Men need the influence of other men in their lives if they are going to continue to grow spiritually and mentally. I feel the weight and responsibility of that as a Dad of two boys. Last Saturday, Wesley (my oldest) and I were sitting outside. We had been burning brush all day and we had taken a break. As we sat on our outdoor swing, Wesley put his hand on my shoulder and said, “This is good father/son bonding time.” Very astute for an eight year-old.
This did get me thinking about the men who are influencing me today. I only have a personal relationship with one of these men. The rest of them have been influencing me through some kind of media (books, music, podcasts, etc.) This list changes as influences change, but these are the men who are shaping my thinking today. These men have produced the voices, the one-liners, the paradigms of thinking that are rolling around in my head. (And no, I am not hearing voices!) These are the men who are speaking to me, the men who are challenging me. These are in no particular order.
I listen to his weekly, one-hour-long sermons every week. I first discovered Mars Hill Church in the late 1990s in my research on postmodernism. They were held up as an example of the postmodern church. Today no one is really using the term “postmodern” and Driscoll and the church has ceased to be identified by that title. In Driscoll I have a great deal of comradery, because he is a good mix of theological depth and pop culture-infused humor. He is the most persuasive Calvinist I have ever heard. He has helped me reframe salvation in terms Reformed theology. Don’t get me wrong. I am not a Calvinist, but Driscoll and others (including Bruce Ware and Mark Dever) have caused me to take a few theological steps in their direction. Or should I say, God preordained that by his grace I would shift in their direction!
I continue to quote him and ask myself, “What would EP think?” He was a Presbyterian pastor for some thirty years, taught pastoral and spiritual theology, and translated (paraphrased?) the Bible into modern English in recent years. He has written a number of books on pastoral leadership and spirituality. His recent trilogy Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, Eat This Book, and The Jesus Way have been extremely influential books. Peterson has a keen theological mind and a heart that is passionately in love with the local church. He is THE pastor of pastors.
Ignatius of Antioch
He has been dead for a long time. He died a martyrs death in Rome. He was thrown to the wild beasts. On his way from Antioch to Rome he was in chains, but wrote seven letters to seven churches. I read through them recently and they read much like the biblical epistles. He died in 110 AD and is one of the earliest church fathers. He was passionate about the establishment of orthodox Christian doctrine over the heresies of other groups, especially the Gnostics. I was reading one of his letters one morning and I was struck by the fact that here I was reading his writings some 1900 years after this man’s death. I was able to do that, because he took the time to write. Ignatius has challenged me to continue writing.
Brian is the only guy on my list that I know personally. He has been my pastor since I was in college and there was a time when I thought we were going in separate directions. Over the last three to four years he has been re-thinking, re-living, and re-preaching the Christian life in a way that is larger than any one Christian tradition. He continues to challenge me with his theological pursuits and his reading list. His teaching is dominated by five themes – cross, mystery, eclectic, community, and revolution. I listen to him weekly.
I put Bob under Brian, because Brian gave me an introduction to Dylan back in 2005. At that time I had two of Dylan’s gospel albums – Slow Train Coming and Saved. I was interested in Dylan’s gospel albums, but I hadn’t stepped into Dylan’s world at that time. In December 2006, I got two Dylan albums for Christmas. Since that time, I have got deeper and deeper into the world of Bob Dylan. It is a strange and fascinating journey through the life of a poet. (Dylan says he has always been a poet first and a musician second.) I am now beginning to speak Dylan-ese, that is, inserting Dylan lyrics into my writing, speaking, thinking, and conversations. Many of Dylan’s songs have become paradigms in which to sort things out. I know have 15 albums and a couple of bootlegs, and four DVDs. I have 185 songs to date. Dylan has released 44 albums, so I am only just beginning!
Grudem is one of my favorite theologians. If I would ever do a Ph.D in systematic theology, I would study under him. I have found his abbreviated theology, Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith, to be a helpful resource. I turn to it time and time again. He comes from a Reformed background, but has done some good work in the area of charismatic theology. He is thoughtful and thorough in his theological treatments. This book is a scaled down version of his larger Systematic Theology and an easier read for pastors or Bible study leaders. I highly recommend it.
Last fall our church started a Men’s Fraternity, a men’s ministry pioneered by Robert Lewis at Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock. The book that we have been going through is The Quest for Authentic Manhood, written by Lewis. We are coming to the end of our course of study, but it has been good for me and then men at our church. I have become increasing passionate to reach men and connect men with Jesus and the Church. For so long the local church has been considered a woman’s thing. One of the reasons is because we have failed to raise up strong, godly men in our church. MF has been a great way for us to do this, to raise up men who REJECT passivity, ACCEPT responsibility, and LEAD courageous. These three themes have been dominating my thinking recently.
These men are changing my way of thinking and, hopefully, changing my way of living.
Gonna change my way of thinking,
Make myself a different set of rules.
Gonna put my good foot forward,
And stop being influenced by fools.