This article originally appeared as the cover story for Christianity Today's January 8, 1996, issue.
Shortcuts to Stott on: 50 Years of Ministry | Evangelism and Social Action | Mainline Churches | Evangelical Fragmentation | Eternal Punishment | Dialogue with Liberals | Evangelicals and Catholics | God and the Poor | The Charismatic Movement | The Toronto Blessing | Anti-Intellectualism | Women's Roles | The Future
John Stott joins together what most people tear asunder—or at least are incapable of holding together. He is a theologian of depth and breadth, yet he preaches and writes with clarity to a wide audience. He integrates social concerns into the mission of the church without ever minimizing his commitment to evangelism. Since he was ordained in 1945, he has ministered within a mainline denomination (the Church of England), while neither compromising his convictions nor diminishing his role as an evangelical thought leader. Engaged in parish ministry for 50 years at All Souls, Langham Place, in the center of London, where he now holds the title rector emeritus, his influence among evangelicals is of international proportions.
One of Stott's enduring legacies is as the key framer of the historic Lausanne Covenant (1974), which serves almost as an evangelical apostles' creed in many Third World settings. His faithful witness to the gospel in his writings and preaching has made him mentor and friend to a global community. The author of 34 books, Stott's primer on the faith, Basic Christianity, has been translated into over 50 languages, and 22 more are in progress.
Speaking of Authentic Christianity, an anthology of his writings from the past 50 years (forthcoming from InterVarsity), evangelical historian Mark Noll serves up this accolade: "I consider John Stott the sanest, clearest, and most solidly biblical living writer on theological topics in the English language." It is difficult to dispute this assessment.
More than his books, documents, or institutions, Stott's most important legacy to the church has been his wisdom. Thoroughly biblical, disarmingly open, shrewdly discerning, Stott's thought has helped guide the evangelical movement as it engaged social concerns, the charismatic movement, female clergy, homosexuality, and challenges to core doctrines. In preparation for Stott's seventy-fifth birthday, Roy McCloughry, associate editor of the British Christian magazine Third Way, interviewed this evangelical Solomon on these and many other topics. The discussion can serve as a measure of where we are as a movement—and where we need to go.
I was very naive when I was ordained. I was more an activist than a thinker. I saw needs and wanted immediately to meet them, and this crowded out my studies.
It was in the early days of my ministry that I learned the necessity of stepping back, looking where I was going, and having a monthly quiet day to be drawn up into the mind of God and look ahead for the next six or twelve months. That was an enormous benefit to me.
You've covered an immense range of issues in your ministry—theological, social, doctrinal, and cultural. Has that been due to curiosity or to obligation as a minister?
A bit of both. Even before my conversion, I believe that God gave me a social conscience. When I was only 14 years old, I started a society at school whose major purpose was to give baths to tramps. I had a great concern for these homeless, dirty men.