Lessons on how to be a better Pastor from the Life of John Stott.

If you’re not familiar with the ministry of Pastor John Stott (1921-2011), then you’re missing out.  Last year while on vacation I read Roger Steer’s illuminating biography on John Stott titled: “Basic Christian The Inside Story of John Stott”.  My first introduction to the work of Rev. John Stott was through his magnum opus, “The Cross of Christ” which served as one of our text books in Dr. MacLeod’s Soteriology class at Emmaus Bible College.  The book is a classic in every sense of the word as its content shall not ever prove to be useless.  Steer’s biography unveils a portrait of a man who was as equally interesting in his humble and Christ-like personal life as he was in his public ministry.  While there are many famous Pastor/authors bumming around our world today, Pastor John Stott stands out in five areas.

1.  Pastor Stott unashamedly preached the authority of the Bible.  He preached from the text the centrality of the Cross of Christ.  And, John Stott did so within a liberal mainline state run denomination (The church of England), showing that Evangelicalism is a movement of Christians who affirm and adhere to the authority of the Holy Scriptures in the midst of many traditions and denominations.

2.  Pastor Stott wrote over 50 books including “The Cross of Christ”, “Basic Christianity”, “Why I am a Christian”, and “The Living Church”.  Much of the royalties from these books were used by the Langham foundation a.k.a John Stott Ministries in large part to purchase…more books to equip men to the ministry in the developing world.

3.  Pastor Stott never got too big for his local Church.  Regardless of how many books he published, how many international conferences he led, or how many crowds abroad he preached too, John Stott was an All Souls man.  Pastor Stott served as the curate (1945-1950), rector (Pastor) (1950-1975), and then rector emeritus (1975-2007) of All Souls Church, London until his retirement from public ministry in 2007.  Despite all his fame he never used the local church as a stepping stone into the untethered quasi netherworld of the churchless teacher/speaker/author/life-coach/leadership-guru-who doesn’t actually lead anything-guy.  This is to be commended and emulated.

4.  Pastor Stott exemplified fruitfulness in Pastoral ministry because of the singleness he was called to, not in spite of it.

5.  Pastor Stott showed us what it looks like to live frugally.  For years the Rev. John Stott lived in a flat built over All Souls rectory’s garage.

Furthermore, we who are called to the Pastorate have in Uncle John a role model for the man of God’s habits:

Hospitable while single: In Roger Steer’s biography on Stott we learn that while at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School as a guest professor the single John Stott lived in married student housing and would practice hospitality by inviting groups of students, 12 at a time to his quarters for coffee and cookies, p. 157.

Mornings and Evenings: Stott was an early riser dedicating his mornings to writing and who adhered to a steady bed time p.147

Books: Although Stott lived in a modest flat in London, he still nonetheless dedicated an entire wall of valuable space to books p. 154.

Details: John Stott was punctual, and had high standards, expecting precision and attention to detail from himself and others p. 174.  Steer’s biography on Stott gives hilarious accounts of his study assistants trying to not sound sleepy after being awaken from slumber by 8am phone calls.

Literature:  P. 174

“One group first read and then came together to discuss John Fowles’ novel, The Magus.  the group was going round the circle saying what they thought of it, one of the members of the group expressed surprise that he had been asked to read the book.

‘I found the book very unhelpful to me as a Christian,’ he said.  ‘There’s far too much sex in it.  I am going to leave the meeting as I have nothing to contribute’

With that, he got up and left the room.  John sat there, let him leave, and then looked up over his glasses.

‘Oh, I think that was most unfortunate,’ he said.  ‘I thought the book was erotic, but not pornographic!’

For years afterwards, people who had been in the group used to say to one another, in a John Stott type of voice, ‘It’s erotic, but not pornographic!”  They felt much comforted by the distinction between these two things which had not previously dawned on them'”

Delegation: John Stott had a loyal secretary, Francis Whithead, as well as numerous study assistants whom made his ministry possible p. 172.

Retreat: Stott did much of his writing at the now famous Hookses, an old farm house by the sea.  However, Stott being Stott: the preacher from London with a world wide congregation, often practiced the gift of hospitality by having people stay at the Hookses, so much so that it became necessary for him to add a small flat to the property to served as an office away from all distraction.  We learn from this that John Stott was called by God to teach, whether it be verbal or written, and for his part, Stott was duty bound to facilitate this work.  And, lest we forget, the Hookses provided an environment most agreeable to Stott’s other passion: bird watching.

Humility in leadership: It was John Stott’s idea to restructure the leadership of  All Souls Church in such a way as to free him up to go to speaking engagements and to write books while not doing a disservice to the people of All Souls Church, by hiring a vicar (or another senior pastor) who would lead the church in vision and preaching.  In all these arrangements Stott was humble and followed the leadership of the new guy.  This meant that disgruntled congregants quickly learned that it would do no good to appeal to Pastor Stott in the event of a disagreement.  Stott even gave the new rector the parsonage and moved into a flat above the garage.  Humble indeed.


There are many more lessons to be learned from the faithfully led life of John Stott, and for this reason I heartily recommend Roger Steer’s, “Basic Christian The Inside Story of John Stott”.





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