Sunday, 4 October 2009

The Call to Evangelize :John Stott

John Stott is both a theologian and an evangelist. I only started reading his books about fifteen years ago but since that time I have made it my aim to collect all that he has written. Today being in his eighties, he is now retired from ministry and suffers from ill health. Like St Paul of old, his background could easily have given him a great sense of superiority : he comes from an upper middle class family( his father Sir Arnold Stott was a Harley Street doctor), he has a top Cambridge degree and for the last 40 years has exercised a world famous ministry(it was Dr Stott who penned much of the Lausanne Covenant). Yet despite this he is one of the most humble people I have had the pleasure of meeting.He also never married, becoming, in the words of Jesus, 'a Eunuch for the kingdom', devoting his time to spreading the gospel through teaching and evangelism.His passion for Christ and the lost have been a great inspiration to many thousands of people including myself and I would therefore thoroughly recommend all his writings to you. Here I have included a few of his thoughts on evangelism which I hope you will be helpful.AK

'No-one can ...'

It is grievously mistaken to suggest that the purpose of
evangelism is to cajole sinners into doing what they can
perfectly well do if only they put their minds to it and
pull themselves together. This the Bible emphatically

Consider these two statements: 'No one can say
"Jesus is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit' (1 Cor. 12:3).
'No one can come to me unless the Father ... draws him'
(Jn. 6:44). We need to hear much more in the church of
this 'no-one can', this natural inability of men to believe
in Christ or to come to Christ. Only the Spirit can reveal
Christ to men; only the Father can draw men to Christ. And
without this double work of the Father and the Spirit no-
one can reach the Son.

It is quite true that Jesus also
said 'you are not willing to come to me that you may have
life' (Jn. 5:40, lit.), and that the human mind finds it
impossible neatly to resolve the tension between this
'cannot' and this 'will not'. But both are true, and man's
refusal to come does not cancel out his inability without
grace to do so.

The chief evangelist

Now who is to be the messenger?
The first and fundamental answer to this question is 'God
himself'. The gospel is God's gospel. He conceived it.
He gave it its content. He publishes it. The fact that he
has committed to us both 'the ministry of reconciliation'
and 'the message of reconciliation' (1 Cor. 5:18-19) does
not alter this. He acted 'through Christ' to achieve the
reconciliation and now acts 'through us' to announce it.
But he still remains himself both reconciler and preacher.
He has used other and more exalted agencies through whom
to publish salvation before partially delegating the work
to the church. Apart from Old Testament prophets, the
first herald of the gospel was an angel, and the first
announcement of it was accompanied by a display of the
glory of the Lord and greeted by the worship of the
heavenly host.
Next, God sent his Son, who was himself both the
messenger and the message. For God sent a 'word ... to
Israel, preaching good news of peace by Jesus Christ' (Acts
10:36). So Jesus not only 'made peace' between God and
man, Jew and Gentile, but also 'preached peace' (Eph. 2:14-
17). He went about Palestine announcing the good news of
the kingdom.
Next, God sent his Spirit to bear witness to Christ. So
the Father himself witnesses to the Son through the Spirit.
And only now does he give the church a privileged share in
the testimony: 'and you also will bear witness' (Jn.
15:27, lit.)
It is essential to remember these humbling truths. The
chief evangelist is God the Father, and he proclaimed the
evangel through his angel, his Son and his Spirit before he
entrusted any part of the task to men. This was the order.
The church comes at the bottom of the list. And the
church's witness will always be subordinate to the

--From "Our Guilty Silence"

The consent of the mind

Evangelistic preaching has too often consisted of a
prolonged appeal for decision when the congregation have
been given no substance upon which the decision is to be
made. But the gospel is not fundamentally an invitation to
men to do anything. It is a declaration of what God has
done in Christ on the cross for their salvation. The
invitation cannot properly be given before the declaration
has been made. Men must grasp the truth before they are
asked to respond to it. It is true that man's intellect is
finite and fallen, but he must never be asked to murder it.
If he comes to Jesus Christ in repentance and faith, it
must be with the full consent of his mind. Much of the
leakage of converts after evangelistic campaigns is due to
the evangelist's disregard of this. If it be said that we
cannot consider man's mind in our evangelistic preaching
because it is darkened, I can only reply that the apostles
were of a different opinion.

--From "The Preacher's Portrait"

Paul the persuader

Paul's presentation of the gospel was serious, well
reasoned and persuasive. Because he believed the gospel to
be true, he was not afraid to engage the minds of his
hearers. He did not simply proclaim his message in a 'take
it or leave it' fashion; instead, he marshalled arguments
to support and demonstrate his case. He was seeking to
convince in order to convert, and in fact, as Luke makes
plain, many were 'persuaded'. Luke indicates, moreover,
that this was Paul's method even in Corinth. What he
renounced in Corinth (see 1 Cor. 1 - 2) was the wisdom of
the world, not the wisdom of God, and the rhetoric of
Greeks, not the use of arguments. Arguments of course are
no substitute for the work of the Holy Spirit. But then
trust in the Holy Spirit is no substitute for arguments
either. We must never set them over against each other as
alternatives. No, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth,
and he brings people to faith in Jesus not in spite of the
evidence, but because of the evidence, when he opens their
minds to attend to it.

--From "The Message of Acts"

John Stott preaching in his mid eighties.


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