John Stott (1921-2011) lives as a homeless man – a story in memory of his death today

Today (7-27-11), the saintly John R. W. Stott died in London at the age of 90. “Uncle John” was and is one of the most important people to help shape the evangelical landscape in the last 100 years. He has also been called “the most influential clergyman in the Church of England during the twentieth century.” According to R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, “You cannot explain English-speaking evangelicalism in the 20th century without crucial reference to the massive influence of John Stott.”

John Stott was integral in helping Evangelical Christianity, whose thought was confined largely to Europe and North America, to see and care about suffering in the rest of the world. His interpretation and application of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount can only be described as par excellence.

Stott said things like:

-“We should not ask, ‘What is wrong with the world?’ for that diagnosis has already been given. Rather, we should ask, ‘What has happened to the salt and light?’

-“…in order to appreciate the work which Jesus accomplished, we must understand who we are as well as who he was. His work was done for us. It was the work of a person for persons, a mission undertaken for needy persons by the only person competent to meet their need.” (Basic Christianity, 61)

-“The Sermon on the Mount is probably the best-known part of the teaching of Jesus, though arguably it is the least understood, and certainly it is the least obeyed.” (The Message of the Sermon on the Mount)

Stott as a homeless man

The following is a great story recorded from John Stott’s earliest days as a pastor just after World War II. Having always had a special place in his heart for those in dire need on the streets, including drunkards and criminals, Stott decided to spend a few days living among them. This is great reading…enjoy!

From Basic Christian: The Inside Story of John Stott by Roger Steer (2010):

He spent his first night under the arches of the Charing Cross Bridge surrounded by tramps. He lay down in the company of men and women whose only covering, apart from their clothes, was newspapers. He didn’t get much sleep. The pavement was hard. Men were coming and going, some very drunk and making a lot of noise. It was November 1946 and very cold.

As light dawned and the sun came up he was relieved that the new day was sunny and dry, though the air was crisp. He called [out to] a number of the old ABC teashops where employees were kneeling outside scrubbing the steps. He had deliberately brought no money with him.

‘Can ya gimme a job for a cup o’tea?’ he asked in the best Cockney accent he could muster. ‘Or even spare a breakfast?’

When nobody took pity on him, he began to feel rejected. He walked into the East end of London and, since he had little sleep, lay down in the sunshine on one of the many bomb sites. Rosebay willow herb was growing in profusion, making a reasonably soft bed, and he fell asleep.

When evening came, he made his way to the Whitechapel Salvation Army hostel for the homeless and [asked] for a bed. When he got to the window where you booked, the officer in charge was brusque with the man in front of him. Momentarily, John forgot who he was meant to be that day.

‘As a Salvation Army officer,’ he burst out, ‘you ought to try to win that man for Christ and not treat him like that!’

The officer looked at him sharply, wondering who he was, but said nothing.

He was allocated a bed in a dormitory with no cubicles or privacy. He slept only intermittently. Men were coming and going most of the night, some drunk and shouting, others mentally disturbed.

[The next morning,] John left the hostel . . . [with] a graphic insight into a side of London life far removed from the western edge of All Souls parish.


John R.W. Stott was born on April 27, 1921 to a family of mixed religious belief. His father was a physician and an agnostic who was at odds with Stott’s religious convictions for much of his life. Stott showed great intellectual prowess from a young age and most assumed he was destined for a successful linguistic career in the secular world. As an aspiring student at the prestigious Rugby School, Stott came face to face with his need for Christ. He describes the experience:

As a typical adolescent, I was aware of two things about myself, though doubtless I could not have articulated them in these terms then. First, if there was a God, I was estranged from him. I tried to find him, but he seemed to be enveloped in a fog I could not penetrate. Secondly, I was defeated. I knew the kind of person I was, and also the kind of person I longed to be. Between the ideal and the reality there was a great gulf fixed. I had high ideals but a weak will. . . . [W]hat brought me to Christ was this sense of defeat and of estrangement, and the astonishing news that the historic Christ offered to meet the very needs of which I was conscious.


Stott’s most memorable achievements came as pastor of All Souls Church, Langham Place, in London, where he served in some capacity for over 60 years. As a respected pastor, scholar, and missional leader, Stott was able to help successfully bridge the chasm between Anglicanism and Evangelicalism in the 1970s.

All Souls Church, inside view

His most crowning achievement was likely his key role in the drafting of the Lausanne Covenant during the International Congress on World Evangelization in 1974, which was the most significant international ecumenical meeting in modern Christian history.

In 1974 he founded Langham Partnership International (known as John Stott Ministries in the U.S.), “a ministry that seeks to equip Majority World churches for mission and spiritual growth.” Stott officially retired from all public ministry in 2007, at the age of 86.


As a scholar, Stott made it his goal to “relate the ancient Word to the modern world.” By the end of his writing career, he had published more than 40 books. His first masterpiece, Basic Christianity (1958), sold over 1 million copies and has been translated into 25 languages. Other notable titles include Your Mind Matters (1972), his brilliant study The Message of the Sermon on the Mount (1978), Issues Facing Christians Today (1984), The Cross of Christ (1986) and The Contemporary Christian (1992).

It has been reported that as he neared his death, his loved ones were with him singing hymns from Handel’s Messiah.

Read the obituary from Christianity Today:

3 thoughts on “John Stott (1921-2011) lives as a homeless man – a story in memory of his death today

  1. Eric,

    Let’s hope John Scott’s death will continue to minister to the people even in more power-filled ways than did the ministry during his earthly walk.

    Thank you so much for your enlightening doxologies.


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