"We are grateful that he gave so much time coming to the poorer nations ... simply to teach us the Bible." Ajith Fernando about John Stott
Most people latch on to a specific idea and make it their life's mission. We are told at every turn to focus our efforts in order to create something truely unique and to get the attention of an increasingly distracted audience. So in the interest of efficiency and focus, we "zoom in" on what we believe we can offer to the world.
There is great value in focused work, but I worry that our persistent focus, and the pride that it so often brings, is causing us to lose site of the larger picture. We have all met those individuals who act like their cause or idea is the most important one in the world - to the exclusion of all others.
We need a broader more balanced approach to our efforts as innovators and Generous Minds. This was one of the main lessons that I took away from watching the interactions online after John Stott passed away recently. In the articles, videos and quotes that I saw, I got a sense for a man who saw the whole vision for the church so clearly. And this larger vision allowed him to focus in on specific ideas or efforts at certain times. But I get the sanse that he never lost the larger perspective on God's heart for His creation.
I think that is why so many of the reflections about John Stott speak about humility. Because his identity was not wrapped up in his particular agenda, God grew him into a humble man who was there to serve those around him. The quote from Adjith Fernando at the top of this article embodies that so powerfully.
Our best efforts can look like self-serving agendas and personal passions to the outside world. I would encourage you to read David Brook's article about John Stott to see how he was viewed differently than so many in the Christian world.
As I read David Neff's article at the time of John Stott's 90th birthday, I got another insight into this amazing servant of God. David zero's in on John's discipline. Incidentally, I saw a tweet from Billy Graham's grandson, Pastor Tullian Tchividjian, talking about John's discipline as well.
Not only did John Stott see the bigger picture and enter it with humility, but he was extremely disciplined in his very specific ministry efforts. I believe these factors held in creative tension were part of the reason that he is known as one of the fathers of modern evangelicalism.
Do we bring the balance between "big picture" and "focused effort" along with the "humility to serve" and "discipline to achieve"? These things will seem to pull us in very different directions at times. But all these things are important to God and He will give us the ability to embrace each for the benefit and blessing they bring to our labors.
Take some time to read the quotes from John Stott that I curated from twitter and the commemorative video that has been watched by over 10,000 people.
"We should travel light and live simply. Our enemy is not possessions but excess." John RW Stott
“God’s church means people not buildings, and God’s word means Scripture not traditions." -John Stott”
“The symbol of the religion of Jesus is the cross … not the scales.” (John Stott)
"The Gospel isn't good advice to men but good news about Christ; not an invitation to do, but a declaration of what God has done." John Stott
"Christians need to look like what they're talking about"-John Stott
"Until you see the cross as that which is done by you, you will never appreciate that it is done for You" - John Stott