The Basic Christian: John Stott

Stott.jpgChristians shaped during the 70s and 80s are more often than not shaped by John R.W. Stott. I know I was. It may be a sign of aging to be disappointed when I mention Stott and the person asks, “Who?” In 70s and 80s many of us couldn’t wait for the next exposition of Scripture to fall from the pen of Stott and land at IVP.

What’s your favorite book by John Stott?

But Stott was not one to tell his readers much about his personal life, and that is why perhaps there are already two biographies of Stott (and he’s still alive, though very frail). The newest one is for those who love Stott and for those who need to know about Stott and don’t know much about him, and I can’t recommend it more: Basic Christian: The Inside Story of John Stott
Preachers need this biography because they need nectar from one who has preached weekly for years. I would also urge seminarians today to purchase and read this book, and I say this because this book will give them a handle for why 50 and 60somethings think the way they do.
The signal contribution of this biography is its focus on the inner fabric of the story connected to the life of John Stott. It’s not just the facts; its the use of those facts in formulating what he was like, what he was doing, and what was being accomplished. Timothy Dudley-Smith’s two volume set (John Stott: The Making of a Leader : A Biography : The Early Years
and John Stott: A Global Ministry: A Biography of the Later Years, Vol. 2
) will always be the massive collection of facts, but I suspect Steer’s will become the pastor’s favorite.
Here you will learn about his secretary, Frances Whitehead, and about The Hookses, his retreat place where he did much of his writing and thinking, and about where and how he wrote his books, and then through it all his speaking and continued development of a global outreach and exposition of Scripture. Including his incredible ministry through Urbana. The story includes his conflicts with Martin Lloyd-Jones and Billy Graham … 
A great book. Buy it.
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  • Clay Knick

    Favorite book: “The Cross of Christ.”

  • I agree…”The Cross of Christ”!

  • Yes, maybe that’s my favorite of his as well.
    Sounds interesting. I know when I was in Bible College as a young Christian in 1975 there was no author whose writings people looked more forward to, than Stott. A careful and refreshing exegete. Pastoral and solidly interacting from the text of Scripture.
    Your Mind Matters is a prime example of what I looked forward to the most from Stott. Grounded in Scripture and challenging us on what Scripture tells us about the consecration and use of our minds- the importance of that, as I recall.
    So many other important books by him, like Between Two Worlds which speaks clearly and compellingly of the importance of pastors knowing both the biblical world and the world they live in to properly prepare to preach and pastor.
    Just two books among many. Everyone is unique, but he was certainly prominent in his day in the evangelical world.

  • Just got the book this week. Look forward to reading it.

  • A hard one to call.
    I remember Issues Facing Christians Today as the first book I’d read as a young Christian that opened up how to think about how the Bible speaks into contemporary culture. But any of his commentaries are great. The Cross of Christ hard to leave out.
    What a wonderful legacy of ministry: so many really good books; consistently gracious; genuinely humble and Christ centred; mission focused; and the initiator of many influential ministries like the Langham Partnership and the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity to name but two. Talk about running the race well until the end ….

  • Boy, I love John. He was my very first theological influence after coming to the Faith. I probably owe a lot of my approach to social justice (as a “basic”) to him. Great choice, brother!

  • Scot, just put this book in my Amazon cart. Stott’s Between Two Worlds was significant for me. In fact, I read the book on three different occasions. I was so impressed with his heart, his sense of calling, and his thinking. He approached ministry seriously. I later taught a ministry class for seven years as an adjunct. Each semester, students read through this wonderful work.
    I look forward to reading this biography.

  • Tough one!
    I’d have to go with “Your Mind Matters” due to its timeless call for Christians to love Christ with their minds as well as their hearts.
    Thanks for the biography nudge; I need to pick that one up!
    Grace and peace,

  • Kenton

    Haven’t read much J.S., but I read one that was called, not “basic”, but *Balanced* Christianity. Short – almost a mini-book – and I think it’s now out of print, but was a great read.

  • Scot McKnight

    Jim, yes, I agree Between Two Worlds was big for me too.
    Kenton, few know that book. I read it late in college, if I remember aright, and loved it. His classic form of balance.

  • JoanieD

    I just recently read a post by Michael Patten where he listed John Stott as one of the people who most influenced him and the book The Cross of Christ as a most influential book. So I got the book and only started it before I decided to read a couple others first. But I can tell that I, too, will appreciate Stott.

  • Bob Hartley

    I heard Stott preach at TEDS, while a student there, on the prepositions preceding “Christ” found in Paul. This was around 1979-80. I was mesmerized by his easy style and thoughtful insights.

  • James

    early in my work in the church i took an online course on the pastoral epistles. The course included a lengthy set of lectures by Stott on these letters. It was formative and informative for a young buckaroo in the ministry. Great stuff. Probably still a great course for people who want some encouragement and insight when in church work.

  • Calvin Chen

    Thanks for the shoutout to Urbana and IVP – wish we’d had you at IVLI this summer!

  • Dan Reid

    Back in 2004 David Brooks of the New York Times characterized Stott as one known for “thoughtful allegiance” to Scripture and “a voice that is friendly, courteous and natural . . . humble and self-critical, but also confident, joyful and optimistic” (David Brooks, “Who Is John Stott.” New York Times, November 30, 2004, p. 23). Wouldn’t it be something if that were the general public impression of evangelical leaders then and today?

  • Christopher Wright

    Thanks to Patrick for mentioning the Langham Partnership as one of the outstanding and long-lasting legacies of John Stott. It serves the global church in multiple ways – to strengthen theological education through facilitating faculty development of evangelical seminaries in the majority world; by providing and helping to create good literature for pastors who have very little; and by hands-on training in the skills of biblical preaching in more than 50 countries round the world.
    John Stott named it at its birth (in 1969) after the street in London where his church stands – All Souls Church, Langham Place. But in the USA, they changed its name (much against John’s own wishes!) to John Stott Ministries, and that is where you can find out all about the work – and lots more about him, including complete bibliography. All the royalties from John Stott’s books for the past 40 years have gone into the Langham Literature fund, to help pastors in the poorer world. So if you’ve bought a Stott book – thanks very much for your contribution!!

  • Bob Smallman

    My favorite Stott book is usually the latest one I’m reading; but put me down for “The Cross of Christ,” with his Tyndale NT Commentary on “The Epistles of John” a close second.
    My favorite quote: “A sermon should last 20 minutes . . . or feel like it!”
    Let me also recommend Dudley-Smith’s “Authentic Christianity” (IVP). It’s a collection of brief quotations from Stott’s works.

  • Just one story, we have a good friend who lived in a shipping container in the bush in Ethiopia – as a nurse doing the job of two M.D.’s. She got a call that she was going to have visitors for the night. She thought, I am exhausted, I have worked all day with patients, I cannot handle this. Now I must cook dinner, get the beds ready… In walks an elderly gentleman who says “Hi I am John” or something like that. It was John Stott – she had no idea he was coming. Was in the area to teach rural pastors and had come to do some birdwatching. They spent an evening in Bible study and encouragement for Nancy, who was often alone running the clinic, taking care of 100s of people. He is the Real Thing through and through!