In two potentially narcissistic posts, I’d like to share some of the preachers/teachers and books that have really shaped my worldview, influenced my reading of the Bible, and transformed my preaching style.
Now, as I’ve said before, I’m a spiritual “mutt.” I have no problem with this. Mutts can be good dogs, too. And I think this becomes fairly clear when I start listing influences in my spiritual life. Though I’m Wesleyan through and through, there aren’t many Methodists in this list. It’s also interesting that I’ve met very few of those that have influenced me the most.
Malcolm Smith. Hands down, this guy is the most spiritually influential teacher in my life. Somewhere along the way, my grandmother pulled out a series of tapes (yes, tapes) by a Charismatic Episcopal Bible teacher named Malcolm Smith. He said more about theology, practical living, and pastoral guidance in one sermon than all the sermons I’d previously heard combined. I listened for hours. I’m still listening.
Martyn Ll0yd-Jones. Lloyd-Jones is an icon in Christian circles. Pastor of Westminster Chapel in later years, he is one of the most articulate and precise preachers I have ever heard. For years, Lloyd-Jones was a medical doctor and when he answered the call to preach, he brought that same “surgical” expository style to his sermons. Listening to ”the Doctor” is like watching someone peel back layers of an onion. For him, the gospel was only as good as it was practical.
Greg Boyd. Theology professor turned pastor, listening to Greg is like listening to a mad man. He’s all over the place. But his understanding of God and his ability to relay the importance of the cross is unmatched. Greg goes where many preachers do not go – he always has a fresh perspective. Rarely have I seen a male pastor give so much attention to soul care and the emotional, intuitive side of Christianity. He’s a joy to listen to.
John Lynch. This guy is a new find for me. Mix a dry wit and a message of radical grace and you’ll get John’s sermons. He’s the teaching pastor at Open Door Fellowship Church in Phoenix, Arizona. I love the fact that John never gets tired of his central message: the love and grace of God. But more than a conceptual model, John talks about how grace makes its way into our practical lives. Good stuff.
There are others I listen to: Andy Stanley, John Eldredge, Craig Groeschel, etc. But for many people, the guys above are off the radar. Give them a listen when you have time.
There’s one more preacher I should mention: my former boss, Leigh Ann Raynor. She’s the Senior Minister at Porterfield UMC in Albany, Georgia. The first time I heard Leigh Ann speak, I was fascinated. Previously, I had preached countless sermons in a more extemporaneous style…and all the pitfalls that came with it: lack of clarity, rambling, and flippant regard for the time of those listening to me. Somewhere along the way God began to convict me that if I couldn’t say what I needed to say within about 25 minutes, then I was being a bad steward of the time I was given to speak. Now, that’s not for everyone – it’s just what I felt God was saying to me. So, while attending her services and serving on her staff I took notes not only on what Leigh Ann said but how she said it. Every word was chosen carefully and delivered with an extemporaneous feel…but she was preaching from a transcript. After a slow marriage of the two, I now preach in a style that is similar to hers. The point? Don’t ever underestimate the influence of a local minister. If you are one, take heart – people are listening more than you think.