John Stott was both radical and gentle, as this new biography by Julia Cameron reveals.  By the end of the book, you will want to call this great man of God ‘Uncle John’ as his real-life friends did.

I enjoyed the way the book was set out, each chapter being followed by fact files which either explain further something that was mentioned in the preceeding chapter (Rugby school where John Stott was educated for example) or give sound advice, relevant to what has just been read.  At the very end of the book, there is a John Stott timeline, questions to think about and discuss, and ideas of activities relevant to John Stott’s life.  These are excellent ways of encouraging children to engage on a deeper level with what they have read in the book.

John Stott learned as a child that when bad things happen, God can turn them into good.  For him, this resulted in a life-long passion for bird-watching, and he enjoyed studying birds all over the world as part of God’s majestic creation.  Later in life, he wrote The Birds our Teachers which contains the theological lessons he learned from the birds.

His other major priorities were students and pastors.  He invested much time and effort into these two groups.  John Stott recognised that students are the people who tend to shape future thinking and he saw the worth of investing time in them, encouraging them in thinking through and valuing biblical principles.  He knew that pastors would, in their turn, influence others and it was important for them too, to have a godly example before them.  In addition to discipling others, John Stott spent much time preaching and writing.  His writing hideway was a rambling country house on the coast called ‘The Hookses’ which he lovingly renovated in his younger days with the help of friends.

John Stott was a young man during the Second World War and grieved his parents by becoming a conscientious objector.  His parents put great pressure on him to rethink his decision, and his father even resolved not to pay the fees for him to remain at the University of Cambridge after his first year.  Instead of rebelling aginst or turning his back on them, he continued to lovingly honour them in every way (apart from going to war).  He prayed hard throughout this time and God graciously answered His prayers.

God was the undisputed passion of his life, as demonstrated by his habit of going to bed early so that he could get up early to spend uninterrupted time with his Bible and in prayer.  This resulted in an overflow of love to those around him.  John Stott had a big heart for the poor, even sleeping rough for a few nights disguised as a down-and-out so that he could empathise as much as possible with them.  He practiced hospitality continuously.  John Stott wanted everyone to feel welcome in his church (All Souls, Langham Place) and radically did away with the rented pews so that no one need feel awkward by accidentally sitting in someone else’s seat.  He interacted with the rich, the poor, the uneducated and the intelligent alike, valuing each individual as someone Christ loved and died for.

John Stott was instrumental in the setting up of The Lausanne Movement, which looks strategically at world mission, and was the Founder and lifelong President of The Langham Partnership, which provides books and training for pastors in the developing world.

In 1959, John Stott received an unexpected honour of becoming Extra Chaplain to Queen Elizabeth the Second.  He held this position, offered to very few, for the rest of his life.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading about this humble leader, who was incredibly intelligent and godly, yet gracious, loving and thoughtful.  This was a man with an attractive character, which comes through the pages of the book strongly.

The Humble Leader is part of the Christian Focus Trailblazers series.  This is a superb book and I highly recommend it.

I am grateful to Christian Focus for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book for the purpose of writing a review.