Saturday, September 17, 2011

Three who made a difference: John Stott, Eugene Nida, Dick Baker

Three who made a difference

Renown Christian pastor Rick Warren observed what church goers really want in a pastor. He saw a church sign that said: "Come hear our pastor! He's not very good but he's brief"

The national magazine Christianity Today recently interviewed Billy Graham who will turn 93 on November 7. The interviewer asked Graham: “If you could, would you go back and do anything differently?”
Graham’s reply: “I would have steered clear of politics. I’m grateful for the opportunities God gave me to minister to the people in high places. People in power have spiritual and personal needs like everyone else, and often they have no one to talk to. But looking back I know I sometimes crossed the line, and I wouldn’t do that now.”

Last month I happened on a tiny news item that said Eugene A. Nida, a native of Oklahoma died in Spain August 25 at age 96. This Baptist minister was a linguist and was widely considered the father of modern Bible translations, recruiting and training native speakers to translate the Bible into a great number of languages.

To Nida “no two languages are identical, it stands to reason that there can be no absolute correspondence between languages. Hence, there can be no fully exact translations.” While the impact of a translation may be close to the original, there can be no identity in detail.

Two of his books that were helpful in my ministry were “Message and Mission” (1960) and “Customs, Culture and Christianity” (1963). They remain important to the person seeking to make his faith and different cultures and languages more relevant.

Another loss to the Christian faith was the passing of John Stott this summer. It left a huge hollow space in the evangelical cause of the Christian faith. New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote in 1985, “If evangelicals chose a pope, they would likely select John Stott.”

This British Anglican, who went on to minister to all brands of Christianity, was the author of over 50 books. His most popular book, “Basic Christianity,” could be compared to a textbook guide for Christians of all stripes. A book that has helped many relate to the fundamental truth and principal importance of the Christian faith.

His many sayings have become a trademark of the evangelical world. Such as: “I want to shift conviction from a book [Bible], if you like, to a person [Jesus]. As Jesus himself said, the Scriptures bear witness to me. Their main function is to witness to Christ.”

John Stott has been the compassionate strain of evangelicalism. In recent years, this form of evangelicalism has been over shadowed, and too often displaced by the likes of Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, James Dobson and
John Stott has made a far greater impact on the Christian movement than all the television preachers – who, as New York Times columnist Kris Kristof wrote --- Stott’s primary “concern was that Christians emulate the life of Jesus --–“ especially Jesus’ concern for the poor, oppressed, demoralized, exploited and powerless.

Unfortunately, in recent years, Americans have come to accept that a preacher can explain the Bible on television without much historic knowledge of Bible times; showing little or no interest in the nuances of the original texts. American evangelical church members have a history of been skeptical of an educated clergy. A college or seminary education was not conducive to “well-grounded spiritual preaching.”

And last, but no less important, was the death of Richard D. Baker September 5, 2011. For more than forty years Dick and his brother Bo were the finest evangelistic team Southern Baptist ever produced. Dick wrote the Baylor University Fight Song along with hundred of gospel songs like: “His Way Mine” and “Longing for Jesus.”

Men like Eugene Nida, John Stott and Dick Baker made our world a great deal better for having walked among us.

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