vicar of All Souls so that he can devote all his time and energy to teaching and preaching the Word. He is instrumental in the drafting of the Lausanne Covenant in 1974 which is a boost to world mission. In a way, John Stott’s life calls to mind the title of one of Eugene Peterson’s book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. Though Peterson is talking about the biblical David, the concept of faithfulness in obedience may equally be applied to Stott.
The Radical Disciple: Some Neglected Aspects of Our Calling (2010), his last book sums up his influence on the evangelical world and also on me personally. The purpose of this book, says Stott, is to consider eight characteristics of discipleship that are often neglected and yet deserve to be taken seriously: nonconformity, Christlikeness, maturity, creation care, simplicity, balance, dependence, and death. Stott went to be with the Lord on 27 July 2011.
Labels: Absent Friends, Personal