LONDON – There were moments of poignant reflection but also much laughter and thanksgiving at the funeral of John Stott today.
All Souls Langham Place, Stott’s beloved church in London, was filled to capacity with friends, relatives and many others who did not know him personally, yet had in some way been touched by his preaching and more than 50 books.
The queue of Christians waiting to enter the church prior to the start of the service stretched to a block away.
One Christian waiting in line said of Stott: "He was a very, very special person. I wanted to be here for this."
There was heartfelt sadness at the passing of a much loved teacher and friend, but the tone of the service was joyous as All Souls conductor Noel Tredinnick led the congregation with typical enthusiasm in hymns such as Crown Him with Many Crowns and Thine Be the Glory.
Those who knew Stott personally brought laughter to the service as they shared humorous anecdotes about his keen attention to detail and love of birdwatching.
Stott’s niece, Caroline Bowerman, recalled with fondness the many Christmases spent together with Uncle John and said that he never lost an opportunity to share his faith with her.
Former study assistant Toby Howarth spoke of the undivided attention Stott gave to each person he encountered and remembered him as someone who always “pointed not to himself but to Jesus.”
Also paying tribute was former All Souls church warden, David Turner, who described him as “a Christian giant, a hero, a mentor, and a friend we loved.”
The greatest tribute, however, came from Dr. Chris Wright, international director of Langham Partnership and the man Stott asked personally to preach at his funeral.
Wright spoke admiringly of Stott’s legacy and the example he had set for Christians the world over, contrasting his integrity with the “too many” Christian leaders who fall short of the mark by preaching prosperity or failing to lay themselves at the foot of the cross as Stott had done throughout his life.
He praised his friend and mentor for his “anger” against injustice, the way in which he honoured and respected women, his love of children, his rejection of wealth, and his delight in God’s creation.
“John Stott modeled that obedience of faith,” he said.
“Is there any life that has more beautifully born the fruit of the Spirit? … In so many ways, John was simply like Christ.”
Wright appealed to his fellow Christians to honour Stott’s greatest desire – to see the church united and Christians loving each other as Christ loved them.
"His was a cross-centred, Christ-glorifying life, lived in obedience of love."
He added: “Walk in the obedience of love and the obedience of hope.”
Stott died on July 27 at the age of 90. He is credited with doing more to change the landscape of global evangelicalism in the twentieth century than any other evangelical.
He was rector of All Souls Church, Langham Place, from 1950 to 1970, and went on to write 51 books on the meaning of the cross and the Christian faith.
He was named by Time magazine in 2005 as one of the 100 most influential people in the world and appointed CBE in 2007.