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EFAC Australia

PeterAdamWe have good reason to thank God for John Stott.
Here I focus on his preaching, both method andmessage.
PREACHING METHOD
John visited Australia in January 1965, and this visit—one  of many—had a profound effect on Australian  preaching.1 He gave Bible studies on 2 Corinthians at the  CMS Summer Schools in several states in Australia. Much  Australian preaching at that time was on 'a text', that is,  on an individual verse from the Bible, often without much  regard to its context. In his Bible studies John Stott was  demonstrating the obvious value of preaching from a  passages of Scripture, and from consecutive passages of  Scripture. His example had a profound impact on  Australian preaching.2 One person who was profoundly  affected by this change in preaching style was Sydney  evangelist John Chapman, who reflected this way on  Stott's influence:

'Prior to that, I had tended to get an idea from a passage and  leap all over the Bible supporting the idea from other parts so  that the people I taught knew the "idea" but not the passage  from which it came or how that passage fitted into some overall  argument from the Scriptures … He provided a model for  expository preaching that I could copy and make my own.'3

Chapman and Dudley Foord set up the College of  Preachers in Sydney to promote this expository  preaching, and it was soon promoted at Moore College.  In Melbourne a series of Sunday night expositions of the  Bible was set up to promote the Stott style. Expository  preaching means that each verse of the Bible is preached  in its revelatory context. For the units of God's verbal  revelation are the books of the Bible, rather than isolated  verses or general ideas from those books. This change  was effected most rapidly in Sydney, but is now found  throughout Australia. It has spread through the work of  the Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students, and by  a number of good theological colleges and Bible colleges.  Australians now contribute to the growth of expository preaching around the world.

Admittedly John Stott had extraordinary gifts of  concentration, clarity, and conciseness which are beyond  ordinary mortals. His deep thinking enabled a simplicity  and clarity of expression. However the model was still  transferable: just say what the Bible says, and show its  application to our lives today. Stott defined preaching in  these words: 'To preach is to open up the inspired text  with such faithfulness and sensitivity that God's voice is  heard and God's people obey him.' With customary clarity  he explained that this sentence contained two convictions,  that the Bible text is inspired and that the preacher's task  is to open or explain it; two obligations, that we must be  faithful to the text and sensitive to our hearers; and two  expectations, that God will be heard, and that his people  will respond.4

PREACHING MESSAGE

What was the centre of the Bible and its message in John  Stott's mind and ministry? Here are three clues:

i. John wrote in his magisterial book, The Cross of  Christ, '[the cross] lies at the centre of the historic biblical  faith ... and this is in itself a sufficient justification for  preserving a distinctive evangelical testimony.'5

ii. John chose a Bible reading from Galatians for his  funeral which included these words: 'May I never boast  of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ'  (Gal 6:14). The words 'May I never boast of anything  except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ' are at once a  prayer, a commitment, and a curse: May God help me not  to boast in anything other than the cross of Christ; I will  never boast in anything other than the cross; May God  forbid that I boast of anything except the cross of  Christ.6

iii. The words on his gravestone are based on the  memorial to the great Cambridge preacher Charles  Simeon in Holy Trinity Church Cambridge, 'who resolved  both as the ground of his salvation and as the subject of  his ministry to know nothing except Jesus Christ and him  crucified'. These words in turn are based on 1 Corinthians  2:2, 'For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you  except Jesus Christ and him crucified.'7

Of course we would not contradict the cross: but we  might neglect it in our theology, our preaching, our  evangelism, our ministry and our lives. We might  engage in heresy by silence: we might replace the cross  with sincerity, achievement, success, good works,  religious energy, exciting worship, or internal  experiences of grace; or we might remove its  theological foundations of holiness, sin, incarnation,  and penal substitution. The cross is at the heart of Christianity, and without the cross there is no gospel at  all. As John wrote, 'If the cross is not central … then  we deserve to have applied to us that most terrible of  all descriptions, "enemies of the cross of Christ"' (Phil  3:18).8
John led a renewed and robust evangelicalism after the  second world war, with a commitment to the  exposition of the Scriptures, and the preaching of the  cross of Christ. John, with the assistance of our own  Leon Morris, recovered the cross for evangelicalism,  glorying in the cross. In his later years John discerned a  return to that liberal evangelicalism of the early 20th  century which had neglected the cross.9 Perhaps he  wanted to warn us from the grave: 'May you never  boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus  Christ.' To glory, to boast in the cross of Christ now is  great practice for eternity, when we will join all the  saints and angels in singing:
'You are worthy...for by your blood you ransomed for God saints  from every tribe and language and people and nation; you have  made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God, and  they will reign on earth.'
'Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and  wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and  blessing!' 10

NOTES

1 See Timothy Dudley-Smith, John Stott: A Global Ministry,  Leicester, IVP, 2001, 114-16. This includes an account of this visit,  but does not comment on the effects on his preaching in Australia.

2 See Jonathan Holt, 'The emergence of expository preaching in Sydney Anglican churches'. St Mark's Review, No. 230, Nov  2014: 72-83; and Peter Adam, 'Reflecting on Fifty Years of Expository Preaching in Australia' at https://au.thegospelcoalition.org/  article/celebrating-fifty-years-of-expository-preaching-in-australia/

3 Michael Orpwood, Chappo: For the Sake of the Gospel, John  Chapman and the Department of Evangelism, Russel Lea,  Eagleswift Press, 1995, 158.

4 John Stott, The Contemporary Christian, Leicester, IVP, 1992,  207-218. See also John Stott, I Believe in Preaching, London, Hodder  & Stoughton, 1982.

5 John Stott, The Cross of Christ, Leicester, Inter-Varsity Press,  1986, p. 7.

6 This theme was expressed in Stott's life and ministry, see Peter  Adam https://stjudes.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/John-  Stott-memorial-sermon-Peter-Adam.pdf.

7 In 1986 James Houston published a collection of sermons by  Charles Simeon, for which Stott wrote the Introduction, in which  he expressed his appreciation for Simeon's model of life and ministry,  andespecially his preaching. James Houston, Evangelical  Preaching, Portland, Multnomah Press, 1986. Stott's Introduction  is on pp. xxvii-xli.

8 The Cross of Christ, 351.

9 Dudley-Smth, Stott, 164.

10 Revelation 5:9-12
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