John R. W. Stott, a key architect of 20th-century evangelicalism, turns 90 on April 27. Mark your calendar to thank God that day for the man known around the world as "Uncle John."
Stott's friends have geared up for the event by sharing their memories in two book projects. Curiously, InterVarsity Press asked me—not in any way a Stott expert—to write the foreword for the U.S. editions of both books.
February 2010 saw the publication of Basic Christian: The Inside Story of John Stott. Historian Roger Steer collected anecdotes from dozens of colleagues and friends and wove them into an engaging narrative.
March 2011 will see the U.K. publication of another exercise in recollection, a book that was Stott's own idea. Langham Partnership international director Christopher Wright says Stott "felt a more personal picture could be painted by those who knew him more intimately over the years—and he insisted" it should show "warts and all." Stott asked Wright to solicit the contributions and said "he did not wish to read any of the contributions himself, in order that people should feel free to speak the truth as they saw it." Stott also asked that the book not be published until after his death, but his publisher insisted on preparing it for his 90th birthday. Unfortunately, U.S. readers must wait until the fall for Portraits of a Radical Disciple, as the American edition will be called.
As I read the manuscripts for these books, one thing—or more precisely, one pair of things—struck me repeatedly: Stott's discernment and discipline. John Stott's enormous influence on evangelicalism, in England, America, and around the globe, was possible because he prayerfully discerned what God wanted him to do (and not ...