I am certainly not a finished product. God is still shaping me and still using some incredible friends in the process. As I think about who I am I realize what a long list of people there has been who have had a hand in forming my character, my views of the world, my theology, my ministry and more. Here's some of the most influential (roughly in ascending order):
10. Some incredible authors: At the front of the list are contemporary authors like John Piper, JI Packer, Michael Horton, Christopher Wright, Francis Schaeffer, and Lesslie Newbigin. Some, like Piper and Packer have had a deep impact on my views of God and the Christian life. Others like Horton, Wright, Schaeffer and Newbigin have shaped the way I think and go about ministry. There is also a short list of old school authors who have been tremendously influential. Leading that list is Jonathan Edwards, followed by JC Ryle, John Bunyan and St. Augustine. These men have greatly influence my devotional/spiritual life as well as my theology.
9. A Couple of friends from Union Baptist Church in Endicott, NY. I'm thinking especially of Scott, Mike and Terry. These guys were still around after all the dust settled from a church split. They were there for a hurting 16/17 yr. old kid. They were there and so encouraging when I preached my first sermon ever (at 19-20). They were there to work on my Rabbit and the S-10, to share godly wisdom and knowledge, to show faithfulness. I don't know what would have happened to me at that time in my life it hadn't been for these guys (and their wives).
8. Dean Danner and Dean Lewis at Houghton College. These guys, along with a couple of great profs, helped me out at a time when I didn't know which end was up. After landing on disciplinary probation for nearly two years, I wasn't in the school's good graces, especially the associate dean of students. For some reason, Dean Danner felt he could call me out. He did, and it had an impact. The next year I was the Student Body Chaplain and I had the chance to work with Dean Lewis. It was a great confirmation that I was called to ministry.
7. D.A. Carson. Carson was my advisor at TEDS when I was there. I actually had no idea who he was until I got there and everyone was agog. In him I saw a man deeply passionate about Christ, a committed evangelist, a renowned scholar and a Calvinist. I honestly didn't think those things could be combined, but he did it so well. After leaving TEDS I have read Carson fairly extensively and am always encouraged and challenged by him. I love the fact that he'll follow where the text leads - yes he's a Calvinist, but he's also open to the Spirit and the charismatic gifts. In fact, this posting is somewhat inspired by his book about his father's ministry in French Canada (just a little foreshadowing).
6. My friends here at ECC, Bloomington. There are more than I could name, but I have seen in them a passion for truth and a winsomeness that is beautiful. I came to ECC after a discouraging experience in a seeker sensitive/purpose driven kind of church. I arrived here in danger of becoming a contentious, critical, uber reformed jerk. I thank God that in my friends here I have seen, both in those who agree with my reformed leanings and those who do not, a biblical balance. Yes truth, but also love, kindness and charity. Many of them have been trusted advisors during difficult times in ministry, all of them have carried personal burdens in prayer. My understanding of what ministry looks like has been heavily influenced by many and I pray it will continue to be.
Thank you all. The next five coming soon...