Inside MAI Blog: Thoughts on global publishing

John Stott: A portrait by his friends

By guest blogger, Tony Wales

My memories of John Stott go back to the late 1950s when I first attended the All Souls Autumn Bible School, and more than 10 years later when I worshipped at All Souls Church (photo at right). This gave me the chance to witness John’s ministry and example firsthand.

On one occasion I was invited to the birthday party of Ted Schroeder, our curate, in the basement of the Weymouth Street Rectory. When the party was noisily under way, John made a cautious appearance. Ted energetically welcomed him and insisted he meet some of the crowd. I had brought my flatmate, an art historian, Graham Birtwistle, and introduced John to Graham. After a momentary thoughtful look, John said without a trace of affectation: “Ah, Graham Birtwistle . You’re on my prayer list’.” Graham’s startled response was “How can that be? We don’t know each other!”

More than 10 years earlier, while studying at Manchester, Graham had been chosen to pick up John Stott from the train station. John was to be the main speaker at the University Christian Union’s mission that week. They spent 20 minutes or so together in the car enroute to John’s accommodations. They had had no further contact until that moment more than 10 years later at the party!

Since then, I have often wondered how extensive that prayer list was and at the faithfulness of the man who prayed for so many. I cannot help but think that I too was on that list.

About 20 years later, long after I had left All Souls, my father sent a donation toward John’s considerable overseas travel costs. My father’s name was Thurston but his cheque and accompanying note were simply signed T. Wales. The following week, I received a letter from John thanking me very much for my generosity. I had to swiftly clarify that he had the wrong T. Wales!

Again, I was struck by the remarkable recall of a man to whom I owe an immeasurable debt for his teaching and example. A man who many would consider the  greatest churchman of the past century, a greatness as much for his example of humility, love and faithfulness as for his towering gifts of preaching, teaching, evangelism and writing. However, if this is too rich an assessment for some, John pre-empted by many years the so called ‘power nap’ by insisting on a daily ‘horizontal half-hour’! In this also, I now belatedly seek to imitate him.

Now as I try to offer training and encouragement to Christian writers and publishers in the world’s hard places, I find everywhere, whether China, Egypt, Kenya or Serbia, that the zeal of this great servant of the Gospel has gone ahead. He reflects Jesus to me.

Photo of John Stott by Kieran Dodds, Wikipedia

"John Robert Walmsley Stott, CBE (27 April 1921 – 27 July 2011) was an English Christian leader and Anglican cleric who was noted as a leader of the worldwide Evangelical movement. He was one of the principal authors of the Lausanne Covenant in 1974. In 2005, Time magazine ranked Stott among the 100 most influential people in the world (source)".

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