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Godly Ambition: John Stott and the Evangelical Movement [Hardcover]

Alister Chapman
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

5 Jan 2012
British theologian John Stott was one of the most influential leaders of the evangelical movement during the second half of the twentieth century. Called the pope of evangelicalism by many, he helped to shape a global religious movement that grew rapidly during his career. Millions bought his books and listened to his sermons. In 2005, Time included him in its annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world. Alister Chapman chronicles Stott's rise to global Christian stardom. The story begins in England with an exploration of Stott's education and involvement in the Church of England, then his ministry to students, his work at All Souls Langham Place, London, and his attempts to increase evangelical influence in the Church of England. By the mid-1970s, Stott had an international presence, leading the evangelical Lausanne movement that attracted evangelicals from almost every country in the world. Chapman recounts Stott's struggles to help evangelicals forsake conservatism and anti-intellectualism, showing his role in a movement that was as dysfunctional as it was dynamic. Godly Ambition is the first scholarly biography of Stott. Based on extensive research drawn from his personal papers, it is a critical yet sympathetic account of a gifted and determined man who did all he could to further God's kingdom and who became a Christian luminary in the process.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: OUP USA (5 Jan 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199773971
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199773978
  • Product Dimensions: 24.1 x 15.7 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 871,995 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Chapman has provided a lucid account of someone described by one of his sparring partners, David Edwards, as 'the most influential clergyman in the Church of England during the Twentieth Century'. Andrew Norman, Theology Vol. 116 Chapman's biography tells the story well, with an eye to background detail and a lightness of touch in handling the nuances of theological debate. John Saxbee, Times Literary Supplement Godly Ambition views the ministry of John Stott in historical perspective and puts it into its social context. The analysis recounts his well-known successes but, just as illuminating, his unreached goals and disappointments. The result is a judicious, fair-minded, and instructional look at one of the most remarkable Christian leaders of the past 100 years. It is a must-read for anyone who wishes to understand contemporary world evangelicalism. Timothy Keller, Redeemer Presbyterian Church Alister Chapman's well-crafted study expertly situates the career of John Stott, first in Stott's post-war efforts to revitalize evangelical forces in Britain's Anglican churches and then from the 1970s as a thoughtful leader of evangelicals around the world. Chapman's wide-ranging and empathetic effort to probe the 'godly ambition' of his title make this an important book for an exceedingly important figure in the modern world history of Christianity. Mark A. Noll, author of America's God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln John Stott has been a giant influence in the shaping of evangelicalism in the English-speaking world and far beyond. He embodies much that is most thoughtful and winsome in the movement. Godly Ambition will reward its readers on multiple levels. From John Stott's pacifism during his formative years to his global vision in his final days, Alister Chapman's account of his life will illumine the broader development of not only Stott but evangelicalism itself. John Ortberg, Senior Pastor, Menlo Park Presbyterian Church The global Evangelical movement was moulded by a wide range of individuals in the later twentieth century. None was more important than John Stott, who by his lucid writing and strategic vision forged attitudes that were intellectually mature but still spiritually vibrant. Alister Chapman's account of John Stott's life is a probing appraisal of his significance that explains the trajectory of his career without diminishing his stature. David Bebbington, Professor of History, University of Stirling Chapman succeeds in providing us with a more honest, certainly more nuanced account, than heretofore, including some new insights. Derek J. Tidball, Baptist Quarterly Alister Chapman's crisply written and scrupulously impartial study captures the delicately managed contradictions that characterised the life and work of John Stott, whose Evangelical career started with fundamentalist tracts smuggled into Rugby School 'in brown paper' and ended with a vast ministry in five continents and the status of an Evangelical pope. ... Godly Ambition is a perceptive study whose importance will increase as scholars continue to map the complex relationships between 'Western' and 'Global' Christianity that John Stott, the ascetical jetsetter, did much to build. Dominic Erdozain, Journal of Ecclesiastical History

About the Author

Alister Chapman (B.A., M.A., Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is Associate Professor of History at Westmont College, Santa Barbara, California, where he teaches modern European history. His publications include Seeing Things Their Way: Intellectual History and The Return of Religion, edited with John Coffey and Brad S. Gregory.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Modern Church of England history comes to life 24 Mar 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book doesn't have the attachment that Tim Dudley-Smith has to Stott but being of a different generation Chapman nevertheless provides an insight to both the Church of England and Anglican Communion over the last 60 years in general and Anglican Evangelicals in particular. Stott's passion for Jesus and His kingdom shines through this concise work. The willingness he shows to change course for the sake of the Gospel in a changing world is a model for all Christian leaders worldwide, for whom John Stott gave his time and energy. Moving beyond the British Isles and English speaking churches from the beginning of his ministry, Stott truly is a giant amongst 20th Century Christian leaders. The fullness of his legacy and witness to the possibilities of what God can do on this celestial ball will only be known at the end of time, before then thousands if not millions of Christians have benefitted from John Stott's Godly ambition.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Two Things I Learned from John Stott 8 Jun 2012
By Jared Compton - Published on Amazon.com
Who was John Stott? It's been nearly a year since Stott died and his legacy is still taking shape. I suspect that for many of us he'll be remembered as the author of one or two books on our shelves--probably The Cross of Christ and/or Basic Christianity--or as the name we associate with the International Congress on World Evangelism (think Lausanne). One thing that he deserves to be remembered for was his life-long passion to see his native England and the world beyond won to Christ. Alister Chapman recently wrote about this in a book entitled Godly Ambition: John Stott and the Evangelical Movement. Chapman highlights Stott's passion for evangelism and explores the tension between Stott's desire to maximize his own gifts and influence for the sake of the gospel and the temptation he faced to do the same for self-promotion. I suspect that most of the seminarians reading this will resonate with Stott's big dreams and this tension and, therefore, would benefit from reading Chapman's account. I don't want to spoil it all here with a dry, full-scale review. Rather, I simply want to pass along two things I learned from Stott thanks to Chapman's book. The first is that Christians should be ambitious. The second is that it's possible to tell when ambition is godly and when it's not.

First, Stott reminded me that Christians can be ambitious because ambition can be godly. Stott, in fact, would want to say that Christians must be ambitious and that our ambitions must be extravagant. As he put it, "[a]mbitions for God...if they are to be worthy, can never be modest. There is something inherently inappropriate about cherishing small ambitions for God" (155). "They ha[ve] to be great because God [is] great" (156). What Stott meant by all this is that if God is worthy of honor and glory and if our gifts bring him these things, then we should "develop [our] gifts, widen [our] opportunities, extend [our] influence, and [seek] promotion in [our] work--not to boost [our] own ego or build [our] own empire, but rather through everything [we] do to bring glory to God" (8, also 157). Here Stott is simply echoing sentiments we find in the New Testament, not least those found in the parable of the bags of gold where Jesus tells his disciples that they must "improve their master's assets" as they wait for his return (cf. Matt 25:14-30; for a similar reflection, see here).

Second, Stott's life taught me that it's possible to tell when ambition is godly and when it's not. Two examples come immediately to mind. The first is the way Stott pursued his ambition on the parish level as Rector of All Souls Church. His church could have been much more successful than it was had Stott continued to focus on the demographic where the gospel was having the greatest success, namely in the well-heeled section of his parish. Stott, however, had a vision for All Souls that included more than filled-pews and, in fact, more than simply conversion growth. Stott wanted to see the power of the gospel displayed in every area of his parish and, as a result, gave persistent, prayerful, and creative attention to the working-class areas of his parish. As God would have it, Stott's efforts here were constantly frustrated. But, it's the effort and, indeed, frustration that lets us see that Stott's ambition, his vision for success, was not simply a pious mask hiding a heart singularly-aimed at self-promotion. Had he wanted that, it seems, he would have cared more that his pews were filled and less about who filled them.

The second example is the way Stott used his post-retirement years. Stott could have eased up a bit in his latter years and enjoyed some of the fruit of his labors and influence. Instead, it was during these years that he became increasingly burdened for the plight of the evangelical cause worldwide. And, at the center of his concern was the plight of the majority-world church, particularly its need, as he saw it, for evangelical resources and for theologically-equipped clergy. Stott, therefore, started a trust that would provide for both, and funded it largely at his own expense. (In fact, several of my own international friends at TEDS sat side-by-side with me in class thanks to the vision and generosity of John Stott.) Once again, had Stott's ambition been simply for his own advancement and the material benefits such advancement often brings, then his sacrificial commitment to the majority world makes little sense.

Who was John Stott? Well, like most of us, he was an imperfect Christian. I suspect he'd be the first to admit this. Still, Stott was a powerful example of what it means to pursue God's glory with every last ounce of energy we have and to develop our gifts and expand our influence in the service of this worthy, world-transforming pursuit. So, in a month, when we remember Stott's life and reflect on his legacy, let's take a few moments to thank God for his godly ambition and let's ask God to put something similar deep within our hearts as well.
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