"All true Christian preaching is expository preaching," said John Stott, whose determination to open Scripture to thousands led an evangelical revival in Great Britain and influenced Christians worldwide through more than 60 years of preaching and writing. He died outside London at age 90 on July 27.
Benjamin Homan, president of John Stott Ministries, told the Associated Press in a phone interview that Stott's health had deteriorated sharply in recent weeks and he had been in severe pain: "His body was just wearing out." Stott's close friends and associates were at his bedside reading Scripture and listening to Handel's Messiah when he died in the afternoon, according to All Souls Langham Place, the church he attended as a child, then led as curate and rector after he was ordained by the Church of England in 1945.
Among his more than 50 books, the best known is Basic Christianity, which has been translated into more than 60 languages and has sold more than 2.5 million copies. His most recent, The Radical Disciple: Some Neglected Aspects of Our Calling, was published in 2010. Few in his audience knew that the well-known scholar was also an expert bird-watcher, who photographed birds all over the world and authored a book on the hobby, Birds, Our Teachers.
Stott was considered the leading evangelical expositor of his time. He was a primary framer of the 1974 Lausanne Covenant, a declaration of beliefs and an assertion of evangelicalism as a global movement. The document at the time was considered a milestone in the rise of evangelical Christianity worldwide. Stott was unable to attend the most recent Lausanne Congress, held in Cape Town last year, but sent written greetings and was the subject of a lengthy tribute before nearly 5,000 delegates from around the world. Lausanne Movement executive chair Douglas Birdsall said Stott was going over the most recent Lausanne documents "line by line" when he spoke to him by phone several weeks ago.
"Perhaps more than any other person in the last century, John Stott restored confidence in the authority of God's Word and in the centrality of biblical preaching and teaching," said Birdsall in a statement released upon Stott's death. "He inspired many evangelicals around the world to make a robust and clear affirmation of biblical truth while at the same time emphasizing that this must be backed up with a distinctive, godly Christian life."
Known as "Uncle John" to the many people he worked with, Stott was a lifelong bachelor who funneled his book royalties into scholarships, especially for students from developing countries, many of whom went on to lead evangelical movements where they lived. Said Birdsall: "He leaves friends everywhere."
His friends were not limited to Christian circles. After a 2004 article about Stott authored by David Brooks ran in The New York Times, singer Paul Simon asked Brooks to introduce him to Stott. The two eventually had tea together for several hours in Stott's modest two-room apartment. Simon began by complaining about specific members of the religious right, until Stott interrupted him to say, "I am more interested in what you think of Jesus Christ." Simon later phoned Brooks to thank him for the introduction.
When one spent time with Stott, said Michael Cromartie, who directs the Evangelical Studies Project at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and was a friend of over 30 years, "he made you feel you had been friends, and were going to be friends, all your life. And so he was . . . no pretense, no ego, never in a hurry, always eager to know, 'How are you doing, my brother?' He was, quite simply, the most Christ-like man I have ever met."
-with reporting by Mickey McLean and the Associated Press