Lausanne’s global executive director and CEO Michael Oh shares a tribute to John Stott, the co-founder of the Lausanne Movement, marking the centenary of his birth on 27 April 1921. ‘Uncle John’ (as he is affectionately known in the Movement) played an instrumental role in bringing the global church together for the First Congress on World Evangelization in July 1974 and served as the chief architect of The Lausanne Covenant. He was involved in the formation and development of the Lausanne Movement beyond 1974 and held various positions within the Movement until his death in 2011.
As chair of the Lausanne Theology Working Group, John Stott made a signal and lasting contribution to our understandings of global mission. Under his leadership several important consultations took place, each focusing on some area of tension (such as evangelism and social responsibility, gospel and culture). With a carefully selected group gathered under the umbrella of The Lausanne Covenant, with careful preparation, the consultations were marked by the cultivation of deep and respectful listening—to Scripture, to one another, and to voices from the contemporary world. The findings were issued in a series of occasional papers. These gatherings reflected his own posture of faithfulness to God, and value of the other. They set a pattern which is even more needed in this era of some deep divisions among evangelical Christians.
My closest times with John came through our work together in the several Lausanne congresses and the ongoing Lausanne Movement. His gifts of leadership and communication and his vision for the church were singular. But a more personal picture comes to mind. I can still see him during the first congress, sitting on the floor outside our hotel room, long legs stretched out, wearing a Hawaiian shirt, all through one long night rewriting by hand a final draft of the historic Lausanne Covenant.
Even more personally, I remember a meeting of the Lausanne continuation committee when I was in the chair. Somehow in my youthful enthusiasm I decided we needed an exercise in group dynamics. I don’t recall how it was supposed to work. I do remember after a few minutes John complaining in exasperation, ‘Would someone please tell me exactly what we are doing?’ And I very quickly brought us back to the important issues of the day!
Wisdom, impatience, and grace. So I remember him with thanks.
Founding President, Leighton Ford Ministries
Honorary Lifetime Chair, Lausanne Movement
In 2001 John Stott invited me to take over the leadership of the ministries he had founded and run for thirty years, which are now combined in the Langham Partnership (www.langham.org). While I had enjoyed personal friendship with him since 1978, what impressed me greatly was the manner of his transfer of leadership. He did again what he had done at All Souls Church, Langham Place, in 1975, when he invited Michael Baughen to become senior pastor there, while Stott himself remained as a massively influential presence. He insisted that people defer to the new leader, not to him. With me, while we regularly met for breakfast and worked together, he never ‘pulled rank’ or demanded that I adopt an agenda he controlled or countermanded one I was proposing. And he followed the same principle at board level, where he had been leader and chair for years; from my appointment onwards, it was, ‘You must ask Chris, he is our leader now.’ Not many leaders leave their leadership roles well. John Stott has given me, at least, a model of the humility that knows not only how to exercise godly leadership, but how to exit it as well.
Global Ambassador and Ministry Director