EFAC Australia

When I think of John Stott I think of Parish Preaching. More than anyone else in the past 60 years John Stott was the preeminent Prince of Preachers. John Stott will be noted for many other things but at heart he was a preacher. In particular he was a preacher in the local church. He didn’t move to the seminary or to the episcopacy. Today via the internet we can access anything anywhere but in spite of the limitations of his era, John’s preaching at All Souls Langham Place established a model of how to preach that has been emulated across the globe.
My first encounter with John was at an AFES National Conference in 1975 at Bathurst. John was the guest Bible Study leader and guided us through 6 magisterial studies in Ephesians. These studies were repeated in other places but became the basis for the Bible Speaks Today book God’s New Society. I grew up in a thoroughly evangelical suburban church where we heard the gospel preached every week. To hear the Scriptures expounded and reflected upon was a great personal breakthrough. I had experienced this at University but no one seemed to do it better than John Stott.
John Stott had the amazing capacity to open up the text in such a way that you heard God clearly speaking to you. All preachers aim to do this but some are especially gifted at it. John would always have a snappy introduction that picked up on some current issue or idea. He would then work his way through the passage through systematic exposition. Along the way he would either illustrate his point or apply it in some way. Often at the end he would give a mini response to a current theological controversy or textual issue. Behind it lay a depth of scholarship yet it was clear and accessible. John’s local church preaching went on week in and week out. When he spoke at Conventions he did what he did locally. This established a bench mark and an enticing vision of the importance and power of great expositional preaching.
In 1982 I was in my second year at Moore College and going through a rough patch. In the May break I had a week’s leave in Tasmania. During that week I read I Believe in Preaching by John Stott. It was a wonderful re-imagining of the vision of what God was calling me into. Stott retraced the Biblical material and then looked at what preachers have said about preaching. I’m not sure if I would have gone on into ordained ministry if it wasn’t for that week of inspiration with John Stott in Tasmania.
John Stott, more than anyone else, impacted the global church because of his own preaching but also for the model he established. This was matched by his integrity of life and tireless involvement in many ways in many places. He re-established for Anglicans the primacy of preaching in effective local church ministry. Many of us, from time to time, have preached John’s sermons! Many of us, myself included, probably would have struggled to know how to preach certain passages if it weren’t for John Stott. Most of us have never preached as well as John did. That doesn’t matter as long as we were faithful and God honoured what we strove to do. Much of the revival in evangelical Anglicanism that has taken place in these past 60 years can be traced back to the impact of John’s preaching. John Stott, Prince of Preachers.

Stephen Hale is Senior Minister at St Hilary’s Kew and Deputy Chairman of EFAC Australia.