Teaching New Dogs Old Tricks: lessons on leadership from a master of ministry

A new year brings a new blog post! And I desperately need to get reacquainted with my blogging so I’m thought I’d do that by sharing some insights as I get reacquainted with an old hero of mine.

John Stott

I have finally got around to reading Timothy Dudley Smith’s biography of John Stott. It is excellent, a little daunting being two volumes in length, but excellent!

First up I need to acknowledge a personal bias, I’ve always been a bit of a fan of Stott, he was the man God used in me giving my life to Jesus, but reading through Dudley Smith’s biography has reminded me of how much younger generations, interested in being strategically missional, can learn from this visionary leader.

So, over the next two or three posts I hope to put a spotlight on a handful of ‘leadership lessons’ that can be learnt through Stott’s own expertise as an effective leader, demonstrated in his ministry at All Souls and throughout the world as the leader of a new evangelical movement.

1) Effective leaders are excellent innovators

At the heart of the rapid growth All Souls experienced was a change in the culture of evangelism within the church. In 1950 lay leadership, training schools and ‘every member ministry’ were ‘radically new’ ideas ( Dudley Smith, vol 1.  281). Becoming rector in 1950, Stott identified evangelism as his number one priority and the means of faithful church growth. He developed a 6 month training school for evangelism that equiped  and commissioned lay leaders to present the gospel and counsel new converts. The effectiveness of the Training School was given expression through a campaign of monthly ‘guest services’, where over the course of a few years 1000 people took up the invitation to remain after the guest service where they would meet with the newly trained and commisioned counselors.

Innovative ministries were not only initiated by Stott, at All Souls but internationally. He created a fellowship of evangelical Anglican clergy in England that exploded into EFAC, he founded The London Institute which sought to give a public platform for thoughtful theological responses to current issues. The London Institute was no doubt the fruit of Stott’s involvement with the Lausanne Movement of the 70’s.

2) Effective leaders are often highly gifted administrators

Reading through stories about Stott’s years of ministry experience, there’s a sort-of annoying ease at which he appears to be able to make things happen. A certain efficiency and effectiveness is demonstrated that very evidently achieved great results. This, I think, is a quality that many (including myself) admire and appreciate in leaders. Just think of more recent leaders like Mark Driscoll whose giftedness as an administrator is obvious when you consider the speed at which he has been able to help create and shape mass movements and organizations.

Stott, I think, is similarly gifted, yet for him this gift did not come without hardwork. As a leader he is remarkably disciplined and efficient with his time, Dudley Smith tells of how, during his university days, Stott would have a sign on his college door saying ‘Working 8am-8pm. Please do not disturb unless urgent.’!

3) Effective leadership is often in the context of a versatile urban ministry

All Souls Langham Place under Stott was a Biblically faithful and rapidly growing church in an area of London not too dissimilar to parts of urban Sydney. An area of contrast; with young, rich, trendy cool cats mixed into an area with people far below the poverty line, and directly across the road from the church building – the BBC’s Broadcasting House. Faithful urban ministry in such a context needs to include people from every background, not neglecting the rich for the poor, the poor for the rich and making the most of a strategic location next to the city’s media centre.

During the early years of Stott’s time as Rector, All Souls developed a number of ministries that are now common among influential urban churches, be that lunch time expositions or inner city-fringy-youth groups. But surprisingly (to me) was Stott’s hands on approach in serving  the poor and marginalized. Dudley Smith records how  Stott would often dress himself in old, torn clothing, let his appearance go a little and spend 2 nights living on the streets of London. His desire was to be able to identify with the large number of homeless people All Souls ministered to. How excellent is that?! Lots of us wish to be effective leaders, but I’m not sure many of us would wish to be that radical!

More to come…


6 Responses to “Teaching New Dogs Old Tricks: lessons on leadership from a master of ministry”

  1. Miss J. Whitcombe Says:

    “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”

  2. Miss J. Whitcombe Says:

    I received assurance of salvation from reading John Stott’s booklet “Becomng a Christian”.

  3. Miss J. Whitcombe Says:

    I have yet to discover – and this was in the early sixties – whether I got 100% or Fail for doing Stott’s Training School i.e. was my test paper marked “50” out of 50″ or 50 out of 100? No one seems to know!

  4. Miss J. Whitcombe Says:

    This seems to be an awful mess!!

  5. Miss J. Whitcombe Says:

    Of course I was at All Souls’ when I did John Stott’s Training Course.

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