All of us have been influenced for better or worse by those who have come across our paths in the past. I started to think about those who have impacted my own walk the most and came up with a list of ten people in the public eye who have played significant roles in my development thus far. This list probably covers about a 12-13 year period of time and sort of runs chronologically as well. Apart from the Book of Life, it’s unlikely that these ten names would feature in any other book or article together.
In my early days as a Christian I was surrounded by luke warmness. Basically as long as you didn't swear, watch x-rated movies or listen to bands that screamed and you did go to church every Sunday, then you were doing okay. So think what you want about Kent Hovind or Creationists in general, his 7 part DVD series really hooked me when I first watched it. The bible moved from ancient text to interesting and alive and I began to study it obsessively. I learnt a lot of good and bad things from my time in fundamentalism. Mostly, I learnt how to be right doctrinally and be a jerk about it at the same time. But like Kent used to say, "Chew the meat and spit out the bones".
I don’t think that there is a scientific principle that proves that the loudness of ones ranting and raving is directly proportional to the amount of truth being preached. But I do think that there is a time and place for those kinds of messages. And it was around the time when I was growing despondent with bumper sticker Christianity that I came across Paul Washers “shocking youth message”. While I never was a fan of the Calvinistic leanings of most fire and brimstone preachers. I found comfort in a message that took God seriously and was less concerned with our desires and self esteem than it was with picking up ones cross and following Christ.
Tozer made an incredible contribution to the 21st century church. His book “The Pursuit of God” is a must read for all believers. And you can pick it up for next to nothing these days. He had an incredible prophetic gift as well and saw exactly where the Western church was heading. Reading his works today it feels like they were written to the modern church in modern times.
Watchman Nee had extraordinary insights into scripture, so many of the guys today who are teaching “deep things” are merely repeating what they learnt from Nee’s works. For example, much of what the house church movement guys are writing about today can be found in his book, “The Normal Christian Church Life”. The similarly titled book “The Normal Christian Life” would be the one title of his I would recommend above all the others. Nee would be the first Christian writer I discovered who, although he never used the terminology, saw a way of interpreting scripture that was neither left, nor right, nor somewhere in the middle but from a third perspective entirely, something like an “upside down Kingdom perspective” I guess you could call it. It reminds me of how Jesus never ever answered anyone’s questions with a simple yes or no. He always flipped it on its head and came up with a parable or counter question revealing something bigger and better. Nee would suffer and die in a communist prison for his faith but he left behind a huge amount of wisdom that still impacts many today.
Brother Yun blessed the world with a book about his life in China that is just incredible, it is called "The Heavenly Man" and it’s probably the only book I ever saw in the front window of a Christian book store that was worth reading. He endured intense persecution and sacrificed more than you would think a poor man has to give. But he also saw God do incredible things. The kind of things that I thought never happened in the real world, things that were so insane that those kinds of miracles were probably only reserved for the bible where God recorded all the really good stuff. Yun helped birth in me a desire for something authentic that went beyond doctrine. The kind of faith that was as evident in its sacrifice and love as it was in its exegesis.
Perhaps I should say more than KP, it was Gospel for Asia that impacted me. Missions should be in the hearst of all Christians, not necessarily to go overseas ourselves, but the burden of reaching the lost. Many of the people in the 10/40 window have no education, no money and no hope because they have never heard about Christ. The church is small there, but it is strong, it’s persecuted but it is faithful. It lacks money, bibles and the most basic of human rights but it has Christ and more than the richest churches in the West will ever possess. You can pick up a free book (incl free shipping) by KP from the website by clicking here, no catch.
Franks book Pagan Christianity (co authored with George Barna) is a hard book to read. It comprehensively exposes every man made tradition ever set up in the church. And while it rightly points out that not everything that is not found in scripture is necessarily anti-biblical. It exposed enough that it caused me to pursue something more biblical, more organic and more, well, belonging to Christ. His book From Eternity to here is another great read as well. I have not been as impressed with some of his latest books though, not that they are bad; they just are not as good. Oh, he also does not profit from his book sales, that money (which is probably a lot) goes toward ministry and the poor. So Frank gets a high five from me on that one!
Wayne taught something that in nearly 30 years of growing up in churches I had never before believed. He revealed God the Father as someone who looked exactly like Jesus. Sure I had heard that countless times before but it was always unconvincing because I don’t think the guys sharing it actually believed it themselves. Wayne helped to show me how God loved us, how really deeply and passionately God loved us. He was probably the first guy I listened to who liked talking about the hard scriptures that others would skip over. Through this I learnt that the tough places in the bible that require a bit more wrestling with usually contain the greatest blessings when we unlock them. Wayne also does a great job of exposing the silliness of the religious games we like to play. You can download his book “So you don’t want to go to church anymore” for free here (penned under the name Jake Colsen). I would also recommend downloading this audio series as well. It will melt your face off.
I don’t know much about Bob George apart from his book “Classic Christianity”. Coming out of performance driven Christianity where the goal was to attend more meetings than anyone else, pray longer than everyone else, worship harder than everyone else during music time, be involved in as many church ministries as possible and give more money to the church than everyone else. Well, his book allowed me to just sit at the Masters feet once in a while and just enjoy him without feeling bad about it. Grace is a biblical word and so fundamentalists accept it begrudgingly, but are quick to point out that those who dwell on it are probably looking for license to abuse Gods goodness and are almost certainly deceived. I get that there are guys out there who are doing that but grace is one of the most beautiful things about God and no one explains it better than Bob does. The book also emphasizes how death is only half of the gospel message. Life in Christ, the good news, is the part that always gets left out and reveals why so many Christians suffer from burnout, despondency and doubt.
Greg is unfortunately written off by many because he believes in open theism or that the future is mostly unwritten in normal language. I love much about him, I love that like Wayne Jacobsen, he likes to wrestle with the hard parts of scripture, I like that he admits that he is still wrestling with things and invites others into the process of discovering things with him. I love that he paints a portrait of God that looks like Jesus, I love that he preaches about the contrasting Kingdoms of the world and God and our relation to them. I love that one does not have to agree with him on everything and have it threaten their relationship as brothers. This sermon series is probably the best thing I listened to in 2013.
These ten people all contributed to pivotal moments in my walk. I may not have listened to some of them or read their books/blogs for years but I still appreciate every one of them. I would love to hear what some of the names are on your own lists would be and why you would put them there.