John Stott (b. 27 April 1921) was confirmed in the Anglican Church in 1936, at the age of 15.
But he was not converted—expressing saving faith and repentance in response to the divine call—until Sunday afternoon on February 13, 1938, when he heard the 40-year-old Rev. E.J.H. Nash deliver an address to an all-boys group of the Christian Union at Rugby School in Warwickshire.
Stott recalls Nash’s message:
His text was Pilate’s question: “What then shall I do with Jesus, who is called the Christ?” That I needed to do anything with Jesus was an entirely novel idea to me, for I had imagined that somehow he had done whatever needed to be done, and that my part was only to acquiesce. This Mr Nash, however, was quietly but powerfully insisting that everybody had to do something about Jesus, and that nobody could remain neutral. Either we copy Pilate and weakly reject him, or we accept him personally and follow him.
After the address Stott was able to talk to Nash (who would become a mentor). He pointed Stott to Revelation 3:20. Nash asked him, “Have we ever opened our door to Christ? Have we ever invited him in?”
Stott later recalled:
This was exactly the question which I needed to have put to me. For, intellectually speaking, I had believed in Jesus all my life, on the other side of the door. I had regularly struggled to say my prayers through the key-hole. I had even pushed pennies under the door in a vain attempt to pacify him. I had been baptized, yes and confirmed as well. I went to church, read my Bible, had high ideals, and tried to be good and do good. But all the time, often without realising it, I was holding Christ at arm’s length, and keeping him outside.
Later that night, at his bedside, Stott
made the experiment of faith, and “opened the door” to Christ. I saw no flash of lightning . . . in fact I had no emotional experience at all. I just crept into bed and went to sleep.
For weeks afterwards, even months, I was unsure what had happened to me. But gradually I grew, as the diary I was writing at the time makes clear, into a clearer understanding and a firmer assurance of the salvation and lordship of Jesus Christ.
Stott, of course, would go on to become one of the most influential evangelical Christians of the 20th century. The story is told in its most recent and scholarly form in Alister Chapman’s Godly Ambition: John Stott and the Evangelical Movement.
In the four-minute video clip below you can watch and hear Stott recount his conversion and the influence of the Rev. Nash in his life.