Chip Stam has been a friend and colleague of ours for more than a decade, serving with us both as a professor of music and worship at Southern Seminary and as our music and worship leader at Clifton Baptist Church. We have great respect for Chip, have grown to love him dearly, and rejoice at the work of God in him and through him, to the glory of God in Christ.
There is far more we could say about Chip than this brief memorial conveys. We only mention a few things that stand out as we reflect on his life and ministry. First, Chip was an amazing musician—composer, conductor, arranger, performer, and worship leader, all done with enormous skill, yet done with such grace and ease. Whether conducting a 200-voice concert of Handel’s “Messiah” with full orchestra, or leading a regular Sunday morning worship service, one could count on Chip having mastery and command of what was taking place, always with a smile and gracious composure that expressed the joy of the Lord from this dear man’s soul.
Second, Chip loved the gospel. He endeavored to put the gospel of Christ died and risen as the centerpiece of worship. As some have commented, Chip had a “joy in the gospel” that permeated both the content of our times of worship as well as his own demeanor as he led worship. The worship services at Clifton almost always included a time where we confessed our sins and then joyfully acknowledged God’s forgiveness, for Chip understood that true worship stems from hearts full of joy because of Christ’s saving work in his death and resurrection. He understood that God has displayed himself most fully and beautifully in Christ, and that the Spirit has come to glorify Christ. So for Chip, our worship must focus on Christ, while we do so understanding the richness of the Trinitarian fullness in our worship.
Third, Chip loved teaching students the breadth of Christian worship from an array of traditions within the Christian church. Chip knew and influenced people from all over the United States and beyond. His “Worship Quote of the Week” (WQOTW), filled with historical and biblical insights from week to week, reached hundreds of people around the world. We were constantly amazed how many friends Chip had. No other faculty member brought so many guest lecturers to the campus of Southern Seminary. He was a Baptist by conviction, but he was ecumenical in the best sense of the word, enjoying fellowship with Christians from many other traditions. To put it another way, he learned and profited from other faith traditions, and therefore he was quite eclectic both in his knowledge of the theology and practice of worship, and in his incorporation of elements of these traditions in the kinds of worship services he would plan and teach his students to consider as well.
Fourth, Chip loved his family. He took delight in time with his dear wife, Doris, and with any one of their three children. He celebrated their successes and prayed fervently for areas of struggle or difficulty. Chip’s greatest concern has regularly been the spiritual vitality of his children. We know that among his final prayers before his passing into glory were prayers for God’s grace and mercy to be shown to his wife and children.
Fifth, Chip’s goal and aim in life was to bring praise to God. He did so in leading worship and choirs and orchestras. We saw in Chip’s leading the maxim of John Piper, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” Chip praised God in every arena of his life. He was an incredible athlete, and his joy in playing tennis or basketball or walking on his hands was evident to all. Doris and Chip brought praise to God in inviting countless people into their home. What a haven of joy and praise the Stam home has been for so many. Chip loved people, but he loved them for God’s sake and for his glory.
Sixth, Chip loved and trusted his Savior. To the end of his life, one characteristic stood out above all others, and this was his unflinching confidence in the God who, in his great love, had sent his Son to die in his place and pay the penalty for his sin. For all of us who have been with Chip over these past four years of his battle with cancer, Chip has displayed to us how to die well as the fruit of trusting God well. Chip lived the reality of the gospel and exhibited a peace that passes human understanding as his heart was filled with joy over the greatness and grace of God’s gift of salvation. We visited Chip many times during his ordeal with cancer, and on every occasion we came back encouraged and strengthened in our faith. Chip wanted to live to an old age, but he gave his life to God, trusting him for his life and death. Therefore, visits with him and Doris and the rest of the family were never gloomy affairs. The joy of knowing Jesus was refracted through his sufferings.
We saw Chip Stam the last time just three days before he died. He was declining, but he greeted us by name with a friendly demeanor when we entered the room. We told him about an evangelistic outreach in our church where many came, and he responded in his weakened state with a word we could barely hear: “Fantastic.” Our times of prayer with him and Doris were always sweet, and we prayed together again on this occasion. Then a person in the room spontaneously apologized for a time she accidentally hurt Chip physically. The apology was nothing new to Chip, but he laughed loudly and joyfully remembering the incident, showing the love and forgiveness that marked his life. That is the last time we will hear Chip laugh in this world, but we look forward to seeing him again on the day of resurrection, and we know that the first thing that will greet us will be his boyish and radiant smile. How we long to see that smile again, and what a comfort it is to know that we will.