Once, John R.W. Stott and I had lunch together. That may or may not impress you. It should. Hence, the name-dropping.
If you’re not familiar with the name, John Stott was one of the most influential leaders of the Christian church in the 20th and 21st centuries. He was a renowned theologian, prolific author and faithful communicator of Scripture, who spent much of his life serving one church, All Souls Church in London. But he also served the global church and preached all over the world. He challenged evangelicals everywhere to not just preach the gospel boldly, but to live boldly and Biblically, and to demonstrate the love of Jesus by caring for the poor and disenfranchised.
Throughout 70 years of ministry, Stott wrote numerous books, one of which–Basic Christianity–is a book that every believer should read. I remember reading it for the first time when I was a working at a camp as a college student, and it rocked my world.
As for having lunch with him, a little context might help. I was one of a couple of dozen pastors at a luncheon with Dr. Stott at Samford’s Beeson Divinity School, about fifteen years ago. He had been invited to give a series of lectures at the school, and I was invited to a special luncheon with him because of my involvement in supervised ministry of students at Beeson. There were several tables of pastors, but somehow he and I were seated at the same table, across from one another. Something tells me it wasn’t quite as memorable for him as it was for me.
I was reminded of that lunch, and the conversation we had, when the news came that John Stott died a few months back. He was a humble and quiet man, an unassuming gentleman if there ever was one. He certainly had no reason to give someone like me much attention, but he did, and I never forgot that. But that was consistent with the way he lived his whole life.
Dr. Stott was “Christian” in every sense of the word. He lived the gospel he taught, and though he was up in his years, he finished strong. I read that in the final days of his life, when he was confined to bed, knowing that his time on earth was nearing an end, he asked for two things. One, to hear Handel’s Messiah over and over. Two, for a friend to read again and again from one book of the Bible: 2 Timothy. Just like the apostle Paul, John Stott was prepared to say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
I sure hope I can say those same words one day. But that won’t happen at the end of my life, if it doesn’t happen in the middle (or wherever in my life I am). So, I fight, I run, I keep the faith, where I am, while I can. And I hope you do as well.
I am praying for you, as I trust you are for me, and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.