IVP - Strangely Dim - John Stott Lives On

July 28, 2011

John Stott Lives On

This week global evangelicalism lost its great uncle. John Stott was as important to the church in the remotest corners of the Majority World as he was to the great halls of the Church of England. He was equal parts measured and gracious and forceful, as profound in person as he was in print. I had the opportunity to meet him twice but only mustered up the moxie once; when I did he shook my hand and said my name and made me feel better about myself, better about our collective future.

While IVP has published more Stott books than any other publisher in the world, he's never authored a Likewise book. That's not because he couldn't; in fact, with the author's name left off, a cataloger of IVP titles might be forgiven for assuming that The Radical Christian or The Living Church belonged in the Likewise section. We sometimes think of Stott as the forerunner to our Likewise authors, who like him treasure the Scriptures and love the world and long to see the two meaningfully and fruitfully commingled. Jamie Arpin-Ricci, for example, expresses a debt to Stott's commentary on the Sermon on the Mount as he wraps up his forthcoming Likewise book The Cost of Community.

He was truly one of the most influential men of our age and will continue to be for generations to come. . . . His book "The Message of the Sermon on the Mount" . . . launched me into the life and teachings of Jesus like I had never before.

Jamie is one of many in our Likewise line who see the life of the mind as integral to our discipleship, but who refuse to allow our discipleship to be mere intellectual exercise or, perhaps worse, mere private practice. In those refusals, they are a kind of legacy for Stott, some of the inheritors of his pastoral charge and missional vision.

In the spring of 2010 we released a book about John Stott, Roger Steer's Basic Christian. I wrote a post about an excerpt from that book, titled "A Serious Act of Solidarity." I repost it here today as a token tribute of our great uncle, who lives on in the kingdom of God and in the memories of those of us still aching to see it.


Working at InterVarsity Press, you can't help but be into John Stott. The history of IVP is incomplete without his Basic Christianity, The Cross of Christ and countless other titles, and his approach to writing has shaped the approach of countless other of our writers. So yeah, I dig John Stott. But I always thought of him as a "scholar-pastor," not as a punk--until I read this, from Roger Steer's biography Basic Christian:

Basic Christian.JPGEver since he was a teenager at Rugby when he had founded his Association for the Benefit of the Community, John had felt a concern for those who were rejected by society. But what would it really be like to be one of London's underclass? John decided to try to get some idea. He stopped shaving for several days until he had a stubbly beard and put on some very old clothes. He still had his wartime identity card and, having put this in his shoe, set off to make the dramatic transition from Queen Anne Street to the Embankment area on the north bank of the River Thames.

He spent his first night under the arches of Charing Cross Bridge surrounded by tramps. He lay down in the company of men and women whose only covering, apart from their clothes, was newspapers. He didn't get much sleep. The pavement was hard. Men were coming and going, some very drunk and making a lot of noise. It was November 1946 and very cold.

Hard-core, no? This wasn't urban tourism or reconnaissance for gentrification; this was frontline missiological research, a serious act of solidarity.

As light dawned and the sun came up he was relieved that the new day was sunny and dry, though the air was crisp. He called at a number of the old ABC teashops where employees were kneeling outside scrubbing the steps. He had deliberately brought no money with him.

"Can ya gimme a job for a cup o'tea?" he asked in the best Cockney accent he could muster. "Or even spare a breakfast?"

When nobody took pity on him, he began to feel rejected. He walked into the East End of London and, since he had had little sleep, lay down in the sunshine on one of the many bomb sites. Rosebay willow herb was growing in profusion, making a reasonably soft bed, and he fell asleep.

When evening came, he made his way to the Whitechapel Salvation Army hostel for the homeless and queued for a bed. When he got to the window where you booked, the officer in charge was brusque with the man in front of him. Momentarily, John forgot who he was meant to be that day.

"As a Salvation Army officer," he burst out, "you ought to try to win that man for Christ and not treat him like that!"

The officer looked at him sharply, wondering who he was, but said nothing.

No wonder Stott has become so influential the world over. No wonder his readers and students and congregants and biographers alike hold him in such high regard. For John Stott, the gospel isn't something to be merely appreciated; it's to be embraced and embodied. Likewise, the world isn't something to be dissected; it's a place to be loved and served. 

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at July 28, 2011 2:19 PM Bookmark and Share

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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