Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Reflections of an octogenarian

I mentioned yesterday the remarkable talk which John Stott gave at Redeemer Presbyterian church in New York City city a few years ago. Although chiefly directed at those in paid Christian ministry there are principles here that we would all do well to learn asap. He gave six convictions which have sustained and guided him through a long career in ministry.

1. He early on learned to establish priorities. Not allowing the urgent to displace the important. He practiced a monthly (and then as he got busier!!) a weekly 'quiet day'-during which he would be uninterrupted and would spend time praying and seeking God's priorities for his life. He would use to the time to think through future sermon series, or especially complex problems,  to write difficult letters,  and give his attention wholeheartedly to whatever required sustained thought.

2. He learned to value people. Especially being in  ministry in a central London church, he was aware that a great mix of challenging people would come his way. He learned to reflect upon the immense dignity and value which God has placed upon each individual, even whispering to himself such truths whilst listening to the very people he was praying for and thanking God for.

3. He has endeavoured to demonstrate the relevance of God's word to the contemporary world. Not to make it relevant (which innately it is), but to demonstrate it's relevance.

4. He has maintained a consistent view of the importance of study. He recalled hearing Billy Graham say in later life that he wished he had preached less and pored and studied more! To help him, Stott gathered a dozen varied people around him who would choose books which were popular at the time, they would all read and then meet monthly to discuss the issues raised by them. He was if yo like, a life long learner.

5. He affirms Jesus' teaching that we demonstrate our commitment to Christ not by extravagant claims, or generous giving,  or intermittent expressions of worship whether in song or in prayer, but in consistent acts of obedience. 'If you love me, keep my commandments'.

6. The importance of cultivating personal humility.  He draws on a talk by former Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey.

  1. Cultivate gratitude: the soil in which pride does not easily grow
  2. Confession: simply self-criticism in God’s presence
  3. Be ready to accept humiliations in the course of ministry
  4. Don’t worry about your worldly status: only be concerned about your proximity to Him.
  5. Always keep your sense of humour
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