Like many British evangelicals, my life has been significantly influenced by the work of Dr. John Stott, who died yesterday.
As a late teenager, I was invited to church by a schoolfriend of mine. There the curate talked to me and in due course gave me one of John Stott’s books, Basic Christianity. It was reading this book that encouraged me to take my first steps in the Christian faith and make a commitment to Jesus Christ.
A few years later I attended the second National Evangelical Anglican Congress (NEAC 2) at which John Stott was, naturally it seemed, a keynote speaker. Those of us attending had been encouraged to read a number of papers in preparation for the discussions at the conference, and to which John had contributed. Although the details are now somewhat hazy in my memory, the fact that these contributions were always clear and well thought-through remains vivid. I learned that, ten years earlier, it was his voice that had encouraged many evangelicals to stay within the Church of England (and other denominations) when many others were urging separation into the newly-emerging independent house/community church movement.
Although considered by many to be a stalwart of conservative evangelicalism, one of the things I found impressive was that he did not shrink from questioning long-cherished assumptions if he came to believe they were not biblical. One of these assumptions was the notion of hell as being the destination of eternal torment, and when his view became public sometime in the 1990s (I think) it caused something of a furore in the evangelical world. In spite of this, he remained as a much-loved and much revered figure.
Others will, I know, have more personal reminiscences and tributes to pay. Here I just want to record my own personal thanks for the life and ministry of a great man to whom Doug Chaplin (Clayboy) has referred as “the non-evangelical’s evangelical.”