John Stott (1921-2011): Model Missional Pastor-Theologian

Yesterday, John Stott died at the age of ninety. Stott was one of a handful of men who helped bring about an evangelical renaissance in North America and the British Isles during the middle years of the twentieth century. Of that generation of giants, Billy Graham and J. I. Packer are the only two who haven’t yet departed to be with their Lord.

Numerous tributes have already been written about Stott; no doubt many more will follow. By God’s grace, he accomplished much for the kingdom during his long life. In this post, I want to focus on one aspect of Stott’s ministry that I hope continues to be replicated among my peers who are serving in pastoral ministry. John Stott was an exemplary model of a missional pastor-theologian.

Unlike his friend Packer, Stott never served as a professor in a theological college or seminary. Stott was a Church of England clergyman who served for thirty years on the pastoral staff of All Souls Church, Langham Place, London. He became a model for consecutive expository preaching, and along with his older contemporary (and sometimes rival) Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Stott helped bring about a renewed interest in expositional preaching among evangelicals. His ministry was also marked by a healthy marriage of intentional evangelism and cultural engagement, along with a burden that the gospel be preached to the uttermost parts of the earth. These emphases are reflected in the many books Stott wrote and the ministries he launched in the years following his retirement from full-time pastoral ministry.

Stott was a prolific author who wrote or edited fifty-two books and contributed hundreds of articles to other books and periodicals. Among his better-known books are numerous biblical commentaries, each of which evidence the fruit of his own expositional preaching ministry. Most of his commentaries were published in IVP’s widely used The Bible Speaks Today series; Stott edited the New Testament volumes. Along similar lines, he also wrote an excellent preaching textbook, Between Two Worlds: The Challenge of Preaching Today (Eerdmans, 1982). No serious preacher of God’s Word should leave this book unread.

One of his most influential books is Christian Mission in the Modern World, first published in 1975. In 1974, Billy Graham convened a meeting of 2700 evangelical leaders in Lausanne, Switzerland for an International Conference on World Evangelization. Stott delivered a plenary address and chaired the committee that drafted the Lausanne Covenant, one of the most important documents produced by evangelicals in the past half century (read Stott’s commentary on the Lausanne Covenant). Christian Mission in the Modern World further expounds upon the vision of the Lausanne Covenant by arguing for a vision of missions that weds bold proclamation and sacrificial service, the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.

Stott continued to be a leading advocate of global missions in the years following his retirement in 1975. For example, he founded Langham Partnership International, known as John Stott Ministries in the USA. Langham Partnership is a ministry devoted to serving Christians in the Majority World through training pastors in expositional preaching, translating and distributing evangelical literature, and providing scholarships for gifted Christian scholars to pursue advanced theological training. He also continued to link missions with Christ-centered cultural engagement, especially through the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, which Stott founded in 1982.

Stott also taught two generations of Christians about the gospel. His book Basic Christianity, first published in 1969, is considered an evangelical classic. I’ve met several individuals who either came to Christ of were first taught the core beliefs of the Christian faith through this important book. Undoubtedly his most important theological book is his classic The Cross of Christ, first published in 1986. The Cross of Christ is a robust defense of penal substitutionary atonement, a doctrine that Stott well understood is at the heart of the biblical gospel. Stott challenges the ever-popular notion that alternative models of the atonement (some of which are also biblical) should replace the biblical truth that God’s just wrath against human sin was poured out on Jesus Christ when he offered himself as our sinless substitute.

John Stott was by no means perfect. I strongly disagree with his sympathies for annihilationism and I’m not convinced he was right in his famous debate with Lloyd-Jones on the question of whether or not evangelicals should separate from the Church of England (I go back and forth on the latter). Nevertheless, on the whole I believe Stott is an excellent role model for young pastors who desire to wed expositional preaching with a commitment to global missions and cultural engagement. I pray the Lord will raise up a new generation of pastors who will write books, articles, and blog posts that help the church reflect on these issues. There would be no more appropriate way to honor John Stott, a brother who was arguably the most important missional pastor-theologian among evangelicals in the last fifty years. Thank God for his life and ministry.

Making Friends for Christ: A Practical Approach to Relational Evangelism

Wayne is best known for being a practitioner, advocate, and teacher of expositional preaching. His most well-known books are probably his two preaching textbooks: The Twelve Essential Skills for Great Preaching, 2d. ed. (B&H Academic, 2006) and The Moment of Truth: A Guide to Effective Sermon Delivery (B&H Academic, 1999). Both of these textbooks are used in numerous seminaries and colleges. Wayne has also mentored dozens of doctoral students over the years, most of whom serve as pastors of local Southern Baptist churches.

Recently, Wayne has authored a second updated edition of his 1980 book Making Friends for Christ: A Practical Approach to Relational Evangelism (Xulon Press, 2010). This is a very good book. Rather than arguing for another outreach program that focuses on impersonal, spontaneous evangelism, Wayne argues that we should befriend others for the sake of the gospel. He also provides some practical advice for how we can be better friends, neighbors, listeners, and ultimately evangelists. While the entire book is helpful, many readers will especially resonate with his exposition of the Great Commission (a timely topic among Southern Baptists!), his advice for how to overcome relational barriers, his discussion of the relationship between prayer and evangelism, and his wisdom about the role that families and churches play in relational evangelism.

The basic information of the book can be found below. I would urge you to purchase a copy of Making Friends for Christ for yourself and maybe consider using it in your Sunday School class, small group, or local church outreach ministry. I would also encourage you to check out Wayne’s personal website, http://www.waynemcdill.net/, for other helpful resources related to preaching and evangelism.

Author: Wayne McDill
Title: Making Friends for Christ: A Practical Approach to Relational Evangelism, 2d. ed.
Publisher: Xulon Press
Pages: xi + 168
Chapters: 10 + preface and conclusion
Retail: $14.99
Amazon.com: $11.69 (22% off)mobil

Five Preaching Role Models, Part 2

In my last post, I shared my conviction that preachers become better preachers primarily through two means: regular pulpit experience and learning from good preaching role models. I shared my first two role models, Drs. Adrian Rogers and Jerry Vines. I continue in many ways to be shaped by their early example. It was a great joy to enroll in seminary and finally have the chance to hear both of these brothers preach in person. I was only able to hear Dr. Rogers once, about a week before he entered into his heavenly reward. I’ve now heard Dr. Vines preach several times, and I hope to hear him several more.

My other three key preaching role models are a little different. One of them primarily influenced me through a handful of sermons rather than regular preaching. The other was, until relatively recently, probably better known for his teaching than his preaching. The final one is my current pastor.

John Piper

I have a confession. Though it may surprise some readers, I am not someone who has listened to thousands of John Piper sermons. But even though I’ve never been a regular listener to his preaching ministry, Dr. Piper has definitely influenced me in a couple of ways.

In 1998, I was a college sophomore who was invited by a friend to attend a Passion Conference in Dallas with his university’s Baptist Collegiate Ministry. While I enjoyed the whole conference, I was blown away when this short fellow wearing a suit-clearly not one of the “cool” speakers-stepped behind the podium and delivered what for me was a life-changing sermon. He spoke about being part of a generation that would give up anything for the gospel, a generation where everyone was a missionary, a generation where we valued Christ more than the American Dream. I was gripped, and over the next several months I managed to get hold of another couple of Dr. Piper’s sermons that addressed similar themes.

As I’ve reflected on those sermons over the years, the word that most often comes to mind is gravity. Yes, Dr. Piper was passionate. Yes, he was expositional. Yes, he was evangelistic. Yes, he was theological. But the total package produced sermons that brought the gravity of the gospel to life, at least for me. While Dr. Piper didn’t really influence my preaching style, his example did cause me to have a heightened appreciation for what the Holy Spirit can accomplish through the preaching of the Word. Though I’ve probably heard a couple dozen of his sermons over the years, it only took the first couple to get the point across.

Russ Moore

When Leah and I moved to Louisville to attend Southern Seminary, we heard a lot of people talking about Russ Moore. I knew who he was from the then-recent book Why I Am a Baptist (which he co-edited with Tom Nettles), but I didn’t know anything about him. The summer before I began classes, we joined Ninth and O Baptist Church. At that time, Dr. Moore was teaching the young adults Sunday School class we joined and was in a rotation of men who preached on Sunday evenings. During my two years in Louisville, I heard him preach at least ten or twelve times at either the church or in chapel, in addition to his very sermonish weekly Bible teaching in Sunday School and his often homiletically inclined theology classes at the seminary. Dr. Moore is now a preaching pastor at Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, where he preaches weekly.

Russ Moore is a fantastic preacher who modeled at least two habits that have fundamentally shaped my preaching. First, he modeled how to preach the whole Bible as a Christ-centered grand narrative of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration-the true story of the world. Second, he had a knack for application. When Dr. Moore preaches, he doesn’t just throw in a trite point or two of practical application. He overtly makes application both spiritual and practical, and it is clear he spends time thinking about how many ways and to how many different types of people the sermon’s text can be applied. (As an aside, he also has the spiritual gift of clever sermon titles, but as I am far less creative than Dean Moore, I’ve long given up on attempting to follow his example in this regard.)

Andy Davis

Almost five years ago, Leah and I joined the First Baptist Church of Durham, NC. Our pastor, Andy Davis, is a great preacher who in many ways represents for me a mixture of the very best of all the other key preaching role models who’ve influenced me. Like Dr. Rogers and Dr. Vines, he’s an evangelistic expositor who takes Scripture seriously. Like Dr. Piper, there is a consistent gravity to his preaching that affects almost everyone who regularly sits under his preaching. Like Dr. Moore, he is a “big picture” expositor who understands that Scripture is also a story of promise and fulfillment, with Jesus Christ at the center of the plot.

The major thing that Andy has modeled for me is effective illustration. All of the men I’ve mentioned are good illustrators, but Leah and I are consistently amazed at the ways that Andy illustrates the vital points of his sermons. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a terrible illustrator. I mean, I really stink at it. So I am consistently encouraged and challenged by the creative ways that Andy finds real life examples to illustrate the timeless truths of the gospel. In addition, he is also utterly unflashy-he lets the Word do the work. The longer I preach, the more and more I become aware of how little preaching has to do with my own labors and talents and how much it has to do with God working through His man expounding His Word to His people for His glory.

In closing, there are many other men who have positively influenced my preaching. Current and former South Georgia preachers such as my former pastors John Clough and David Drake and my friends Mike Stone and Don Hattaway have all been excellent role models. In seminary, Danny Akin, Hershael York, Stephen Rummage, and especially my former pastor Bill Cook were influential. Dozens of chapel speakers have helped shape me over the years. In addition to Dr. Akin, several of my current colleagues at SEBTS continue to influence my own preaching with their fine examples. And in this day of podcasts and internet sermons, I’ve benefitted greatly from the preaching of men like Lig Duncan, Sinclair Ferguson, Matt Chandler, David Platt, Phil Newton, and Tim Keller.