John Stott, a preacher in the Angelican Church of England, died nearly a year ago today. The man was a prolific writer and theologian, a wonderful pastor, and a world-traveling evangelist. He had a heart for students, and spent much of his time sharing the Gospel with student groups. Perhaps his heart for this population was a result of his salvation and discipleship through a student group. Stott was raised in the church, yet did not know Christ. In fact, he would attend Sunday School with daggers in his socks and a revolver in his belt. This appears to have been mischevious, or boyish, behavior, rather than the result of a malicious heart. In fact, Stott was gentle and loved nature; he collected butterflies in his childhood, and moved to bird-watching in his youth and adulthood.
John Stott: The Humble Leader by Julia Cameron is the latest addition to Christian Focus Publication’s Trailblazers line of Christian biographies. The boys and I frequently read biographies from the Trailblazers line, which are recommended for ages 9-14 (read-aloud for ages 7-9). We find they are excellent additions to our studies, and help broaden our understanding of particular times in history, central Christian figures, and the manner in which biblical Christianity plays out in the lives of individuals. In fact, I have scheduled 9 of the Trailblazers books and 1 Torchbearers book (also Christian Focus Publications – a line of martyr biographies) for our studies of the 19th Century this coming school year.
My boys were struck by the godly life John Stott led. Stott was so dedicated to his role as a Christian leader, that he remained celibate his entire life. I found the boys leaning forward during the descriptions of Stott’s interactions with students. They especially loved hearing about a university debate between Stott and the leader of the Atheist group on campus. Shortly after the debate, the group disbanded. The boys loved that!
John Stott: The Humble Leader differs a little from many of the Trailblazers books we’ve read; his later life is covered topically, rather than linearly. Julia Cameron addresses different aspects of Stott’s life in separate chapters. For instance, in one, she addresses John’s interaction and impact on the worldwide church. In another, she takes on John Stott’s character. In this sense, The Humble Leader is much more like a scholarly biography (and less story-like) than we were accustomed to reading from the Trailblazers line. I don’t see any problem with this approach, however I think that this particular Trailblazers book may be better suited to a slightly older audience. The younger crowd (ages 7-9) may prefer a more story-like approach.
My boys are 8 and 9. Their take-away from the book was an increased knowledge of who John Stott was, and a respect for his godly character. I have no doubt that God will use this example of biblical living in their lives. We will plan to read the book again in two years when we study the 20th Century.
Full Disclosure: I reviewed this book for Christian Focus Publications in return for an e-book copy of The Humble Leader. However, I already owned a paperback copy. We are just 3 books from owning the entire Trailblazers collection. We love Christian Focus and the Trailblazer series is only one of the collections we have of their books (we also already love the following series from Christian Focus: History Lives, Torchbearers, Jungle Doctor, Ten Boys and Ten Girls, and Adventure.) There you go: the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
~ Danika Cooley
Danika Cooley is a freelance children’s writer with a love for God’s Word, history, wisdom and small people. Her work has appeared in magazines including Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr., Pockets, Devozine, Keys for Kids, and Cobblestone Group’s FACES and Odyssey and in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Magic of Mothers and Daughters.