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16 January 2012

Hundreds bid farewell to John Stott – a radical disciple

Hundreds packed out St Paul's Cathedral in the heart of the city of London on Friday to celebrate the life of John Stott - one of the 20th century's leading evangelical thinkers - who died in July, aged 90.

Staff from the Evangelical Alliance, including General Director Steve Clifford, were among 2,000 people who joined Rev Stott's closest friends and colleagues, as well as the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and the Bishop of London, at the memorial service.

In a touching event including music from the All Souls Orchestra and tributes by Christians from across the globe, the congregation heard how many lives had been touched by the teaching, writing and friendship of the man affectionately known as 'Uncle John'.

Opening the service, Canon Mark Oakley of St Paul's said: "We come to this cathedral church today to give thanks for the life of a humble and faithful servant of Jesus Christ. We remember with joy and thanksgiving John Robert Walmsley Stott, a minister of the gospel, beloved pastor, Bible scholar, mentor and friend.

"His simple life of study and prayer, preaching, writing and discipling, helped shape the face of a 20th century evangelical faith in Britain and around the world. He was valiant for truth, even when that was unfashionable, and single-minded as he laboured to fulfil the Lord's call upon his life.

"John eschewed public accolades and ecclesiastical preferment and would be embarrassed by any service that dwelt on him or his achievements rather than pointing to his Saviour, crucified, risen and ascended."

Reflecting on the service, Steve Clifford said: "John Stott lived his life simply as a follower of Christ. The celebration at St Paul's Cathedral gathered the Christian community from right around the world.

"We may never know the full impact of his life through his writing and preaching but when the history of evangelicalism in the past century has been written, John Stott will be recognised as a giant of the faith."

Born in 1921 in London, John Stott was a member of All Souls Church, Langham Place, all his life. Among his most celebrated writings were Basic Christianity and The Radical Disciple. He served as one of the Queen's Chaplains and was awarded a CBE in the Queen's New Year's Honours list in 2005 - the same year he was named in Time magazine's top 100 most influential people.

Despite his accolades and influence, those who knew him described his humility and his dedication to seeing Jesus glorified above all else - both in the Church and society as a whole.

Rene Padilla, founder of The Kairos Centre, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, said: "There is no exaggeration… in my saying that the aspect of John's legacy that I treasure more than anything else is his Christian character. He was a man who could say with the apostle Paul, without any hesitation: 'Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ'. I am not surprised that the very last book John wrote was The Radical Disciple. That is what he was: a radical disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, a disciple who in his character and lifestyle embodied God's purpose for human life."

Paying tribute, Geoff Tunnicliffe, secretary general of the World Evangelical Alliance, said: "Although many of the 600 million evangelical Christians may never have heard of John Stott, almost without exception they will have been unconsciously influenced through what they or their pastors have read from his pen. The whole of the leadership of the WEA acknowledges with great thankfulness to God the legacy that John Stott has left behind to encourage and guide us."

More from the Evangelical Alliance on the life of John Stott 

Read a tribute to John Stott from Chris Wright of the Langham Partnership in idea magazine

Photos courtesy of Kieran Dodds.