Wednesday, September 28, 2011
A Tale of Two Memorials: John Stott and Art Gish
By Brian Nixon
Special to ASSIST News Service
ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO (ANS) -- Over the past year and a half, the Christian Church has lost two of its unique leaders: John Stott and Art Gish.
Both will be remembered and cherished through the lives that they touched, the ministries they participated in, and the books they left behind.
My interest in both of these gentlemen coincided my own Christian journey, helping determine where I stand within the spectrum of the faith. In a very real way, both of these men played a role in my Christian life, largely through their books and personal witness.
Many folks may be familiar with John Stott. Born in 1921, educated at Rugby and Cambridge, Rector of All Souls Church in London, and spending the remainder of his life as iterant preacher, pastor, birdwatcher, and author, Stott became one of the most influential evangelical leaders in the Christian world (even in the popular media he garnered some attention—from both Time Magazine and The New York Times).
On a certain level, these men couldn’t be further apart: John Stott was an English Anglican clergyman; chaplain to the queen. Art Gish, on the other hand, was an American Brethren farmer and peace worker. They led two separate lives, and took decidedly different ministry approaches.
Yet beneath the obvious differences, there lay a prominent common denominator: Both sought to follow the example of Jesus Christ. For both, Jesus was not only Lord, but also Friend and Model. And beyond that, they were both “men of the Book”—the Bible.
I caught a sense of the similarity between the two as I watched the memorial services of both men on YouTube.
Yet in the midst of this wonderful memorial tribute sat a wooden casket with white flowers on top. The presence of the simple casket seemed to say enough. If one thing came through loud and clear during the memorial, Stott was a man seeking after Jesus, finding solace in the truths of the Bible, as read and discussed by various folks throughout the service.
On the other hand, Gish’s memorial took place outside (presumably by his farm in Ohio), with a dozen people walking up a hill to bury the plain casket in the ground. Like Stott’s, Gish’s casket was wooden, void of ornaments: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxJmbtSW9N8).
As I watched these memorial services (after marveling that one even could in today’s techno-driven world), I was struck by what a person can “say” after they leave this earth and continue life with Christ.
First—through the simple caskets—these men sought to say, “It’s not about me, but about the One I serve.” The choice of simple caskets matched their emphasis on the simple life and simple trust in Christ.
Second, both memorials were infused with Scripture, indicating that both men took seriously the call to be “men of the Book.”
Finally, both memorials had people they touched surrounding them, indicating that the scope of their ministry was far-reaching.
Chances are these men’s ideas will continue to live on through the books they penned. With John Stott, it may be his Basic Christianity or The Radical Disciple, or even The Cross of Christ. With Art Gish it may be Living in Christian Community or Beyond the Rat Race or Christian Radicalism. Who knows how history will treat them? It’s too early to tell.
To a certain extent, it doesn’t matter how “history” will treat them, but rather how God used them in this life for His purposes. In the scope of eternity, the time Stott and Gish spent on this earth may seem miniscule, but the fruit of their respected ministries will be great.
For me, one thing is pretty clear: Both men, in their similarities and differences, were examples of what Christians are to be about: serving Christ, loving people, and working for God’s kingdom.
If these qualities I mention have any merit, then both John Stott and Art Gish lived marvelous Christian lives.
For this, we can thank God that they were born twice—if you know what I mean, and fell asleep once unto eternal life.
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This story is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of the ASSIST News Service or ASSIST Ministries.