15 December 2017

End of an Era

The name of John Stott will be known to many of you as an author, preacher and perhaps one of the most influential leaders of the evangelical christian church in the late 20th Century. When he passed from this life into the immediate presence of his Lord and Saviour on the 27th July his gain was our loss, a loss felt most acutely by his immediate family and his church family at All Souls, Langham Place in London.

Many words of tribute have been written about this great man over the past few weeks and I can not add to those, nor would I try. However let me share with you my personal experience of his passing.

My wife and I happened to be in London on the day of his funeral and decided to go and pay our respects to someone for whom we had great admiration, even though we had never met him. His book on Ephesians, ‘God’s New Society’ had a huge influence on me in my early years as a Christian, transforming my thinking about how we live as Christians in a modern world.

The funeral was one of the most uplifting and inspiring services I have ever attended. The sense of celebration of a life well lived to the glory of God was amazing and the praise and worship were a real expression of thanksgiving to God for a wonderful man who was an example to us all. As you can imagine, the music and singing were a joy and the tributes were outstanding, both in the insight that they gave into the life of the man but also the genuine affection and admiration in which he was held. If you have the time they are well worth listening to on the “All Souls” website: www.allsouls.org

Even before the service began, as we queued outside, people shared fond memories of the man known to so many as simply, ‘Uncle John.’ Stories were told of his ability to listen to people whom he had never met before and make them feel as if they were the most important person he had ever met, a unique gift. When asked how he had the patience in the midst of his busyness to listen to complete strangers his reply was that he saw them as souls whom God had created, for whom Christ had died and in whom the Holy Spirit lived. Hearing those words has challenged me profoundly as to how I treat others and I’m sure it will you too.

The staff of “All Souls” where John had ministered all his working life, were wonderful, with the pastoral team meeting and greeting all the mourners. Both Rico Tice, Associate Minister for Evangelism and Hugh Palmer the Rector, walked down the queue to thank people for coming and share in their grief. Rico shared what he described as being his indelible memory of John, as we chatted on the pavement outside. He told me how, on that last day, he had gone to visit John unaware of how low he was and of how, in his weakness, the one person he reached out to was a Filipino nurse. “So like Uncle John, always thinking of the people others ignored.” What a lovely testimony. Rico continued, “It’s like losing a Father, our prayer is that God will raise up someone else to unite us for the future.”

The passing of Rev Dr John Stott marks the end of an era, but for me his most lasting legacy will not be the books he wrote, the organisations he founded or his ministry as a great preacher and teacher, but rather his Christlike example in his conduct and the grace and love with which he treated all he met.

Rejoice Always