A guest post by Wesley Hill:
My first encounter with Stott happened during my senior year of high school. Once I knew I'd be attending Wheaton College the following year, I went on the college's website and downloaded a couple of their recent chapel sermons. The first one I heard was given by John Stott. I don't remember much of what he said, but I do remember that the chapel service ended with an "open mic" time of Q & A. In response to each question, Stott would quote a passage of Scripture from memory that he took to be relevant to the student's question and would then try to make the connection between them. Even today, that memory is exhilarating: to think of knowing the Bible so deeply so as to quote it off the cuff and to think of having the pastoral sensitivity to apply it to a student's urgent question makes me want to model my own ministry off that practice.
My next encounter, so to speak, with John Stott was meeting a guy in my freshman dorm whose dad had been on staff at All Souls in London and had known Stott well. This fellow student, who became a close friend of mine in college (we're still good friends to this day), grew up calling Stott "Uncle John," along with everyone else who had met Stott personally. As I was mentored by this student, I learned about M'Cheyne's plan for daily Bible reading, which Uncle John had introduced to him. Through my friend's influence, it became my Bible reading plan, too, and one of the key ways I learned the sweep of the biblical story of redemption.
My third encounter with Stott came my senior year of college when I read The Cross of Christ, what many consider to be Stott's magnum opus. Much of that year I'd spent delving into technical works of New Testament scholarship, but as I read Stott, I found that his relatively non-technical exegesis and engagement of theological themes was just as compelling and energizing for me as anything I'd recently read. His expositions weren't academic but nor were they cheap and hasty; here was a simple outline of the heart of Christianity, and I still return to that book for that reason.
My final encounter with Stott came when a former pastor of mine, now college chaplain at Taylor University in Indiana, invited me to drive down from Minnesota, where I was then living, to attend the inaugural Charles Simeon sermon series, to be held annually at Taylor. John Stott was the opening preacher. By then in his upper 80s, he broke frequently in the middle of his sermon for awkward pauses. But the expositions were still clear and invigorating. For me as a young Christian leader in training, at that time an apprentice at a church, I felt such admiration for Stott. Here was someone I could look up to, someone who was near the end of his life having spent decades telling people about Jesus' love for them -- his death on the cross, his resurrection on Easter morning, and his present plea to all people everywhere to come make their home in His grace. After the first sermon Stott preached at Taylor, I went up to him to shake his hand and say thank you. I won't forget his kindness on that occasion. More than that, I won't forget the way he's spurred me on to love the Jesus he preached for years. I'll miss you, Uncle John.
Wesley Hill, a dear friend, is pursuing a Ph.D. in New Testament studies at Durham University, UK. His book, Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality, is available from Zondervan.