John Stott, who has been called the most influential clergyman in the Church of England during the 20th century, made a brief trip to Toronto at the end of March to minister to the body of Christ and to strengthen emerging Christian leaders both in Canada and in developing nations.
Dr. Stott, who is rector emeritus of All Souls Church, London, England, had been invited to Toronto as guest speaker for the John Honeyman Lecture series at Tyn-dale College and seminary (formerly Ontario Bible College/Ontario Theological Seminary). While in Toronto he also promoted the work of the Langham Trust, which he established in 1970 to provide doctoral scholarships for evangelical Third World scholars.
During his public lectures, which included sermons at St. Paul’s Anglican Church (Bloor Street) and Knox Presbyterian Church in Toronto, Dr. Stott called Christians to “radical non-conformity and radical discipleship.” He explained that the church has a double calling: The call to worldliness; to live and work in the secular world, not to stand aloof from it, and the call to holiness; to refuse to conform to the world. “As I look around at the church, I see this constant pressure to lower our standards. If we were to capitulate we would blunt our testimony and suffocate our spiritual life,” he said.
Dr. Stott warned that there are four contemporary trends that threaten to swallow up Christianity: pluralism, which rejects the uniqueness of Jesus Christ; materialism, the preoccupation with material things until they suffocate spiritual life; moral and ethical relativism, which reject God’s commandments; and narcissism; an inordinate love of one’s self and acceptance of the idea that we are our own saviours.
The British theologian who has authored 42 books stressed that God is calling out a people for himself, a people different from others, a people who are holy because he is holy. “Christlikeness is our final destination. If we lived like Jesus Christ, the world would be at our feet today,” he said.
During his sermon at St. Paul’s, Dr. Stott used Mark 7: 1-37 to remind the congregation of the authority of Scripture and what true worship means.
“With typical scholarly rigor, he opened the passage in such a way that it enlightened our minds, challenged our hearts and lifted our souls to worship God,” said Rev. Glynn Easson, associate priest at St. Paul’s.
“He reminded us that we are a counter-culture and expressed concern that the church is conforming its understanding of itself and the Gospel to the prevailing attitudes and values of our culture.”
Mr. Easson said there were about 800 people at church the morning Dr. Stott spoke. Normal attendance is 450. A large number also turned out for his evening sermon at Knox.
Dr. John Vissers, interim academic dean of Tyndale Seminary and senior minister of Knox Presbyterian Church, said the response to Dr. Stott’s visit was indicative of the fact that he is a senior statesman of the worldwide evangelical church and is recognized as someone who should be listened to.
Dr. Stott’s sermon at St. Paul’s is available on tape. Write to: St. Paul’s Bloor Street, 227 Bloor St. East, Toronto, ON, M4W 1C8.
Linda Haist of Burlington is editor of Endeavour, a Christian community newspaper.