John Stott attended his local church, All Souls, Langham Place (www.allsouls.org) in London’s West End, since he was a small boy. Indeed one of his earliest memories is of sitting in the gallery and dropping paper pellets onto the fashionable hats of the ladies below! Following his ordination in 1945 John Stott became assistant curate at All Souls and then, unusually, was appointed rector in 1950. He became rector emeritus in 1975, a position he held to the end of his life.
In the words of his biographer, Timothy Dudley-Smith “John Stott has provided a model for international city-centre contemporary ministry now so widely accepted that few now realize its original innovative nature.” Central in this model were five criteria: the priority of prayer, expository preaching, regular evangelism, careful follow-up of enquirers and converts, and the systematic training of helpers and leaders.
Soon after his appointment as rector, Dr. Stott began to encourage church members to attend a weekly training course in evangelism. A monthly “guest service” was established, combining regular parochial evangelism with Anglican evening prayer. Follow-up discipleship courses for new Christians were started in people’s homes. All Souls also offered midweek lunchtime services, a central weekly prayer meeting, and monthly services of prayer for the sick. “Children’s church” and family services were established, a chaplain to a group of Oxford Street stores was appointed, and the All Souls Clubhouse was founded as a Christian community centre. John Stott was convinced that a pastor needed to know and understand his congregation; he once even disguised himself as homeless and slept on the streets in order to find out what it was like.
All Souls Church grew numerically during the 1950s and 1960s, yet John Stott continually pleaded with people not to abandon their local evangelical churches in order to be a part of All Souls. Like one of his mentors, Charles Simeon of Cambridge (1759-1836), Dr. Stott turned down opportunities for advancement in the church hierarchy and remained at the same church throughout his ministry.