I’m so thankful for the many great influences that the Lord has put around me at key stages in my life. He has constantly provided key mentors at key moments — real-life people who invest and care. But he’s also provided a number of “distance mentors,” most of whom I’ve never met in person and all of whom I won’t have a personal relationship with. Nonetheless, these are good leaders who have helped me learn important lessons that have shaped my ministry and leadership. Here are five that I’m particularly thankful for:
1. John Piper
Piper is the pastor of preaching and vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN and the key resource behind DesiringGod. His writing and preaching have formed me in deep and powerful ways. Nobody articulates a passion for the supremacy of God better than him and it’s contagious. If I have any heart for the sovereignty of God, reformed theology, or a tender-hearted compassion for the hurting it’s owing greatly to Piper’s ministry. You can get 25+ years of Piper resources here and follow him on Twitter here (this is worth having a Twitter account all by itself).
2. Tim Keller
Keller is the founding and senior minister at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, NY. Keller’s richest gift to me has been his understanding and articulation of the gospel. His ability to connect everything in the Scripture to the gospel is profound and instructive for any young preacher. Additionally, Keller has great perspectives on understanding and engaging culture, as well as church planting. You can get a bunch of free audio and written resources here.
3. Andy Stanley
Stanley is the founding pastor of NorthPoint Community Church in Alpharetta, GA. The son of well-known preacher Charles Stanley, he has blazed a trail in his own right. The key lessons I’ve learned from him have been 1) the importance of creating relevant ministry environments that engage people where they’re at, 2) the importance of communicating one point with clarity, passion, and creativity, and 3) a variety of leadership lessons. When it comes to their preaching, Stanley and Piper could not be more different, and I’ve learned great things about communicating the gospel from both of them. You can listen to Stanley’s sermons here, his Leadership Podcast here, and his 7 Practices of Effective Ministry here.
4. James MacDonald
James MacDonald is the founding pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in Rolling Meadows, IL and can be heard all over the place through his Walk in the Word radio ministry. It’s only been in the last year that I’ve really begun to listen to him, and almost everything he says and does communicates one idea: “The Bible is sufficient.” MacDonald loves God’s word and preaches it with passion, clarity, and conviction. I often find myself listening to him on Friday and Saturday just because he stokes my passion for God and his word as I prepare my heart to preach. You can listen to his radio podcast here, read his blog here, or listen to his Straight Up Conference messages here.
5. Nelson Searcy
Nelson Searcy is the founding pastor of The Journey Church, also in Manhattan, NYC and the founder of Church Leader Insights. Formerly a key staff person with Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven ministry, Searcy is a master of church systems. He has been helpful for me as we worked through key strategies related to planting Second Mile and as we developed our first impressions, follow up, and community group ministries. He’s a former engineer and brings that kind of systematic thinking into the church in a way that I find helpful. Though I would guess we would differ on certain theological convictions, we share a common desire to see people love Jesus, and Searcy’s ideas have been very helpful.You can listen to his Church Leader Insights podcast here.
This list reminds me that even the most admired people are really only good at a few things. Thus, it’s crucial to be able to learn different things from different people — even those whom you would not agree with on all doctrinal or philosophical points.
Who have you learned from and what did you learn?