Men who are influencing me

06 Mar

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.

Mark Driscoll

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!

Eugene Peterson

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 Zahnd

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.

Bob Dylan

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!

Wayne Grudem

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.

Robert Lewis

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.


Posted by on March 6, 2008 in Life, Ministry, Theology


Tags: , , , , ,

4 responses to “Men who are influencing me

  1. Nathan

    March 7, 2008 at 10:42 pm

    I don’t know what to think about Driscoll. Sometimes I love him, sometimes he is obnoxious and bombastic, for the sake of being divisive. I think he is defintely heading in the right direction, and has shown increasing maturity over the years.

    Not big on the strong reformed view…but I do like how he breaks down the four streams of emerging. I don’t agree completely, but it is a good assesment.

    I read just recently that in a newer sermon he apologized to the church for some of the ways he has been. Not sure what exactly…need to hear it. Piper and C.J. Mahaney pulled him aside at their conference and said something I think. Very humble of him to say that.


  2. Derek Vreeland

    March 7, 2008 at 11:59 pm

    Driscoll did ask forgiveness for some issues in his latest podcast on the “Regulative Principle.”

    Driscoll is a good guy. I find him more funny than obnoxious. His reformed view of salvation (i.e. “God saved me” rather than “I accepted Jesus”) has been refreshing for me.

    His is open to pastoral counsel from guys like Piper and Mahaney. And he is dealing with the junk in his heart. I appreciate his honesty.


  3. Anonymous

    August 5, 2008 at 6:50 am

    My PCA church desperately needs a vision for our men’s ministry. Men’s Fraternity doesn’t have many, if any, reformed endorsements and I’m afraid it will get the “not reformed” boot from the gitgo. Any advice?

  4. Derek Vreeland

    August 5, 2008 at 7:43 am

    I would find other PCA churches doing MF and use them for examples.

    I googled “PCA Men’s Fraternity” and came up with

    If you search the main Men’s Fraternity site you will find more I am sure.



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