By Gordon Govier

John Stott 1921-2011

InterVarsity staff, students, and alumni, are saddened to hear of the passing of John R. W. Stott, Rector Emeritus of All Souls Church in London and Urbana conference expositor from 1964 to 1979.


According to the All Souls Church website, “John Stott died in his retirement home at St. Barnabas College at 3:15pm on Wednesday July 27th. He was surrounded by Frances Whitehead, and a number of good friends. They were reading the Scriptures and listening to Handel’s Messiah when he peacefully went to be with his Lord and Saviour.”



John Stott had a long association with InterVarsity in the U.S., and with the other affiliates of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students. He made his first visit to North America in 1956-57, speaking at campus meetings arranged by InterVarsity students at the University of Michigan, Harvard, Yale, and the University of Illinois. The title of the lecture series was, “What Think Ye of Christ?”



In 1950 InterVarsity Press published Becoming a Christian by John Stott. After that, InterVarsity Press became the major U.S. publisher of Stott’s books, including the classic Basic Christianity. In a statement on the IVP website, publisher Bob Fryling said, “John Stott was not only revered; he was loved. He had a humble mind and a gracious spirit. He was a pastor-teacher whose books and preaching not only became the gold standard for expository teaching, but his Christian character was a model of truth and godliness.”



Stott was invited back to the U.S. to be the Bible Expositor at InterVarsity’s Urbana Student Missions Conference. Thousands heard him at the Urbana conferences on the campus of the University of Illinois in 1964, 1967, 1970, 1973, 1976, and 1979.



John Kyle, who directed several later Urbana conferences, remembered: “Dr. John Alexander, as president of InterVarsity, always encouraged the Urbana Planning Committee to consider having a Bible expositor from outside the USA so students could realize that not all excellent Bible teachers came from the USA.  I recall John Stott as being a quiet, humble minister of the Gospel, who always brought a powerful message from the Bible to challenge all who listened.  He did humbly, yet effectively ‘walk his talk’ on behalf of his Savior Jesus Christ.”



Stott spoke at InterVarsity staff conferences immediately after Urbana on many occasions, and also at InterVarsity’s 50th Anniversary celebration in 1991. He also visited and spoke at InterVarsity’s Cedar Campus Camp and Retreat Center.



Stott was scheduled to return to Urbana 03 to speak on the topic Radical Christianity but health problems prevented his appearance. Instead Joshua Wathanga, Associate General Secretary & Chief Administrative Officer of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students, read Stott’s prepared remarks.



“I personally was impacted by John Stott through meeting him as a Harvard student in 1993,” said Tom Lin, InterVarsity’s Vice President for Missions and Director of Urbana. “During a busy trip to Boston, I was amazed that John invited me and a few other students for a luncheon at the Harvard Faculty Club.  He listened to us and encouraged us in our campus ministry.  His encouragement was one thing God used to call me to God’s global mission.”



Tom learned of the death of John Stott while attending the quadrennial World Assembly of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES) in Krakow, Poland. “John loved two things that InterVarsity and IFES continue to be passionate about – students and God’s global mission.  He challenged students and inspired students to become God’s missionary people and to live for God’s purposes.”



InterVarsity’s audio resources page has a talk by John Stott from Urbana 73 on Jesus Christ and the Authority of the Word of God, plus several short excerpts.



Additional information about John Stott is available from InterVarsity Press, The Langham Partnership, Christianity Today, more reaction from Christianity Today, the Associated Press, the New York Times (Brooks) , the New York Times (Kristof), and other sources. There is also a John Stott memorial website. Several memorial services are planned in the USA, details here.



(Photo: John Stott speaking at Urbana. Twentyonehundred Productions)